Would you like to experience Poland like a local? Join a summer work camp!
As time is quickly passing by and autumn is already knocking on our doors, I decided to bring back some of my summer stories and share them with you. Sit down comfortably and let your mind travel freely back to hot summer days.
I’ve always been interested in working abroad. That’s why when I learned about the opportunity to take part to a summer workcamp in Poland, I knew that this was my chance, and that I shouldn’t let it pass by. For those of you who aren’t familiar with workcamps, a brief explanation: workcamps are usually organized by special organizations (for instance INEX in the Czech Republic and Slovakia) for a duration of roughly two weeks.
Although the topic and nature may vary from one camp to the next, the main point is to work as a volunteer and help bring some specific project to completion with other volunteers: you can help renovate a castle, work at an organic farm, teach your language to local children, just to mention of few of the possibilities out there.
I chose to work with Polish children for two weeks and prepare a special program for them, who otherwise wouldn’t have had much to do during the whole summer. I must confess that I really enjoyed it and will keep those memories for a long time!
It was the end of July, and I was standing outside a shopping centre in Warsaw, waiting for the other volunteers and our coordinator – my future friends. This was my first time in Poland, I had no idea what to expect, but was simply looking forward to the new experiences awaiting me. I believe that we were really lucky, and our group was ideal and incredibly diverse, with three foreigners – from Taiwan, Spain and Mexico – our Polish coordinator, and myself.
“I felt more comfortable when I met the other volunteers”, Sergio, the Spanish volunteer, pointed out. “We shared a lot of ideas, dreams and feelings. I felt as if I was home when I was with them”. We all instantly clicked and became friends the very first day and for the whole two weeks we spent in our new beautiful wooden house in a small village called Marianow, a few kilometers outside Warsaw.
“It was my first time as a volunteer. All the things were fresh and challenging, but thanks to my four partners, I was able to overcome them. It was my most memorable summer so far” – Louis, volunteer from Taiwan
Every day, we were working hard to plan a program for almost 40 kids of Marianow, aged 6 to 13. Quite a challenge, considering that their level in English was not as good as we had expected. Although I had the advantage of speaking Czech and, therefore, could more or less communicate with them, the other volunteers were completely lost. But I think that, in the end, we managed pretty well, even if it meant using sign language!
We organized all sorts of creative activities and workshops, sports sessions and obstacle races, presentations about our countries, games and treasure hunts, and even set up a special theatre for kids at the end of the work camp. Needless to say, those 14 days were incredibly intense… and rewarding.
To thank us, AXA Association, the Polish organization in charge of the workcamp, rewarded us with a weekend trip to Krakow: three amazing days roaming the streets of the old town of Poland’s former capital, discovering the incredibly wide offer of coffee places, bars, museums and art galleries. And of course, we tried to put our newly gained “knowledge” of the Polish language to use and almost felt like home-grown locals.
“Volunteering changed something in me and opened my eyes to new experiences” – Gerardo, volunteer from Mexico
This whole experience was incredible, and I am grateful I got the chance to join this workcamp. I spent my summer days in the most productive way I could think of and am happy to have gained more experience working with children. This also gave me a better understanding of the culture, way of life and habits of Polish people. I was surprised of how welcoming they were to us. Sergio agrees with me: “I thought that Polish people were so serious, but I was completely wrong”, he once told me. “I’m impressed with Poland, and I hope to come back soon”.
Ewa, our Polish coordinator, also told me what brought her to the camp in the first place: “Actually, it was my first work camp ever, not only as a coordinator, but also as a volunteer. I decided to try something new, something party international but in my home country. And I absolutely don’t regret doing it. I spent an amazing time, two weeks full of fun, new friends and (hard) work!”
If you’re thinking about visiting a specific country but don’t want to act like a typical tourist, this is a great opportunity. And I know that my co-volunteers feel the same way. “I was so nervous when I decided to go to the workcamp”, Sergio admitted. “But I don’t regret anything, because it has been one of the best experiences of my life”.