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International Volunteer Projects

I have been on short term workcamps run by a couple of organisations. These are:

The workcamps are cheap, communal, and lots of fun! They are a great opportunity to get to know people from other countries and cultures by living and working together for a common goal. During these, and other, voluntary activities I have collected a number of Workcamp Games, which help add to the community spirit.

I have attended the following workcamps:

Clearing the Via Appia AnticaSanta Maria delle MolleItalyAugust 99   Leg 
Restoring a Medieval PathPettorano sul GizioItalyAugust 99 Leg
Clearing an Austro-Hungarian Fort  Venezia Lido & Mazzorbo Italy July 99 SCI
Mountain Path MaintenanceLagdei-CorniglioItaly September 98 SCI
Orphanage Playschemes and MuralTuzlaBosniaAugust 98 SCI
Creating a Scenic PathAgropoliItaly July 98 Leg
Bosnian Refugee Children's Holiday Ljubljana & Svetinje Slovenia  August 97 SCI
Abandoned Village Restoration PentidattiloItalyAugust 97  SCI
Excavating Etruscan TombsPitiglianoItaly July 97 SCI
Creating Low Cost HousingRomeItalyOctober 96 SCI
Restoring an Urban ParkNettunoItalyJuly 96 SCI
Also see:
Dunjak Shelter, Humanitarian Aid Project  DunjakCroatia Sep - Nov 97

In 2002 I founded an international development aid charity which runs workcamps providing community buildings in developing countries; see AidCamps International.

in Santa Maria delle Molle, Lazio, Italy. 16-31 August 99. Legambiente

This workcamp was held at the southern end of the Parco dell'Appia Antica just south of Rome. Via Appia Antica is the oldest of the Roman roads. It was started by Appio Claudio Cieco in 312BC to facilitate the conquest of southern Italy.

Clearing the Via Appia Antica
Clearing the Via Appia Antica

The work consisted of clearing the vegetation covering the ancient road in preparation for a team of archaeologists that would arrive after the workcamp. Accommodation was in a local primary school.

Of course, being so close to Rome a lot of the group's spare time was taken in sight-seeing in the city, as well as visiting the towns collectively known as the Castelli Romani near the workcamp site which are famous for their wine (e.g. Frascati) and porchetta.

There were 13 volunteers: 1 Bulgarian, 1 Czech, 1 English, 1 French, 3 Italians, 1 Russian, 3 Turkish, 1 from the U.S.A. and myself.

in Pettorano sul Gizio, Abruzzo, Italy. 1-15 August 99. Legambiente

This workcamp was held in the charming medieval village of Pettorano sul Gizio in the mountainous region of Abruzzo.

Fence at Pettorano
One of the fences we built

The work was clearing a path and building fences and steps along the banks of the river Gizio, with runs just below the village. The path cleared followed the route of a medieval path, part of a old network linking villages in the region.

Accommodation was in a local primary school. We spent most of our spare time entertaining ourselves and visiting the two bars in the village, as well as getting to know the local people.

The group also visited Sulmona, the nearest town, and hiked for an overnight stay to a mountain refuge.

There were 16 volunteers: 2 Catalans, 2 French, 3 Italians, 1 Japanese, 1 Russian, 3 Turkish, 1 Welsh, 2 from the U.S.A, and myself.

in Venezia Lido & Mazzorbo, Venice, Italy. 4-17 July 99. SCI I-3.1

This workcamp was held in two locations in the laguna di Venezia. The first week was spent on Lido where we cleared the vegetation around an abandoned Austro-Hungerian fort as part of an ongoing project to convert historic military sites into public parks. During this period we stayed in a military barracks that is in the process of closing down.

The entrance to the fort
The entrance to the fort

The second week the workcamp moved to the pretty island of Mazzorbo where the group worked on a farm that is being converted into a local museum. We cleared paths, made fences, and cleaned old farming implements for display in the museum. We stayed in accomodation on the farm.

As we were only a boat ride away from Venice a lot of the group's spare time was taken in sight-seeing, both in the city, as well as some of the less visited islands in the laguna.

There were 14 volunteers: 2 Catalans, 2 Estonians, 2 Finns, 1 Hungarian, 1 Irish, 1 Polish, 1 Romanian, 2 Russians, 1 Turkish, and myself.

in Lagdei-Corniglio, Emilia-Romanga, Italy. 30 August - 13 September 98. SCI I-6.8

This workcamp was held in the national park Parco dei Cento Laghi (Hundred Lakes Park) in the Appenines on the border between Tuscany and Emilia-Romanga near Parma.

Parco dei Cento Laghi
Parco dei Cento Laghi

The work consisted mostly of making paths and erecting signs for hikers. The accommodation was luxurious by workcamp standards as we were staying in a comfortable refuge within the park.

There were lots of long walks to various mountain peaks and several people braved the cold lakes and went for a swim. At the weekend we visited Parma and consumed large amounts of free prosciutto at Parma's annual prosciutto festival.

The workcamp was delightfully musical with several people playing guitar and singing.

There were 14 volunteers: 1 Albanian, 1 Basque, 5 Belgians, 1 German, 3 Italians, 1 Japanese, 1 Swiss, and myself.

in Tuzla, Bosnia. 3-22 August 98. SCI I J-2

This workcamp was supposed to include the reconstruction of a kindergarden (which is why I went!), but by the time we arrived the kindergarden had already been rebuilt, so the workcamp concentrated on playscheme activities at an orphanage in Tuzla and the painting of a mural on the walls of one of the buildings of the orphanage that had been damaged by shrapnel.

The group amused the children, aged from 8 weeks up to 20 years, for nearly three weeks, helping the staff take care of the younger ones and organising various activities for the rest. The mural took a considerable amount of effort too.

The group lived in a kindergarden in Tuzla in rather cramped conditions and using furniture designed for 5 year olds! One weekend the group visited Sarajevo and saw both the beauty of the city and just how much devastation war can cause.

There were 21 volunteers: 1 Belgian, 1 Catalan, 1 French, 1 Irish, 9 Italians, 1 Japanese, 1 Slovenian, 3 from the U.K., 2 from the U.S.A., and myself.

The Mural

in Agropoli, Campania, Italy. 13-26 July 98. Legambiente

Clearing Paths
Clearing paths

This workcamp was held in the seaside town of Agropoli, about 75kms south of Naples. The work consisted of cleaning the banks of the local river and making riverside paths so that people can enjoy the local environment.

Accommodation was in a local primary school, and a lot of the group's spare time was spent on the beach. We also visited Pompeii and Paestum, the local centre of Magna-Grecia. There were 14 volunteers: 3 Danish, 1 Dutch, 4 French, 2 Italians, 2 Slovakians, 1 Greek-American, and myself.

in Ljubljana & Svetinje, Slovenia. 21-31 August 97. SCI Si-1.1

The purpose of this workcamp was to take two dozen Bosnian refugee children, living in refugee camps in Slovenia, on holiday.

This workcamp was hard work! Workcamps that involve manual labour are easier, at least you get to relax in the evenings! On this camp we were working all the time. Still, it was enjoyable and rewarding. We started off in Ljubljana staying at a school for a few days, no kids, just the volunteers, learning about the refugee situation, the political situation, the war, etc, and planning activities for the holiday. We visited the two refugee camps the kids were coming from and saw a bit of Ljubljana.

Bosnian Refugee Children
Bosnian refugee children
and volunteers

Then we collected the kids (9-13 years old) in a bus and drove off to a tiny village, Svetinje, in the middle of Slovenia's wine making region, where we occupied the largest house. Six days of activities followed: games, mime, drawing, music, dance classes, basic language lessons, craft classes, etc., etc., etc. I was in the so-called drama group, were we did a lot of mime and I introduced some good old workcamp games like "machine" and "knots".

We threw a mask party and an Indian party for the kids and held a sports competition. We got to eat Bosnian food, cooked by three of the mothers that came with us and, discretely, tried some of the local wines.

There were 18 volunteers: 1 Belgian, 1 Finnish, 3 Germans, 2 New Zealanders, 5 Slovenians, 5 from the U.K., and myself. Everybody left feeling satisfied -- and exhausted -- and the kids had a great time.

in Pentidattilo, Calabria, Italy. 2-16 August 97. SCI I-9.2


Pentidattilo is an old village in the Greek area of southern Italy, near Reggio di Calabria. The village is built in the palm of a mountain shaped like a hand, from which it takes its name "five fingers". The village was abandoned in the early '60s due to fears of the imminent collapse of the mountain. However, the mountain is still intact and various organizations are working to restore the village.

The workcamp excavated a part of the cistern of the medieval castle, dug out paths in the hillside, erected some fences, and staffed the village information centre ("Pro Loco"). We lived with constant water shortages, and suffered a European Commission film crew making a video of the project. Some volunteers went to Sicily for the weekend, while others lounged on the beach. We all saw a fair amount of the local area.

There were 17 volunteers: 3 Belgians, 2 Dutch, 2 English, 2 Germans, 5 Italians, 1 Portuguese, 1 Spanish, and myself.

in Pitigliano, Tuscany, Italy. 15-30 July 97. SCI I-11.4

Pitigliano is a picturesque medieval hill top village in the Etruscan part of southern Tuscany. The main purpose of the workcamp was to excavate some Etruscan tombs in a valley below Pitigliano. The tombs, dating from the 7th century BC, were raided by tomb looters about 40 years ago. The hillside has since slipped down filling and covering the tombs.

Etruscan Tombs
Some Etruscan tombs
we dug out

As the tombs had been looted we did not expect to find anything in them, although we did find a few sherds of Etruscan amphorae that the raiders had missed. However, it was exciting to see the tombs appear out of the hillside as we dug them out, and the group had a couple of midnight parties in the tombs to get the full atmosphere! In the last couple of days we also cleared the grounds of an abandoned monastery.

Staying in the local seminary, we found Pitigliano to be a quiet yet charming village. We went for walks, visited a local country fair, went for a dip in the nearby Roman hot springs at Saturnia, attended a local wine festival, and managed to go to a disco and a concert.

There were 11 volunteers on this workcamp: 1 Austrian, 1 French, 1 Hungarian, 4 Italians, 2 Spanish, 1 Swedish, and myself.

in Rome, Italy. 1-15 October 96. SCI I-8.6

There were 12 volunteers on this workcamp. 1 Italian, 1 Malaysian, 1 Norwegian, 1 Polish, 1 Slovenian, 1 Spanish, 2 Swiss, 3 from the U.S.A., and myself.

The workcamp was held in a six story building in Via San Tommaso d'Aquino occupied by the self-managing cooperative Il Corallo. The building contains 23 apartments, in various states of repair, of which we occupied two. The work itself was helping in the restoration of the building. We cleared rubble, cleaned, plastered, painted the stairwell, destroyed an unwanted wall, and mixed concrete to set new floors in some of the apartments.

As the building is just 10 minutes walk from the Vatican, afternoon sight-seeing tours of Rome were an almost daily feature of the workcamp. Funds for a "wine kitty" were collected regularly and guaranteed, despite being in "the big city", that many enjoyable evenings were spent in the building, with dinner turning into a party almost every night!

One good idea that was suggested was begging for food! We would go to the local market just before closing time and ask for fruit and vegetables that were going to get thrown out anyway. This helped supplement the food budget allowing us to buy some luxuries like herbs and spices. This, with the excellent kitchen skills of the participants, resulted in a very high culinary standard indeed!

We left an additional mark on the building in the form of a community effort mural. Several people felt their stay to be worthwhile enough to remain for some time after the workcamp proper was over. Indeed, I stayed on for an extra month!

in Nettuno, Lazio, Italy. 3-19 July 96. SCI I-6.30

Nettuno and Anzio are twin seaside tourist towns, about 60kms south of Rome. They are famous for the allied landings for the liberation of Rome towards the end of the 2nd World War.

There were 18 volunteers on this workcamp: 1 Belgian-French, 1 Dutch, 2 Hungarians, 5 Italians, 1 Norwegian, 2 Polish, 2 Serbians, 1 Spanish, 2 Turkish, and myself. We stayed in a primary school, enjoying hard floors, cold showers, and good humour. The weather was great the whole time -- so much so that a large number of people ending up sleeping on the roof terrace under the stars. A shortage of keys allowed some people to get in practice at climbing into first-story windows!

The work was restoring an urban park in part of the old Villa Borghese. The setting was very pleasant, the park being a large enclosed wooded area. We cleared paths, cleaned and painted the huge main gate, repaired fences, dug holes, mixed concrete, built wooden benches and tables, and erected signs. We worked a 30 hour week, mostly in the mornings (before it got too hot), although we put in some extra, afternoon, hours in the second week to ensure the work was completed.

Most afternoons were spent on the beach, walking around town, or enjoying a siesta. The evenings were usually spent "on the town", with the occasional party at "home". We, of course, took one weekend to go and see Rome.

The camp ended with the work completed, many good friendships made, and quite a few goodbye tears.

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