September, oh sweet September…what is coming down the pike? Another camp? Yes, indeed… but this time I am completely alone in leading it. AAArghhhhh XD
When I was said I would have to manage and lead a camp all alone I really had no clue about how to do this at the best. I do believe now what Leonas (from Deineta, the hosting organization for EVS volunteers in Lithuania) said: ‘It will be all clear when it is over’. The initial uncertainty then met the certainty of being completely alone in organizing activities for the camp and dealing with its participants during the whole time. Luckily, backup was on the way.
Volunteering at Camps is an incredible opportunity for young people who want to enjoy some experience abroad by taking an active part in the promotion and preservation of the territory of the hosting country. This experience combines hard work, life and sharing with peers and a chance to develop both personally and professionally. As well as in the past, Dzukija NP became the house of six volunteers from Italy, Germany, France and Japan from the 27th of August to the 7th of September. The aim of the project was the implementation of nature restoration activities in the territory of the park.
The volunteers and I were directly involved in maintenance activities occurring in several areas of the park. Precisely, we helped the staff of the park clean the area around the Ornithological Centre and cut bushes on Nemunas river island in Merkine. We also cleaned the area around Musteika’s Beekeeping Museum, dug out invasive plant species in Stegalios and took part to nature management in Čepkeliai State Nature Reserve. Each activity was always accompanied by a widely informative introduction by Mindaugas, Head of Nature Division in Dzukija NP (also the backup I was referring to), such as the very first presentation of the park to volunteers in Merkine Visitors’ Centre and the description of rare plants collection in Liškiava. The amount of work was balanced and volunteers had the opportunity of enjoying some excursions after work, such as the one in Druskininkai.
This camp was also characterized by a fair and meaningful amount of leisure time. I offered volunteers two possibilities: they could spend some time either on their own by reading a book or simply resting or all together by playing some games or enjoying a full sauna ‘treatment’ and subsequent jumps in the Gruda River. I was delighted by their choice, having fun together without neglecting the importance of taking some time for themselves. Regarding the weekend, we decided to visit Vilnius on Saturday and enjoy concerts and events occurring during SOSTINĖS DIENOS Festival. On Sunday, we rented canoes and navigated through Grūda river, always giving rise to funny and stimulating situations.
The group was heterogeneous yet cohesive. Despite obvious cultural differences and some linguistic difficulties, all the participants of the camp managed to contribute to the final goal and to live this experience to the full. Shifts were also organized and observed with reference to chores and preparation of different meals. This Volunteer Camp provided them not only with information about Lithuanian culture and the park but also with awareness about their skills and potentialities. I also learnt a lot from them in terms of both practical knowledge and intercultural awareness. I can definitely say that new bonds of friendship were created and developed throughout this camp, laying the groundwork for future meetings and cultural exchanges.