Friday, November 28, 2008

Daniel Sparling on his project in Hungary 2008

In the picture: a moving Hungarian sunset

I arrived in Hungary just a day before I was to meet up with my fellow volunteers and begin my second project of the summer. After finding my accommodation for the night I decided to go for a some sightseeing and discovered, thanks in part to my trusty guidebook, that I was in a very exciting part of Budapest, right by the River Danube, with lots of interesting places to visit, and good places to eat (and drink). I looked around for a while, marvelling at some of the fantastic architecture on offer, but finally the long day of travelling I’d had caught up with me and I decided to head back and rest up for the next day.

The next day I met the other volunteers at the station and we left Budapest for Bükkösd. On the 3 and a half hour train journey I was able to get to know the people I would be working with for the next two weeks. Already there was a wide range of nationalities with an American, a Korean, a couple of Spaniards and a Czech, as well as the Hungarian camp leaders.

At the station in Bükkösd we were spared a two hour hike to Gyűrűfű as the village minibus was able to come and pick us up. On the minibus ride to the village I began to get a sense of how remote we were, a dirt track road through a forest was the only route in, and with my phone rapidly losing any sort of signal I knew this was going to be a really good place to escape to. In Gyűrűfű we checked out the very basic accommodation and went up to the work site. Seeing the half built house I was excited about getting started, but we were due at the hosts house for my first taste of real Hungarian cooking. It was getting dark and we finally sat down to paprika stuffed with meat, which we ate under the light of the stars and a few candles. With the dinner we had traditional Hungarian Palinka. Another long day of travelling made everyone tired and we eventually got back to our home and were able to curl up in our sleeping bags for a very disturbed night of sleep. Cesar, one of the Spaniards, slept soundly, but unfortunately the sounds he was making kept every one else up.

After getting a few hours sleep we were woken at 6 o’clock for breakfast, it was early but the beautiful morning scene made it worthwhile. We had a big Hungarian breakfast with lots of meat, local cheese, and very fresh milk. After filling up we started work and we were shown how to make ‘csömpölyeg’ (mud and straw balls). Feeling fresh on our first day we worked quickly and finished well ahead of schedule at 10. We cleaned up and went back to relax for a while before lunch, another fantastic meal, a local goat soup. After lunch we were able to have a siesta and we were woken up to ‘energizers’, which were to become a regular feature, followed by a work shop, which started off with games to get to know each other and each other’s countries, and involved lots of drawing.

In the picture: volunteers built an earth-house, doing stamped wall, throwing adobe, doing masonry, wall carving, plastering, etc.

The evening work was preparing for the work the next day, with digging and pick axing to ‘mine’ the mud that was used to fill the ditches where csömpölyeg were made. After dinner we played a few more games to get to know each other, this time involving some alcohol, and went off for a better second nights sleep.

On the second day we gained the final four volunteers, another Korean and three French friends, all of whom were eager to work and got stuck in when they arrived. A couple of days of work passed before we were told at lunch that we had the afternoon off, and we prepared for a special night with Czech food and a Spanish Sangria.

The next morning we got a lie in before we left on an 8km hike to another village, where we held up the bar at cocktail bar run by a Nigerian-Hungarian man. We walked around the local village before meeting a local artist/Santa Claus doppleganger, who painted a few pictures for us.

We got straight back into work routine, and this continued until the apparent ‘storm of the century’ hit and we were unable to do any more. Prompting another rest day and we hiked to Ibafa where a tour of the famous pipe museum was rivalled by the local bar (no surprise where we spent most time).

Over the next few days, between work, we visited some of the other houses in the village and learnt about the traditional, sustainable techniques that were used to build them, as well as given the history of the village and how it is run now. The two weeks had seemed to fly by and soon we had finished up work on the last day in Gyűrűfű and were preparing for a bonfire in the evening. As we lay around the fire watching shooting stars above us I realised that I would soon be leaving this remote, beautiful place and getting back to the stressful lives we all have, stuck under piles of university work and student debt, although I wasn’t going to miss the cold showers!

The next day we packed up and left Gyűrűfű, hiking back to Bükkösd, before getting the train to Pécs where we were treated to a festival, with lots of singing and dancing, although two weeks of hard work, and another day of travelling, had us all drained and we were unable to experience more of it, but gladly headed for bed. In the morning we packed up again and caught the intercity train to Budapest, where, after some sad goodbyes, we went our separate ways, and before I knew it I was back on very wet, home soil.

In the picture: Daniel and the group of international volunteers cheering after a hard days work!

For more information on Hungary and our partner click here.

Click here for a country profile on Hungary

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monica's final report

Concordia CONCUK15 & CONCUK23 Playschemes (Fairplay 1 and 2) - A final blog from our lovely MTV Monica Burns who was in the UK for 6 months over the summer of 2008 from the USA

From the end of July through the end of August, two Concordia playscheme projects ran at the YMCA Fairthorne Manor. For the first project, lasting three weeks, volunteers came from France, Spain, Mexico, Turkey, Czech Republic, Germany, Russia, Korea and Italy.

For the second project, two weeks long, volunteers came from Italy, Japan, Korea, Turkey, Germany, Russia, Slovakia, and Finland. In fact, two were past volunteers on last year’s playscheme project here at the YMCA.

During the summer break from school, the YMCA held daycamps for hundreds of kids throughout the region. The volunteers assisted the summer staff with the supervision of kids ranging in age from four to sixteen. They helped kids put on their harnesses and helmets for the aerial runway, covered the kids with soap and water for the huge waterslides down the front lawn, and played games between activity sessions. Many of the volunteers were able to participate in activities alongside the kids, such as canoeing, kayaking, archery, and the bouncy pillow, much to the delight of the kids they were supervising. Some vols even assisted the nursery with looking after children between 4 mos. and 6 years of age.

When they were done having fun with the daycamp kids, the volunteers had their own fun, playing games in the lounge, going for a swim in the river, lazing in the sun… Volunteers spent their spare time off-site in Brighton, Winchester, Bournemouth, and Portsmouth.

The presence of the Concordia volunteers was an impactful one. When their work was done, the volunteers received fond farewells from the kids they looked after. And when the projects were ended, the volunteers, who developed close friendships over the past few weeks, said their tearful goodbyes. Luckily, we have Facebook to keep us united

Monday, November 10, 2008

Concordia Post Season Event 2008 - 24th-26th October report

Now I know I say this every year but I honestly believe that this years Post Season Event was the best yet! We had around 25 volunteers join us in sunny Whitehawk for a weekend of information sharing, volunteering, games, food and fun. At every Post Season Event we spend Saturday either volunteering or undertaking global education activities. This year we were particularly keen to volunteer as the weekend coincided with CSV’s (Community Service Volunteers) Make a Difference Day - a nationwide initiative to encourage volunteering and Saturday 25th October was the biggest annual day of volunteering in the UK.

Our contribution to Make a Difference Day was volunteering at one of our new UK projects, Stanmer Organics. Stanmer Organics is a co-operative of individuals and groups based at an 8 hectare site at Stanmer Park in Brighton. They are committed to using the land for organic food production which is sold locally with the aim of reducing road travel & air pollution and being sustainable.

Our first stop was at an apple orchard where we collected apples and pressed them using a traditional hand operated apple press that made a surprisingly large amount of delicious apple juice - several buckets full in fact!

Also based in Stanmer Park is the Earthship a pioneer project in sustainable building techniques. “The Earthship is the most sustainable facility available in England with all electricity and water flowing freely from nature” (Low carbon website).

Mischa Hewitt who was greatly involved in the design and building of the Earthship joined our group and very kindly gave us a very interesting and honest tour and talk on the design of the Earthship, and sustainable buildings. Thank you to Mischa for taking time out from his busy weekend to join us. For more information on Earthships check out

No post season event would be complete without some get-your-hands-dirty volunteering, so once we had been shown around the Earthship we assisted John and Ben on their allotment planting trees and picking vegetables. The trees were an evergreen hedging plant Elaeagnus ebingeii which make a superb windbreak and also have edible berries and were part paid for by Concordia thanks to the money that Chloe won for us.

Needless to say we went out on Saturday night and painted the town red… well actually we painted it white as Brighton had a number of free events running to celebrate White Night – the night the clocks change. There was free access to the Pavilion, a variety of street performances to enjoy and of course more pubs per square mile than anywhere else in the UK!

On Sunday we ran a global education session on Millennium Development Goals that were created by world leaders in 2000 and aim to reduce global poverty by 2015. Many of the targets look unlikely to be met and we joined the Oxfam led campaign “In My Name” to pressurise world leaders into doing more. For more information go to

All in all we had a fantastic weekend and it was great to catch up with some old faces and meet some new volunteers. Every year the post season event gets bigger and better and we can’t wait for next year so we can do it all over again! We would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who contributed to making it such a success and so much fun.

Concordia Team

Click here to see more pictures from the post season event.

Click here to see the pictures for the "In my name campaign"

Chloe Foster office volunteer 2008

Chloe volunteering with Concordia
This article was written by Chloe for the Brighton University website (see link below)

"Chloe is studying towards a BA (Hons) Education.

I am writing this with a huge smile of my face as I am honoured to have won joint third in the Student Community Prize Competition. I volunteered with Concordia; a local charity who host UK community projects. They set up, send and receive international volunteers for short and long term projects of all types. Projects range from restoration, conservation, archaeology, construction, arts, festivals, children's play-schemes or teaching.

I first discovered Concordia in February 2007 after a meeting with @ctive Student, which helped me to discover my interests and potential and they recommended Concordia to me. Later I enrolled on the 'Concordia Coordinator Training Course'. I spent 4 days learning how to be a coordinator. My role involved leading a group of ten volunteers at a ten day health festival project in May 07. I enjoyed my experience so much that when I was offered the chance to carry out an internship as part of my degree in Education I jumped at the chance and got back in touch with Concordia. In the spring this year I spent ten weeks with Concordia being involved in numerous roles including training, administration and advertising. Alongside my volunteering I also carried out a research project on volunteer motivations.

I am looking forward to going to Germany this September where I will take part in a community restoration international volunteer project. By going overseas I hope to gain a truer insight into more of what Concordia do. On my return I plan to continue volunteering in their office alongside my final year of studying and can't stop spreading the word of how great volunteering is!"

[Chloe eventually went to the project in Germanyand now we are waiting for her report! Concordia Team]

read this article on the Brighton University website on

The co-ordinator training course