Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Fairthorne Young Carers Festival, Southampton, July 2008

Concordia volunteers helping at the festival

Monica Burns is a MTV (medium term volunteer) based at the YMCA's Fairthorne Manor, Southampton. She is looking after Concordia international volunteers at the festival.

Ten volunteers arrived at the YMCA Fairthorne Manor to assist with setting up, running, and taking down the 9th annual Young Carers Festival. Five guys and five girls came from the US, UK, Costa Rica, France, Ghana, Serbia, and Korea for two weeks of hard work. Their efforts supported the festival for kids who care for a brother, sister, father, mother or other family member with illness or disability. For some kids, the festival is the only chance they have to be a kid, while in their everyday lives they are primary caregivers who provide income, pay bills, cook dinner, and care for a sick family member.

We camped out in a small tent village behind the sports hall for about a week. Our host was able to get us accommodation in a building for the following week, provided that we vacate the following Monday for the next lot of school groups to move in for the week.

We had absolutely wonderful weather for the festival- a far cry from last year's festival where they experienced horrible rains. One of the major tasks of the project was to erect and pack away roughly 500 pop-up tents for the festival attendees to call home for the long and eventful three-day weekend. Ask any volunteer from this project about this experience, they'll tell you they'd never want to see another pop-up tent again! This especially since after having spent all day putting up tents, we were told the next day we had to take them all up and reorganize them! Say what!?!?! We weren't very happy, but I think by now we can find some humor in this experience, maybe...

We were also in charge of running some hired inflatables for the kids play on. It was a great time out in the sun, interacting with the kids, and bouncing around. We attended the massive campfire and disco as well as 'the Big Bash' hosted Saturday night by Grant Francis. Express FM was broadcasting the entire festival from the Y, and the BBC showed up Sunday to do a spot on the Politics Show. About 1500 people were in attendance for the weekend.

On the last day of the project, we had to move out of our comfy digs and back into tents for one night. Not normally a huge problem since we were anticipating camping for the entire project, but that day we had absolutely torrential rains. The lovely head of housekeeping said she had some spare rooms in another building, keeping us out of our now very damp tents. Yay!

We worked a bit in the morning of the 2nd to last day of the project, prepping the tent accommodations for the incoming school groups staying for the week. Our host suprised us with lunch and drinks at the Golf Club. We had the rest of the afternoon off, thankfully! The rains were tremendous!

In our spare time, we visited the pub and checked out Southampton and Portsmouth. Our host arranged activity sessions on the aerial runway, towers climb, and towers for us. We had a bit of rain during our towers session that scared off half the group, but the rest of us had a soaking wet good time.

The time the volunteers spent here provided a fascinating look into the lives of kids who are more than just students and youth in their communities. We understood the difficulties they face regularly and how such a festival provides a chance to have fun and meet others with similar circumstances.

Camping at the festival Volunteers

Olivia Van Den Bergen - EVS in Belgium

My name is Olivia and I am 22 years old. I am here in Marche-en-Famenne a medium size town in Belgium for seven months.

My EVS project involves helping "Compagnons B√Ętisseurs" organise their international workcamps

To read more about Olivia's EVS in Belgium please go to

Click here for pictures of projects in Belgium

Click here for a country profile of Belgium