A Work Camp with a capital W
My next experience of being a volunteer from SCI I had in the central Finland. A wonderful work camp and a pleasant stay in the heart of the country was from 3rd to 15th July of 2017.
Volunteers were hosted by the family home Äijälä located in Väinölä, 5 km from the centre of the city called Jyväskylä. The family home accommodates people with disabilities and offers them work on the idyllic farm. Once a year volunteers from all over the world come here to follow the main idea of the camp which is creating friendship and sharing cultural experiences between the volunteers and the house residents by working together.
Every morning during fortnight we hold a meeting in a place like a tent when our hosts Hartwig and Eeva-Liisa, just an amazing couple, told us some parables, stories about history of Finland. Before listening to the man of great wisdom we had so called silent moments when nobody talked but looked at the bonfire to hear yourself, to meditate, to see how it is to be with people and alone at the same time, to flow into a magic mood.
In the end of the meeting we took hands standing in a circle and said, ‘Hyvää työpäivää!’ (‘Have a nice working day!’) This small detail made our day, that’s a good thing for starting a productive work and team-building. The luminous quality of this custom can’t be overvalued.
We worked six hours a day. Our work mainly consists of garden work, cleaning the yard overgrown with weeds. Sometimes a weed was a persevering image for (you know, when you close your eyes and see the object you worked a lot with). But actually the work was quite easy. Time passes so fast when you are in a company of cheerful and kind-hearted people and whose musical taste is the same as yours. One of the main principles of the camp ‘learning by doing’ with focus on the integration of both disabled and non-disabled in the work process was successfully implemented.
Also as in any other camps we cleaned the house and cooked. The second week we prepared food of our own country, so we helped ourselves with very tasty Afganian, Belgian, Spanish, Mexican, and Russian traditional food. We also liked Finnish cuisine consisting of meat, fish, bread, butter, everything that people living in Northern countries need.
Thanks to our camp-coordinators we got a very warm atmosphere. Every day we spent our evenings in an interesting way: bicycle trips and hiking, volleyball, national dancing of the peoples of the world (I think Russian Troika has the funniest and the most challenging movements), watching the Finnish film, having the quiz about Finland (by the way, do you know what is exact population of your country, what your coat of Arm shows, etc.), experienced Finnish sauna and it is very best, and explored Jyväskylä, which is in addition to being a student city and just an amazing place to be end enjoy your life has a big reputation for sport and fitness, and more than 5 000 different events throughout the year.
I was proud to be a winner of a photo contest ‘70 Acts of Peace’ organized among volunteers of our camp. The competition was devoted to 70th Anniversary of KVT, the Finnish branch of Service Civil International. SCI was founded in 1920, and its main idea is international understanding and respect for the environment. KVT which is 70 now organizes international voluntary projects, seminars, and trainings, and offers volunteering opportunities for asylum seekers and immigrants living in Finland.
On the penultimate day Arja Fried made us happy by visiting the camp. Arja Fried has been leading and participating in many camps from the beginning when KVT was established and the first volunteers came to Finland to help to rebuild Lapland after the Second World War. The conversation was extremely interesting and made us again reflect on the values.
I have even more enthusiasm for the volunteering. ‘Kiitos’ to everyone who participated in this enterprise. You are people with a capital P who made a work camp with a capital W! Really we, volunteers, break down stereotypes and prejudices, create good experience, find friends among people of all ages and backgrounds, we become involved in a great idea we believe in.
Photos and the text by Regina Trutneva