„YMCA Europe is a working fellowship to strengthen movements where people grow in body, mind and spirit.“


8th August 2016

Martin Sirka`s Blog

Work camps are the most common form of short-term volunteering, where a group of volunteers work and live together on a project which has been identified by a local community or working with that community. YMCA Serbia in coordination with the Young Researchers of Serbia - Voluntary Service of Serbia has organized an international voluntary work camp named Refresh held from 16th to 28th July in Backi Petrovac, Serbia.

We hosted ten international volunteers. The participants came from Spain, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Greece and Serbia. Led by camp leaders and camp organizer/coordinator, the camp included working hours, meals and leisure/free time activities. The topic of the camp was renovation/environmental and the main goal was to renovate the newly acquired facilities of the YMCA Youth and day care center as well as to clean and arrange the green surfaces surrounding it with the help of local volunteers. Work included gathering trash, planting, cleaning and arranging green surfaces (park, pond, garden), but also painting, making furniture from used materials or refurbishing old furniture. It's important that volunteers worked with limited tools and practiced their skills, because you never know when you might need to use them.

The spare time within the camp's program was reserved for promotion of cultural exchange among participants which was one of the main goals of the whole camp. The program was also filled out with educational activities.

During the camp there had been various workshops and presentations held (creative workshop, presentation about local history and a workshop on Human rights), intercultural party night called National day organized, game and youth work activities sharing, storytelling, sport afternoons, cookouts, music sharing etc. The participants enjoyed a competition game called Meet Petrovac where they were divided into two groups and competed for points in sightseeing the town and its important buildings. We organized recreational tours to waterpark in Backi Petrovac and to the swimming pool in the nearby Backi Maglic as well as an excursion to the city of Novi Sad.

We also had campaigning at the camp in the form of presentations on two topics - Migration and Environmental Sustainability. The second topic was especially important, since it answered the topic of the whole camp. The idea was to put sustainability into practice in daily life during the camp and raise awareness about environmental protection in the long-term perspective. We had the media support for the whole project in reports by both local and regional televisions.

Now after the camp is over, we can say that in general this whole project was a great success. The most important thing is the result we've achieved - not just that we've done all the planned work, but also that we've gained valuable contacts and friendships that will hopefully last for a long time.

This way, we want to thank all the volunteers - both international and local - also our partners, supporters and friends who helped us in any way and made this project possible. We want to send a message - we're not doing this just for us, but for all of us and for the benefit of the whole society.

This year the Ministry of Youth and Sport of the Republic of Serbia through the "Mladi su zakon" program has provided means for (co) funding of 35 volunteer camps in the Republic of Serbia, which allows our volunteers to participate in the camps in their country for free. This work camp is one of them.

Author/Source: Martin Širka, Camp Leader