Jessica, EVS volunteer at Voluntariat, shares her experience participating at a SCI Workcamp in Vojsko, Idrija (Slovenia).
It has been almost a month since I came back from my first SCI work camp. For a week I was in Vojsko, a village near Idrija (Slovenia), with six other people. Our main task was to reconstruct a view point in the centre of Vojsko. Together with the local community we would build a waking path and also paint a wooden house.
Have you ever been with the same people, 24/7 under the same roof for a week, sharing everything you had? If you did, you know what I’m talking about. There is so much you learn about those people and the bonds you form are incomparable. If you didn’t, I hope you can get a better idea after reading this.
At first, everyone is a bit shy and we try to memorise each other names. Those are the first awkward hours or days, where you try to know a bit of everybody and finding people who you connect the most with. That evolves rapidly, and eventually you find people to whom you share more affinities.
Time goes by. There will be moments where you laugh so much you cannot walk anymore. You will start having your own private jokes. You will have these jokes that only you understand, and you start laughing alone, your now friends will follow you, and those are the little moments you build together and that you will take with you.
You will spend so much time together sharing shampoo or food or clothing, or all of them!, that you will learn about each other small routines and you will really learn how to share. These are the small things that bring you closer to the people; how one always drinks coffee first thing in the morning, how another person is always the first to wake up, how there is one of you who is always prepared with water and snacks, how the other always forgets sunscreen, … How much do you know of your friends’ daily routines? There is some beauty in learning these things from strangers; It is almost like there is some sort of inversion in the bond you form compared to what you first learn about someone: you first get to know their private, most personal habits, to learn more general things about them.
You also get to know the local community. If you are as lucky as we were, they will welcome you with the most generous hearts, and will give you everything they have. There was an association of women who prepared delicious meals for us every day. A meal always came with dessert and coffee and funny talks – us trying to mimic and speak Slovene, they smiling back at us. I am so grateful that I entered these people’s houses. One of the ladies we visited offered us some lacing work she did herself; her husband was learning Italian so he tried to communicate with me that way. He was googling about Portugal and my home town, and telling me how welcome I was at their house. It goes without saying, they offered us their own crafted schnapps and wine. This blog post would be too small to share my appreciation to all of the people we have met. I cannot forget Idrija’s Geopark team, the municipality of Idrija, the association of rural women, and many other who contributed to this experience.
Without them we wouldn’t be able to explore as much as we did of the region: we visited the partisan print shop museum, walked through Idrija’s geopark, saw waterfalls and mountains, visited the mines and the castle, participated in a local festivity in Vojsko and learned traditional lacing!
Last but not least, in that week I got to know my friend Lenka better than I did in the previous 5 months. We were together at the camp and were friends and colleagues before the camp. There we found a common language together and we learned that our personalities match entirely. We worked perfectly as a team together and gave each other encouragement and funny songs to sing together. I will never forget how much fun, sharing and growing we experienced together in this work camp. It was truly amazing. I am very grateful for this, and also for all the other participants that I met. They have made this work camp the best volunteering experience I have ever had.
Work camps are a combination of interacting, sharing, working together, supporting each other, expanding one’s horizons, and taking all those precious moments with you. Take them back to where you started and see what happens. But you will have to wait until next year to get closer to what you’ve felt in that week!