Anniversary “100 years of workcamps”
- Christoph Schnyder (Ecumenical Youth Service 1949 in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, France): How I became a workcamper
I was a miserable student in French classes. Our Prof. Haerle always corrected our work with red ink and gave marks from 6 to 0, best mark 6, any mark below 4 was insufficient. The dictations always came back to me as red battlefields. My parents decided to send me to the family of Pasteur Trocmé in Le Chambon sur Lignon in France’s Massif Central during the summer holidays of 1949, in the hope that there might be a rescue after all. Coincidentally, this was the place where one of the first ecumenical reconstruction camps took place at the time, in which my older brother Ruedi took part. He invited me to come and work for a day or two. He had spoken to the camp leaders.
We had to dig a water ditch for pipes in a dry stony ground: a horrible hard drudgery with pickaxe and shovel. I was grateful for the interruption that lunch made and of course I sat down with Ruedi in the large crowd of strangers. Suddenly a loud song was booming, with everyone singing along, a huge choir: “Presentation, s’il te plaît, presentation, s’il te plaît, presentation, presentation” and everyone looked at me. Ruedi: “You must introduce yourself!” Me: “French?” Him: “Of course.” I don’t remember what I stammered there, nor where and how we talked in the afternoon. But the next morning we went on digging and hacking. First blisters on my hands, until Henry and his friend came to me. They watched me fight and seemed to find it funny until Henry said in a friendly and determined manner: “Tu travailles trop.” I only now noticed a thin trickle of water dripping through our moat. They had cleared the way for the water to find its first path, and they were happy about it: a beautiful promise!
It was probably this little incident in the middle of the colourful confusion of languages and people, of play and seriousness – the end of the war was only 4 years ago – that made an impression on me. In the following years I volunteered for camps in Salzgitter, Hallstahammar (Sweden), Berlin, Pedra Sonora, Marseille … and experienced that the width, length, height and depth of the Kingdom of God is still a little wider, longer, higher, deeper and sometimes even more fun than my mind and heart imagines.
- Eszter: “These two weeks were a great experience for me, I was able to gain good experiences with independence and adaptability.
- Bence and Aliz: “In these two weeks we have experienced a lot of new things. We got to know Berlin, the German culture and each other very well. Although we worked every day, we had a lot of free time. We also saw a lot of Berlin. Our team was really good, I didn’t expect to make such friends. Because of the diversity at the workcamp, we got to know not only Germany but also the other countries better. The workcamp was a fantastic experience with special people who became real friends of mine. I am overjoyed to have been able to participate in this program and I would like to go back to Germany next year for a workcamp.
- Márk: “I would never have thought that I would spend my summer holidays in Germany. A trip into the blue? No, that wouldn’t be me. Or can’t be. Yes, it sounds like that, because I actually registered for it “by mistake”. Why? I had no better alternative than to volunteer for an Ecumenical Youth Service for two weeks. Either I would have stayed at home or I would have just tried to get some fresh air. Oh so, the fresh air has become Germany. Yes, in the end I don’t have much more to say. I am happy that I have finally made this decision and have not missed this opportunity.
- Peter: “I can describe the two weeks we spent in Germany as the best two weeks of my life. For me personally, the biggest experience was that the camp leaders asked me if I wanted to become a camp leader next year. I didn’t hesitate for long, it is after all a great unique opportunity. I am very grateful for everything, for the new friendships, that I was able to expand my language skills, that I can see the world from a new perspective. In the future I will certainly participate in such camps, perhaps as a camp leader”.
- Szilvia: “I met very nice and interesting people who presented their own culture. The only problem was the shortness of time. Next year I want to visit such a camp, but if it is possible, for a longer period of time. I can only recommend it to everyone”.
- Bence: “To mention a few keywords: Two weeks, but an experience for eternity. 16 young people from different countries, but in the end like siblings. 14 day old acquaintances, but who feel like friendships from childhood on. An unknown place that became our new home.”
- Júlia: “We have been working in landscape conservation, weeding weeds in cemeteries and at a former Stasi bunker. On the days we didn’t work, we visited Leipzig, the zoo and made a trip to Saxon Switzerland. Church visits and spiritual hours were also part of the program. In the evening there was a disco. I would have loved to stay there, forever”.
- Bence: “The best two weeks in my life that I spent abroad”.
- Ingrid: “Although it was difficult to communicate at the beginning, because some only spoke German and some only English, it was fortunately already no problem from the third, fourth day, and all could communicate with each other, so very good and (hopefully) lasting friendships developed.
- Ákos: “Everyone thought that getting to know each other would be difficult. But thanks to our team leaders it was easy, not least through the games we were able to learn the names quickly, and through the conversations that lasted until 1 and 2 a.m. in the night, as well as the joint work, get to know the personality of the other. People (our comrades) came from many countries, for example from Lithuania, Poland, Serbia, Czech Republic, Ukraine and of course from Germany. But there were no problems because of the different languages, everyone could speak English and German. But of course we also learned Czech and Ukrainian terms like they learned Hungarian”.