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Summer camp volunteering in Germany

It’s just before 6am on a Sunday morning and after 20+ hours on a coach, I have arrived in Hamburg and have been greeted by Bernhard, who is the manager of the Molln Jugendherberge (Youth Hostel), and after a 45 minute car journey I arrive at the hostel that will be my home for the next two weeks.

After staying up to have breakfast and to meet the rest of the team, I get my head down for a kip as the kids will arrive that afternoon. The team, that consists of 4 Germans from an education company called TeamExperte and 2 Brits (Including myself) from YHA, have already got a lot of the prep done, as some have been at the hostel a couple days.

That afternoon, the children started to arrive and by 1800 we had 50 boys and girls of ages ranging from 9 to 14 tucking into dinner. Most of the kids were happy to be at camp but we did have a few who either just simply didn’t want to be there and had been sent away by their parents or weren’t happy that they had to hand their Handy’s (Mobile Phone) over, along with their pocket money, and would only have access on Hamburg Day. That first evening was spent going through introductions, the house rules, the daily chores (Yes, chores) and Language Hour. Then after an hour of free time, it was 2200 and time for the kids to go to bed, followed by myself after a quick team meeting.

Monday and the first full day with the ids. I am the ‘Teamer’ for two rooms of boys and during the night each room was given the task of coming up with a room name for themselves, the one room come up with the name The Pokemon Bros, whilst my other room settle on Bad Neighbours (After the film).

Today it’s the Pokemon Bros job to set up the tables before each meal, so at 7.50am I make sure the boys are up and downstairs setting up.

Monday and the first full day with the ids. I am the ‘Teamer’ for two rooms of boys and during the night each room was given the task of coming up with a room name for themselves, the one room come up with the name The Pokemon Bros, whilst my other room settle on Bad Neighbours (After the film).

Today it’s the Pokemon Bros job to set up the tables before each meal, so at 0750am I make sure the boys are up and downstairs setting up.
Most of the days start by following the same schedule.
● 7am – Morning Sport (For those wishing to take part)
● 8am – Breakfast (followed by chores)
● 9am – Language Hour
● 10am – Camp Olympics
● 11am – Tuck Shop
● 12pm – Lunch
Language hour was probably the biggest challenge during the first week, as I would have the same group of kids each day (A mix of boys and girls), and I would have to come up with new things each day, where as it would have been easier and more polished if I had a different group each morning. I had to come up with games that had were language based, although I was given a list of suggestions. So during the week we would play Chinese Whispers, My Mother Went To Market, Hangman to name a few. I also downloaded this Ellen Degeneres game onto my phone, which would come up which would or name and the others would have to give you clues.

Camp Olympics was a chance for the boys and girls to compete in teams against each other, playing various games. Whilst this was going on, I has in the hostel completing one of my daily jobs, which was Room Olympics, where I would check all the rooms and given marks on how clean and tidy they were. Naturally the girls did better than the boys, although one of my rooms was only just behind them.

Then 11 am and for most of the kids it was their favourite time of the day, tuck shop. The kids could buy sweets, pop or even a souvenir from the money they had handed over when they first arrived, whilst we kept a ledger of what they had spent.

hamburg

The afternoon schedule did vary each day. We built cabins/forts in the nearby woods, there was also archery, climbing, swimming, plus other games. Likewise after dinner the evening schedule also varied each day with activities like a camp fire, BBQ etc.

Probably the most daunting day of both weeks was Hamburg Day, as we took the kids to Hamburg, which was just over an hour away by train, and hoping we didn’t lose any kids along the way. Whilst there, we took the kids for a boat ride, then after lunch in the Hamburg Youth Hostel, the kids were set free and could spend a few hours unsupervised in Hamburg. We had given them access to their money and gave them their mobile phones.

The final evening of the first camp was casino night and I was the Blackjack Dealer, so to look the part I donned my black YHA shirt and made a badge that said ‘Camp Casino’ and had a fun hour playing the kids for matches, which they could later on exchange for sweets. After the casino had finished, we all gathered in the common room for a photoshow of the past week. It was a great collection of photos that myself and the rest of the team had taken during the camp, there was much hilarity in the room as one by one the photos, some more embarrassing than others, popped up on the projector.

Saturday morning and the kids were all packed as the first camp was just about done, but not before we had the Honey Shower. A Honey Shower is an opportunity for the kids and the Teamers alike to give messages to the people you have met during the camp. How it worked is you would write down your message and place it in the envelope of the person the message is for and at the end you would have a envelope full of messages.

Whilst the honey shower was going on, the parents started to arrive one by one and by lunchtime all the kids were gone, as were the 4 German Teamers who were only here for the first camp, to be replace with two more later that day. I took the opportunity to have a look around Molln, which proved very helpful as I had to prepare a scavenger hunt for the 2 group of kids.

The second week ran similarly to the first, with only some schedule changes due to the weather and only half the kids. Plus instead of having a casino on the final night we had Singstar Karaoke, where both myself and Daniel (YHA Volunteer) at the request of the kids belted out Spice Girls Wannabe.

Overall, I had a fantastic two weeks in Germany and met some great people and some brilliant kids. I had gone into this experience not knowing what to expect but have left with experiences and a better understanding that I hope to use in the future at something like Camp America, which has previously been something I’d been interested in doing. I would certainly love and accept the opportunity to do this again and would recommend it to anybody else.

Coffee and chat with a YHA Volunteer

Kate Lansley, YHAs Youth Engagement Coordinator, had coffee and a chat with Laurence Perks, YHA volunteer and all-round superstar, to find out more about his experiences with the organisation.

KL: So Laurence, you’ve given YHA over 250 hours of your time since summer 2015. What made you want to get involved with YHA in the first place?

LP: Initially, I was very impressed by the YHA’s potential to offer a summer camp experience without the high costs associated with the experience of spending a summer working abroad that seems to be so commonplace amongst the young people of my generation.

13342925_974399139346790_3426519318779588939_nKL: What different volunteering roles have you done with YHA?

LP: I’ve volunteered for the YHA in a variety of roles since the summer of 2015 including YHA Summer Camps Volunteer Team Leader at YHA Edale in the Peak District and as a YHA Young Champion where responsibilities involved speaking as part of a focus group at the AGM earlier this year.

KL: Do you have a favourite role?

LP: I love being a Team Leader on Summer Camp! Outdoor learning is something that I have a real passion for, so to be able to play a role in encouraging young people to push their boundaries and comfort zones and learn some practical life skills outside of a standardised classroom environment is something that I love to do!

KL: What about a favourite YHA moment?

LP: I’ve made so many great memories with the YHA so far; many of which are centred on helping young people to overcome their fears or own personal challenges and discover new things while at summer camp whether or not that be a fear of heights, a taste for new foods or observing new friendships flourish by the end of the week they spend together.  But, from a personal point of view, my favourite YHA moment happened quite recently when I was lucky enough to hear Alex Staniforth, adversity adventurer, public speaker and YHA Ambassador, share his story and speak about how our biggest obstacles will always be ourselves; truly inspiring stuff that I took a lot from!

KL: Has volunteering with YHA given you anything, or done anything for you?

LP: It’s given me more than I ever thought possible – honest! Some of the greatest friendships I’ve got were born out my volunteering with the YHA.  The care and attention that the Volunteering Team provide to every volunteer from the start of, during the course of and for long after a voluntary placement has finished is outstanding and I cannot speak highly enough of their efforts.  They have always been on hand after my volunteering to provide helpful hints, tips and advice on how to make those experiences stand out on a CV and since starting my volunteering story, I’ve seen a definite increase in the number of job adverts where I’m getting though the first selection phase and invited to interview and when I’m asked at those interviews to provide evidence of my leadership, team work or communication skills – I always pick a YHA example!

KL: What would you say to someone who is thinking of getting involved with YHA, but they’re not sure yet?

LP: Just give it a go; you don’t know where it could lead! Even if you’re not sure what you’d like to try, get in touch with the Volunteering Team and get them to talk you through what they have available – there’s something for everyone’s interests and time commitments.

KL: So… coming back to camps next year?

LP: Of course! I’m actually returning to YHA Edale Summer Camp this year as a Senior Volunteer Team Leader and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into the extra responsibilities of assisting the Camp Manager in the planning and organisation of evening activities for the campers and supporting the Volunteer Team Leaders to ensure we deliver a high quality and enjoyable experience for 100 campers every week.

A big thanks to Laurence for talking to us about his YHA adventures! We’re sure we will see you soon!

If you’d like to start your YHA volunteering adventure, please get in touch with the team. You can call us on 01629 592 562 or email volunteers@yha.org.uk.

“This week in Geesthacht was truly unforgettable…”

Daniel travelled to Geesthact as part of YHA’s Exchange Programme. We’re so pleased to be able to work with our HI partners to deliver amazing volunteering experiences, giving volunteers a chance to see the world, build skills and meet new people!

This week in Geesthacht was truly unforgettable. When I arrived at the Geesthacht youth hostel, I was met by Dominic and Sabina who welcomed me to the hostel. Once I heard the other teamers arrive in the car with their music booming, I knew I had let myself in for more than I expected. The barbeque was really interesting because I got to know the people in the hostel and was a good ice-breaker for everyone. My fellow English volunteers arrived about 5 hours later due to their flights being delayed, although they were still in good spirits.

The day arrived and the children flocked in. Everyone was extremely busy checking-in the children and showing them to their rooms. I was asked to play football with the children in my Great British onesie and I really enjoyed playing with them. Although, a few of them were very dramatic on the field.

Two days were designated to trips to Geesthacht and Hamburg. Each day was very different and I went to Geesthacht both days. I am glad I went to Geesthacht both days because I was introduced to an awesome energetic and strategical game called Stratego. This was played after everyone completed their orienteering from the youth hostel to the peninsula. The winner of Ultimate Ninja decided which team would leave the hostel first. This addictive game was played copious times throughout this week.

The Geesthacht and Hamburg days were separated by a survival day. The children built their own huts in the woods and the results were incredible. This was all in preparation for an exhausting game of Tornado where we were all separated from each other in the woods and we had to make our way back to our village. I had to walk on all fours and I had to agree with everything so I spent this entire game carrying everyone on my back.

Maggot’s Beatdown was certainly one of my highlights. The teamers were gladiators and there were fun events that we were champions in. I enjoyed the activities I was chosen for but I preferred watching my fellow teamers being chosen for events they were abysmal at, especially Kiah in wall-sit.

The last full-day was jet-packed like the other days. The children could choose from different activities but my activity was by far the most thrilling because we played Stratego in the woods. We finished a bit early so came back and played football with another group. The casino night was a complete success. I was the co-ordinator of the fight-club where I would choose a fun event for two children to compete against each other in such as wall-sit, flip cup or bottle-hold.

The final day was upon us and everyone was busy tidying the rooms and packing their bags. The honey shower was a perfect end to this week because this gave the children and teamers a chance to say what they liked about the people around them.

Evening activities were held daily and there were a range of choices. I was responsible for the club room and we had bundles of fun in there. The children kept coming back so I was doing something right.

In brief, this was an extraordinary week, crammed full of late nights preparing for the next day, incredible days in Geesthacht, entertaining games (Stratego and Contacto), Maggot’s Beatdown, craziness in the club room, language hour and a honey shower to top it off. It was enriching to see the children grow as the week went on, both in English speaking competence and personality-wise as well. I would recommend this opportunity to anyone who likes to travel and has a strange but fun character about them. Every teamer had their unique quirkiness and this made for an incredibly special week. I am really looking forward to working with a few of these teamers in a few months and hopefully for years to come. Thank you YHA for giving me this memorable experience.

Have you had a fantastic volunteering experience and want to share it with the YHA community? Do you want to have your own fun volunteering adventure? Get in touch! Email volunteers@yha.org.uk or call 01629 592 562.

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