Hello stranger or not-so-stranger! The last two days I returned from the first workcamp I led and I see myself preparing my stuff for the second workcamp and I’m wondering how fast the last 2 weeks passed. Since I returned back to Bratislava, I’ve discussed a lot about the camp, really a lot and what I’ve realized is that it would be impossible for me to forget those two weeks where one of my life goals, to become a leader in an international camp, came true.
The place : Slatinka
Slatinka it’s a remote village in central Slovakia: you have to take the train or the bus from Bratislava to Zvolen and then the bus for 15 minutes. After that, you have to walk 30 minutes. As you come closer to the village you’ll be amazed from the landscapes: you’re in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature and probably you don’t have a phone signal anymore. The only place that you have is the bridge, for me the landmark of the village.
But where I spend those two weeks? In the old school, sleeping on mattresses, with no running water, dry toilets and a unique shower that everybody loved or hated. For some the living conditions were hard, for some easy, for me they were just different and interesting.
The local partner , the people who hosted us and they were responsible for our duties is Slatinka Assosiation , established in 1993 as a reaction to the construction of the Slatinka water dam on the Slatina River. The association’s mission is to work at the basin of the Slatina River, to protect the environment and preserve natural areas while spreading consciousness of the project’s effects on nature. One of their main aims is to bring life back to the village of Slatinka, since many people had to leave due to the dam construction.
I’m glad to say that after this workcamp I feel more skillfull and independed. We worked mainly in the garden: we destroyed old dry toilets and we built new ones, we took care of plants, we planted vegetables, we painted the roof etc .We also worked in the educational trail and in a park in Zvolen. Tools like a shovel, axe, lopper, rake, hammer and so on are more familiar to me and no matter if the work was tiring for me I found it really interesting. It is true that it’s fun when people are working together and personally I really enjoyed it, but I also feel nice when the local gave us eggs and chocolates because they seem to appreciate what you do for this small community .
My family visited me!
Before I start describing what I did those days and how I felt, I’ll refer something important for me. One day before the camp starts my parents and my siblings came by car to Slatinka from Greece…. to SLATINKA! I hadn’t seen them since I moved to Slovakia on March. No matter if we spent together only 24 hours, it was one of the best days of my life. We stayed in Banska Bystrica and the next day we went for a trip in Baska Stiavnica. They were amazed from the nature, the beautiful architecture (medieval colorful buildings in Banska Stiavnica) and from the food. And I was just happy spending some time with them .
When arrived to camp everybody was there eating pasta: volunteers, local partners, Karin my co-leader, Pedro and Katia the EVS volunteers from Slatinka organisation etc.. And I’m happy to say that I have something nice to remember from everyone, because I truly spend amazing moments with them and I feel more than grateful for my volunteers and their support.
From Martina and Janka, our local partners, how different between them they are and how they perfectly complete each other. They are two women that I really admire and I appreciate a lot our disquisitions. Also Martina’s daughters helped us a lot.
From Karin (Slovakia) the perfect cooperation and communication between us. I’m sure that without her the camp’s atmosphere wouldn’t be the same and I’m happy to say that we became friends during the workcamp. But also the funny moments we had while cooking dinner, behaving as mothers to the volunteers and planing the program in the »port of the lake».From Emile, mon petit obelisque, the french bad words that we were shouting all the time.
From Margot (France) her talent in painting and her gentle personality. From Gaspard his humour, his car and the moment when he cleaned the dishes in the night. From Mariana her temperament and the moment when we cleaned the dishes in the rain. From Enju (South Korea) her kindness and the moments when I was begging her to have a break. From Eunmi (South Korea) the fact that she spoke so many times to the journalists that I consider her as our star.
From Yuri (Belarus) his wake up songs. From Pedro and Katia the funny moments, and they were many. Last but not least, from Tipek the cat the times that he let me take him in my arms and the moment when he ate our sausages!
In the nights we were sitting around a bonfire, we danced, we talked a lot and played some games. It took so much time for everybody to take a shower that we didn’t have really that much free time but it was nice. The highlights for me were our trip to the Low Tatras, to Banska Bystrica and Guca festival. Or maybe all the moments that I laughed so much no matter if we were working or not. I’ll let the photos speak instead me!
The bad moments
You know, sometimes as a leader you have to make some decisions for the safety of the whole group and for each participant individually. And sometimes, as my dad always says, there’s not only black and white, there’s also grey. You gain something, you lose something else. I think the announcement of those decisions is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life and it would be even harder if I hadn’t the support of my Co leader, of the local partners and of INEX Slovakia. That’s the reason why I decided not to refer some people and some moments in the blog post.
My experience as a leader
During those days I grew up, I differently became more mature, patient and I overcame my limits. I realised that organising other people helps me a lot to organise myself. I’ve discovered some nice aspects of my personality that I didn’t know before, for example that I can motivate people, and some others that I need to improve. I think that it’s really important for a leader to receive support and a nice feedback from the volunteers and the local partner.
But as I said before, the most important is the good communication with your co-leader. So thanks to Karin and our nice relationship things got better than I expected to be.
I believe that leading an international voluntary camp is a life changing experience and something that I would recommend to everyone.
If you managed to reach until that part, well congratulations! I’m really proud of you because I know that’s a super long post!
Closing that post I have to thank everybody, no matter if I referred him or not (sorry Jurgen! ) . It was amazing to create memories with you and hopefully I’ll see you again, soon.