“Workcamps helped me realise that I need to start giving back to society”
Eliška started to volunteer when she was 15 years old and went on several workcamps* with INEX. In this interview we ask her how her volunteering journey was, how she became civically active and if there is any impact left after her volunteering activities.
Can you outline your volunteer journey?
My volunteering journey began when I was fifteen. For the first time, I went on a workcamp abroad with INEX. It was an incredibly important experience for me. It went without the slightest complications and encouraged me to travel more. Moreover, it also moved me mentally. Mainly, because I also started volunteering in the Czech Republic. At first, I started to support children at their ceramics class and since then, I have gradually volunteered more and more. Later, I participated in a workcamp on an organic farm in the Camphill community as a campleader. It was a big difference from the experience to be an “ordinary” volunteer and to lead the workcamp. It was a bigger responsibility but leading an international group of volunteers is incredibly fulfilling!
Did volunteering somehow initiate civic engagement in you?
It definitely helped me a lot. I had to go through many situations and realise a few things, it was a long journey, for several years. Mainly, traveling around workcamps helped me to appreciate where I live, that I live in a free country, to find more love for the Czech Republic, to give back something to society and to be an active citizen.
Last but not least, I would like to mention the Re-bagging project. A bunch of people gather around this project to make reusable bags. We were created thanks to the INEX program. It was all put together at a distance. I was in Africa at that time and joined in person when I returned to Prague. Our goal is to get cloth bags to bakeries so that they are accessible and we don’t waste so much plastic and paper bags.
Do you think there is a direct relationship: the longer the project, the greater the impact?
It depends. Sometimes this is certainly true, but it is not always the case. For example, workcamps, although short-term, have a great impact on society, mainly because they do not take place in large cities, but in less visible locations and it has a great impact on the community or municipality.
Long-term volunteering is difficult for me to assess at some general level, but I personally became aware that as a teenager, I’ve been taking a lot for granted in my life. And therefore it is nice to have a space and time to give something back to society.
What is the impact of your volunteering?
I consider the biggest impact to be during my studies at the Czech University of Life Sciences, where I managed to establish a “free shop”. It was a place where students brought things they would otherwise throw away and at the “free shop” others could take them for free. And I must also mention the Re-bagging initiative established thanks to INEX. The fact that we have been established and operating for a long time is great, I am proud of it and I believe that we will bring cloth bags to bakeries as soon as possible.
INEX’s vision is as follows: “We want to live in a society in which people respect and approach the world around them responsibly. We believe that volunteering and cooperation on a local and global level is a path to mutual understanding and non-violence.” Can you recall a moment from your voluntary life when this vision came true?
I completely agree with the vision. During workcamps, we got into situations where there were misunderstandings. Not necessarily conflicts, but simply misunderstandings. As participants, we often didn’t deal with them. That’s why it is important that the leader is usually involved, creates a space where we have everything explained, enriched each other, and moved further. The role of the leader is very important. And it is also important that INEX takes care of the training of its leaders. Thanks to workcamps, many of us volunteers are able to solve difficult or conflict situations better, non-violently and with an effort to understand each other. So yes, that vision fits perfectly.
*a workcamp is 2-3 weeks volunteering project where a group of volunteers from all over the world work and spend free time together. Find more information at: https://www.inexsda.cz/en/activities/workcamps-abroad/.
Written by INEX