My name is Carla, I’m 24 years old and I’m a student from Switzerland.
This spring, I participated in a wonderful work camp in Athens. It’s purpose was to “recycle for good“ – to repair old and broken furniture in order to give it to socially disadvantaged families.
When I arrived in Athens, our very kind and welcoming camp leaders Eliza and Giorgos picked me up and drove me to our accommodation. There were already some of the other volunteers and by the time everybody had arrived, we were a group of eighteen people from Japan, Korea, France, Italy, Greece, Mexico and still other countries. We shared a big and beautiful apartment and usually had breakfast there and sometimes dinner, too. After work, the balcony offered a very nice place to relax and talk and in the evening, we often played games in our cozy living room. Though there was only one shower in the apartment, we figured out a way so everybody could use it daily ;)
All the volunteers were very nice and open-minded, we talked a lot about our lives in our countries, cooked traditional meals together and got to know each other soon. We also discovered the Greek culture together and I was delighted by the kindness and generosity of Greek people.
On weekdays, we started working at nine o’clock. Every morning, we walked to our beautiful workplace, a former openair cinema: It was a sunny inner courtyard with lemon trees around it and many cats from the neighbourhood visiting us. It was equipped with some space to store the furniture and the tools and a small kitchen. We usually finished work at around three o’clock and had lunch there under the big movie screen.
During the first days, our organization introduced itself, informing us about their projects and talking about the goals of this camp. We also played some games in order to get to know each other better.
Before we eventually started repairing the furniture, we had some workshops about how to use the tools and work with wood creatively. I was very glad about that because I didn’t have much experience with this kind of work. We then all chose pieces of furniture – there were chairs, tables, sofas, beds and many more things people from the neighbourhood didn’t want anymore and had brought to the cinema – and thought about how to mend it (if broken) and how to make it look nice. Some tables for example lacked a leg and many pieces of furniture needed to be varnished anew. So we spent a lot of time sandpapering away the old varnish which I liked a lot because it involved only very simple tools and allowed to talk to other volunteers.
In our free time we saw many beautiful places. For example, we walked up Mount Lycabettus to see the sun set over the city and the sea. We spent some evenings on the seaside walking along the beach, having a picnic, playing football and the brave ones even swimming in the cold water. And of course we visited the amazing Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum, too. We also had coffee together downtown, relaxed in the National Gardens at the heart of Athens and went shopping at local markets.
On our last day of work, we brought our furniture to the families. We divided into groups of about four volunteers and took our van to drive the furniture to the families’ homes. In our case, it was a father with his about seven years old son and it was a very beautiful encounter. In the evening of that day, we had a goodbye party at the cinema exhibiting some of our work and inviting people from the neighbourhood to have dinner with us. It was a very beautiful conclusion of our two weeks together.
This was my second work camp; my first one was in the Botanical Garden of Reykjavik, Iceland two years ago. Despite their short duration, both are among the best experiences I ever had.
I often think about the beautiful people I met and the good times we spent together; these memories still contribute a lot to my happiness. I like the idea of work camps as a way of sharing very much – sharing meaningful work, free time activities, an accommodation, food… But also ideas, personal experience and ways of living, culture, friendship and love. I’m still in touch with many of the other volunteers and seeing some from time to time. I couldn’t be more grateful for having had the chance of being part of such wonderful groups of people and I hope to do many more work camps in the future.