Being a volunteer means working in exchange for food and accommodation but its actually so much more than that.
It’s an exchange of skills, knowledge, time and experience and that last point, experience, is also about the experience of living in a new environment. We’ve had volunteers here from the very beginning. When Kathy first came to Voditsa in August 2006, she had three volunteers who arrived during the following week. She was very honest and said that she had no idea what she was doing but it all worked out wonderfully. Since then, we’ve had about 300 people who’ve come to help and to find out a bit about life in a small Eastern European village. Some of them have loved it so much, they ended up buying a house and living here. But no matter how long or short a time people have stayed here, we’re so grateful for all the hard work they’ve done and all the new friends that we’ve made.
What will you do?
The deal is that you work for 30 hours a week – that’s usually 6 hours a day for 5 days then people can have a two day break. Some volunteers use this time to explore Bulgaria or maybe just lie in the hammock and chill. The actual work that you’ll do depends on what needs doing at that time. In the spring, it’s probably about planting and tending to the early crops. We need to make sure that the plants are well established and strong by July so they can withstand the heat and the lack of water in the very hot summer.
There’s lots of watering to do in the summer and then in autumn we harvest things and preserve the things that we’ve grown plus we have to do something with the mountains of fruit that just grows by itself on the trees. We also need to get the ground prepared for the winter.
That’s the ground based stuff but there’s always so much else to do. Here’s a short list of some of the things that volunteers have helped us with:
- laying a brick floor
- mud plastering
- cooking and baking
- making jams, jellies, chutneys etc
- making a rocket stove in the barn
- building a seat round the firepit and putting a mosaic on it
- chopping down trees and chopping wood
- painting and decorating
- making fences ……. etc etc etc
You don’t need loads of skills to be a volunteer here but if you DO have any skills, we’ll try to make use of them. What you do need is loads of common sense and a willingness to just ‘give it a go’.
We have another house in the centre of the village, the Purple House. This place is a project on it’s own but a whole section of it has been refurbished and decorated (by some great volunteers) with comfortable beds and a small kitchen and living room. It’s in the centre of the village, just opposite the bar so you can enjoy the village social scene. On work days, we usually all eat together at St. James Park. Breakfast and on your days off, we provide you with food and you can organise it yourself.
Why do it?
Ooooh…. so many reasons! First of all it’s a great way to really travel. I guess it’s not for tourists because most volunteering opportunities are in ordinary places where people live – not tourist sites. But that’s what ‘travelling’ really is – going off the beaten track with the intention of meeting new people and experiencing a different way of life. It also means that you can travel further for a lot less money – you work for your keep. We’ve had numerous volunteers who are on the road for an indefinite period – they’ve come from somewhere interesting and they’re heading off to somewhere interesting….. and on the way, they’re making friends and learning.
Volunteering is about sharing and giving – maybe you’ve got skills that we need and you’ve certainly got time. Most people who take volunteers do so because they need the help – we do and we appreciate all the help that people have given us over the years. We also know that those people have appreciated our food and they’ve learned loads while they’re here.
By the way, there’s no age limit on volunteering. Our youngest volunteer was 5 (she was with her mother but she did walk the dog a lot) and the oldest was 73. We try to accommodate anyone who wants to come and help but to be honest, it would be difficult for anyone with a physical disability to be here – difficult but not necessarily impossible.
Some of our volunteers have asked if they can share their stories about being here and volunteering in general. We’re gathering these but meanwhile, we’re going to add a selection of the comments that people have written in our Visitors’ Book….coming soon.