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DAN'S VOLUNTEERING EXPERIENCE

Report: A wonderful summer in Germany

By voyage reporter Dan Cashman

How did I get there?

I've just spent three weeks of my pre-university summer holiday volunteering in Germany. I was, perhaps unsurprisingly, incredibly nervous before the project started; would I actually be of any help? Would anyone understand me? Would I get on with the other volunteers? Needless to say, I needn't have worried and I've returned from a truly memorable experience. It is the very nature of these short-term volunteer projects that every adventure is unique, but let me share a little of what I got up to.

What did I do?

I applied for a project working with children in the small town of Bad Oeynhausen, helping to run the Ferienspiele (holiday club). The project was run by the Internationale Jugendgemeinschaftsdienste (IJGD) but I booked through an British online agency. The application process couldn't have been easier; I didn't need references or a CRB (the document you need in England to work with children) - I knew that this experience would be unlike any volunteering I'd done in England!

Where did I go?

Upon application I had to pay an admin fee, but then all food, accommodation and even many free-time activities were paid for. We 12 volunteers stayed in Bad Oeynhausen's Haus der Jugend - we slept in the graffiti-covered 'break dancing studio' and often made use of the table-football and pool table! The surrounding area was truly picturesque. We were all provided with bikes (typisch Deutsch) to cycle between our accommodation and the children's camp and we all enjoyed bike rides along the river at the weekends.

Who did I work with?

Perhaps atypically, I was the only English-speaking volunteer. About half of the volunteers came from Germany, and the rest from Russia, Ukraine and Serbia. I had intentionally chosen a project functioning solely in German (practice makes perfect); it was great to actually have to speak German and no longer be able to rely on everyone else being able to speak English. Alongside us European volunteers, a group of local volunteers was there to undertake most of the hard work! We all got on really well with one another and I've definitely made some friends for life.

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