Ivan at “1 TABLE FOR ALL” (Finland) - 2018

During summer 2018, Ivan participated in a workcamp in Finland, as a European Voluntary Service (EVS) volunteer through the project "V.I.P. - Volunteering is Possible" with the financial support of the Erasmus+ Programme funded by the European Commission.

My name is Ivan, I'm 20 years old, a photographer, a student and a volunteer from Greece.

In July 15th - 28th I participated in a workcamp in Finland at Punkaharju, the Alli15 1Table4All which included environmental work, painting and cooking in a college. This place had also refugees from Somalia who were taught English and started working on the maintenance of the college. The main subject was to share a table with all the volunteers and share your culture with different type of cooking. 

It was my first volunteering workcamp, also my first time going abroad and getting in an airplane, all of these on my own! When I arrived in Finland the first day, I missed the train which went to the workcamp place and it only passed 4 times per day! The sad thing was that I lost the last one of that day so I got panicked a bit because I was in the middle of nowhere not knowing what to do. I contacted ELIX and the Alliance in Finland and one of the leaders of the group (Tiina), managed to take me with her car to her house. There, I met 4 volunteers (2 from another workcamp and 2 from mine), so we started talking and getting known each other. The next day, we took the train together to Punkaharju. In the train, I met one other volunteer from the workcamp and also started talking with a random person from Finland who offered me coffee. I was asking him questions about the place, how it looks like and what people do there. To be honest, I wasn't expecting it to be so beautiful.

When I arrived, I went "crazy": the place was fantastic. The landscapes, the big trees, green everywhere, the big lake which was literally part of the college and of course the bridge across. We met our camp leaders, David, who is from Czech Republic and the other camp leader, Brian, who is from Belgium. They helped us to pack our things and showed us the place around. While waiting for the other volunteers to arrive, we went for dinner. Until the night time (which actually wasn't because Finland is the "Land of the Midnight Sun"), every volunteer arrived for this workcamp. People from Italy, France, Switzerland, Spain, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Hong Kong and even a person from Mexico! Everyone was from 17-25 years old! All gathered together at a table. We shared together who we are, why we joined the workcamp and what we expected from this experience.

The program went like this. Every day, we woke up at 8:30 to get breakfast at the college kitchen, at 9:00 till 10:00 we had Finnish lessons with a teacher from Finland who explained to us the culture, the holidays of Finnish people and the language. Afterwards from 10:15 to 12:30, we were working. Most days, we were cleaning the school around, cutting grass, watering the trees. It was mostly maintaining the whole college space. There were also days that we did different kinds of work, for example, cleaning carpets, painting the tables of students. From 12:30 to 12:45, we had a coffee break and then we continue working until 15:00, sometimes till 13:30, depending on how tired we were or what kind of work we did. After, we had dinner erasmus plus logo 2and then free time.

On our free time we did multiple things. Relaxing and swimming by the lake, jumping from the bridge, taking the rowboat and going around the lake, we used the finish sauna and had BBQ several times, playing volleyball, football and badminton, playing mind games, riding with some vintage bicycles around, exploring the place of Punkaharju, having parties at night with music. One day, we went to the next city which is called Savonlinna and there we had the opportunity to buy things from the local market as a souvenir of Finland. Another day, we went to a big classroom of the college, there was a big group of Russian work campers who were at this workcamp for a month and every volunteer of our group had 5 minutes to search on the internet, for photos and videos of his/her country showing and explaining the culture to the big screen.

On the last day of this wonderful experience, in the evening, we gathered inside a classroom and we shared about this workcamp. What we liked, what we expected, what surprised us and what we learned. During the night-time, we set up a table, we all brought from our countries cook recipes, food and sweets, we chose a recipe to cook and we shared them. We also made up a cake because it was one of our camp leaders birthday and we made him a surprise! I don't want to talk about the "Goodbye" part because it is too sad.

There are so many things to write about this experience. I will try to be brief. I joined this workcamp (and I will participate to more workcamps in the future, for sure) because I always wanted to go somewhere and help. The only way to improve this world is to try and help, even a little and encourage at least one person to help. I also wanted to go abroad and explore a new place and learn a new culture. It is one of my dreams as a photographer to travel around the world and capture everything I can, show it to the world from my point of view and of course, keep a "living" memory of something, through a picture which can change at least one person's opinion about the world and how we must save it.

The biggest challenge of this trip was how I managed to get to the place on my own and trying to communicate in English while it's not my native language.

At this workcamp I didn't expect people to be so open-minded, friendly. We shared together personal problems, everyone had his/her ups and downs, we tried to help each other. I made new friends. I met with a British friend (who was a camp leader at the Russian group teaching them English) in Greece when he came for holidays after this workcamp. I even went to Italy in Rome, after 1 month of this workcamp when the 3 Italian friends suggested me to go for over a week at their house together with one French and two Spanish friends from the workcamp.

In the end, I travelled to two different countries, each of them totally different and I learned 2 different cultures and languages, even a little, made new friends from all over the world, which is fascinating and helped to make the world better. It isn't just a volunteering group, it is a family.

["The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein."]

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