I would rather say that the motto of our workcamps are “Living and working together, learning from each other”. That is actually what we are doing indeed on the workcamps, reaching the goals to promote peace, disarmament, and international understanding through volunteering.
Back to history
The SCI was founded in 1920, when volunteers helped to rebuild a destroyed village near the town of Verdun after the First World War. Hence, in this time of militarism and nationalism, they proved that working together and international mutual understanding is possible. This idea still lives on in the international SCI-workcamps: together volunteers work, live and learn together, for two to three weeks for example in memorial places at former concentration camps, with deprived people, with children and young people, for nature, environment, and climate protection or in innovative culture initiatives. These commitments should lead to peace and international understanding, to social justice, to equal relations between the North and the South, the East and the West and they should as well contribute to an environment worth living in.
As it was mentioned, Service Civil International (SCI) organizes international volunteering services, especially workcamps. Usually, around 50 workcamps take place every year in Germany. However, this year only a few of them took place (online as well). For these, the German SCI branch seeks camp coordinators. In one of them, I was a Camp coordinator.
Sun + Wind = Power II (Glücksburg near Flensburg) – a well-known workcamp of SCI-Germany. It took in this August in the center for sustainable development "Artefact", located in Glücksburg on the Flensburg Fjord near the Danish border. Among other things, an energy adventure park for youth and seminar groups and carries out project days on global learning. The buildings, which are completely supplied with renewable energy, the energy park, and the nature experience space must be constantly repaired and extended by new stations. This is supported by the volunteers during the workcamps. The topic of climate change with its consequences and renewable energies will be taken up in discussions during the workcamp. This year I had 10 volunteers in the workcamp.
Being a camp coordinator: how do I coordinate a group to self-organization? How can I help a group to organize itself?*
You, as camp coordinator, should not let yourselves feel insecure with the different expectations or think that everything must be fair for everyone. In no case it is your task as camp coordinator to meet these expectations or to fulfill them; your task is mostly to appropriately take them into consideration in the common creation of the everyday life in the camp and the work and free time. For instance, you should take care that everyone can freely express their interests and the arising tasks can be dealt with together in the group. As I had very motivated volunteers in Glücksburg, they were always eager to implement their own ideas and initiatives.
The question here is how I as camp coordinators managed to keep the balance between coordinating, accompanying and participating in the group, thus, immerse yourself in the group, let yourself drift and still, if necessary, intervene in the guiding.
With our work, we support a project. However, normally camp coordinators are not integrated into the everyday life of the project, but they build their own structures in the common life. Self-organization in a camp does not mean that the camp coordinators should leave the camp completely on its own - nothing can be organized by itself! The process which is necessary for a group – especially in the beginning of the camp – for self-organization and personal responsibility, can and should be initiated and supported. You as camp coordinators are there as “guides”, mediators: you instruct, put the self-organization processes in action, promote personal initiatives and responsibilities; You provide the information (necessary for a decision), demonstrate different possibilities, offer help in the decision.
With your early arrival and preparations for the workcamp, a first you have overtaken the role of “hosts” so that the participant can come in peace. Little by little, these tasks can be overtaken by the earlier arrived participants, by welcoming the newly arrived participants, showing them the accommodation, informing them about the further process.
As camp coordinators, I and my Co-Campleader were already familiar with the project and the environment. In order not to stay in the role of the “know-it-all”, it is advisable to “dismantle” your information advance, for instance, by taking a tour of the place and pointing out to the different shopping possibilities, hanging a map with different free time possibilities, encouraging the participants to explore the near environment. We had a first talk about the organization of the study part and the free time activities for example for the second or third evening. As a procedure an empty schedule plan can be useful.
From my experience, it does not make sense to plan the whole workcamp weeks right from the beginning; a lot of interests and needs develop during the camp. As camp coordinators, we put a flipchart in the room, which allows the participants to plan, design and decide together during the whole camp.
To sum up, it was the best 2 weeks during my volunteering service in Germany. I have realized that as soon as the participants get comfortable and start to find their way in the new environment, I could involve them step-by-step in the common creation of the camp. It was my task as camp coordinator to lead this process: I have addressed the common life and work in the workcamp, revealed the determined and existing structure and demanded these to be set together! Please, check our website https://www.sci-d.de/ to be aware of how to spend your time with a purpose.
*Some useful information from this abstract was taken from SCI”s Handbook for Camp Coordinators “Lead and let's lead”.