The Ecumenical Youth Services (EYS) is an international volunteer work camp program, following the tradition of the International Ecumenical work camps, developed and organized by the Youth Council of the World Council of Churches (WCC) after World War II.
Today EYS is under the auspices of the Amt für kirchliche Dienste (AKD) of the Evangelical Church Berlin-Brandenburg-Upper Silesia (EKBO).
EYS work camps provide an opportunity for young people from all over Europe to meet and work together in an international context on meaningful, socially relevant projects. Young people from 18 to 26 years of age (by arrangement from 16 years of age) are given an opportunity for international exchange.
EYS receives funding from the Children and Youth Plan of the German Federal Government’s Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth.
What happens during the Camp?
- During the Camp you live, work and spend leisure time for two weeks within a group of 15 young people
- A Work Camp gives young people an opportunity to meet other young people from other countries, cultures and ways of faith
- The Camps are accompanied by 2-3 young volunteer camp leaders
- The Camps have a special theme which provides a framework for us to contemplate and discuss our feelings about life and God
- “Work” means doing volunteer service for 9 days, 6 hours a day on ecological, social or community projects. Apart from working-teams (on the cemetery, in the garden, …) a cooking and housekeeping team will do the grocery-shopping, cooking and daily housekeeping (including keeping the accommodation neat and clean). Everyone will be part of the cooking and housekeeping team at least twice.
- For the camp to be a good and memorable time for all volunteers, it’s important show regard for one another, to actively participate in group activities and to contribute one’s own ideas, for example towards leisure activities. It is important that participants should attend their camp from the beginning to the end.
The website of eurodesk provides general information about workcamps.
The Work Camp Idea: How it all began
As a founder of the work camp idea one can name the Swiss Pierre Ceresole, who brought the Service Civil Internationale into being in 1920. In the winter of 1920/1921 the first international work camp took place in a village called Esnes close to Verdun. There were eight participants. It was called a “building camp” because some years earlier the village had been the biggest battle field in World War I.
Similar to the Service Civil Internationale, the idea of the Ecumenical Workcamps came up after World War II. After 1945 youthwork was a difficult undertaking and became an important issue in Ecumenical Workcamps. They were deliberately intended to be “ecumenical” to offer young people an opportunity for a get together through common work and prayers, bible study as well as social and political discussions.
We can sum up the aims of all organizations past and present which were active in undertakting camps like this :
- Pedagogical aims: personal development of the participants, getting along and living together with foreigners and the promotion of responsibility and involvement in social matters
- Political aims: Promotion of international understanding and appeasement
- Social-ethic aims: Promotion of consciousness of extensive responsibility and the will to mutual help
- Peace as a goal: Promotion of world peace in that nations respect each other and show solidarity, and that all people work together for a common goal.
Chronology of the Ecumenical Youth Services in the GDR
1946 The Fourth Eastern Conference of the Evangelical Church in Germany was held, at which the Berlin Office officially established the Church Youth Council.
1950 The Youth Council expanded to become the “Federation of Protestant Youth”.
1955 The Gossner Mission organized a summer camp in Berlin.
1956 The First Ecumenical Camp in the GDR was held, which was organized by the Gossner Mission and the Youth Department of the World Council of Churches in Geneva.
1957 The Evangelical Youth Council of the East assumed responsibility for the camps as a major focus of their work. The “Ecumenical Working Committee of the Evangelical Youth in the GDR” began work, and regional groups were established in the GDR, the BRD, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Scandinavia.
1958 The first annual Easter Conference with young people from Eastern and Western Europe was held.
1967 The Work Camp Program was expanded and an Ecumenical Office with an Ecumenical Youth Services Department was established. The previous name “Ecumenical Work Camps” was replaced with the title “Ecumenical Youth Services – EYS“. The Ecumenical Youth Services assumed responsibility for a number of tasks to foster national and international ecumenical relationships including the following working areas:
- Ecumenical Youth Services (work camps): The international work camps were the primary focus of the “Ecumenical Youth Services” department. Each year 8 to 10 camps were held, with between 120 and 150 participants. Approximately 30 to 50 per cent of the participants came from outside of East Germany.
- International Relations
- The INFORMATION Newsletter
- Conferences and Seminars
1989 After German reunification, the “Ecumenical Youth Services” department, along with its various tasks was dissolved. The work camps project was the only one which was transferred to the aej e.V. (Federation of Protestant Youth in the Federal Republic of Germany) with the rationale that: “Now and in the future the work camps will be important areas in which to provide important opportunities to experience ecumenical community, intercultural learning and community service.”
1995-1997 Due to structural changes in Evangelical youth work at the national level, the aej in Berlin established a project with the Office for Protestant Youth Work – Berlin Ministry for Youth Work in order to continue the work camp program.
1998 In 1998 the Office for Evangelical Youth Work in Berlin and Brandenburg assumed sole responsibility for the work camp program.
2004 Due to the merger of the Churches of Berlin, Brandenburg and Upper Silesia, the Office for Evangelical Children and Youth Work Berlin-Brandenburg-Upper Silesia assumed responsibility for the work camp program of the Ecumenical Youth Services.
2006 The Office for Evangelical Children and Youth Work Berlin-Brandenburg-Upper Silesia is itself part of the Amt für kirchliche Dienste (AKD) – hence the Ecumenical Youth Services is now under the auspices of the AKD.