Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A group coordinator's story: Kiranpreet Sira at the Manjusrhi Buddhist Centre

Volunteers working on their statues
Coordinating the Manjushri project with Concordia was truly a special and unforgettable experience. Manjushri itself is a beautiful and peaceful place to be, with the beach just 5 minutes away and beautiful scenery. We attended all meditation classes, which was a great opportunity to learn more about you and experience a peaceful mind. Our work consisted of preparing statues ready to be painted, as a team we managed to complete the preparation of a full set of statues. We had the evenings and weekends free to explore! As well as socializing with our own group there were many other volunteers. We all went to Karaoke night on Thursdays, which was great fun! All in all it was a great experience and I would love to go back. From this experience I have taken away with me many good memories, life long friends and an understanding of how to always remain positive (Kiranpreet Sira, Coordinator at Manjushri 2, 2017).

Are you interested in becoming a Group Coordinator for Concordia? Read here about how to apply.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Group Coordinator's story: Zsolt Kulcsar - Madhurst Festival 2017

Zsolt, first right, and the team of volunteers, building the Clown for the festival
Madhurst volunteer project – August 2017

The Madhurst project was the fourth volunteer project that I have co-ordinated in the UK and I can certainly say that it was one of the most unique projects I have seen so far. Madhurst is a project for those who have a creative mind and love to create something unforgettable.

Madhurst is a festival which lasts for almost two weeks and takes place every year in August. It is based half an hour away from Chichester in lovely historical village called Midhurst. Every year the international volunteers have to create a float for the final day of this festival. Besides the creation of the float they also help with various tasks like setting up venue for the visitors of the festival.

During the first two days the volunteers had to help with a conservation project in the South Downs national park. Due to this the first two days were quite physical and tiring, however it was the perfect team building exercise as we all got to know each other pretty well before we began working on the float together. As we were so close to the nature we also went on some long walks in the area which further helped the team to bond during the first couple of days of the project. Nevertheless, by the end of the conservation project the volunteers were fairly exhausted so this was the perfect time to have a day off.

After the initial conservation project (and the well deserved break) the volunteers began to build the float which was the main aim of this project and took almost a week to complete. It was amazing to see how invested the volunteers were in this task. On the first day after we went back to the accommodation they spent at least another hour brainstorming their ideas about the float. They liked this part of the project to the extent that they even stayed longer every day in order to work-out every little detail on the clown perfectly. The fact that the host was very flexible on the working hours made it even easier for the team to work on their own speed.

Concordia Volunteers parading with the amazing Clown they designed and built

It was also lovely to see how well the volunteers got along with the locals. It was clear to the volunteers that their work was appreciated by the people of Midhurst. Although we did get quite exhausted by the end of the two weeks, I really enjoyed co-ordinating this group and I think it was a good decision to come back and co-ordinate another project for Concordia this year. What made this project so perfect was the fact that every volunteer was able to contribute towards the float by bringing their own ideas and sharing it with the team. This also reflected in the free time that we spent together which made the project even better.

(Zsolt Kulcsar, Concordia Group Coordinator, Madhurst, Summer 2018)

A Group Coordinator's story: School and Eco Festival project - Ed Steele 2017

Ed with his first international volunteer group in Cornwall (Trythall School Project)
During this summer I co-ordinated 2 Concordia projects. These were small groups of around 7-8 volunteers from around the world, we lived and worked together for around 2 weeks. Bonding with a group of strangers who became friends and working together to do really valuable work for communities was a fantastic experience a one I cannot undersell, if you are at all curious about co-ordinating I highly recommend trying it.

The first was in Cornwall improving a school that prioritized outdoor education and creative learning. Discovering the beautiful countryside around Penzance including its coves, beaches and ancient Celtic standing stones was unforgettable. The work included building a rabbit proof fence to defend the school’s poly-tunnel, clearing out weeds and replanting some exotic plants. The school had a friendly collection of animals including Lambs, Hens and a somewhat disheveled cockerel. One of the highlights was appearing as a giant Kraken carnival float in the school’s end of year play, and enjoying a rural Fayre.    

The second project was working at an environmental festival in Worcestershire, mainly deconstructing the marquees that constituted the site. The festival itself was staffed by some dozens of young volunteers who (alongside the Concrodia volunteers) made the festival a really fun place. Before deconstruction we worked at a animal themed fancy dress wedding, and joined in the festivities along with a guests- a memorable experience for sure! Other highlights were the wonderful healthy organic (and often locally sourced) food, as well as the musical entertainments in the evenings and a lovely collaborative atmosphere on the camp.

Ed's second group at the eco-festival Green and Away

Aside from the work seeing different people all coming together to have fun and learn about each other’s culture is one of the best things about co-ordinating. This was a fantastic learning experience that can translate to so many other aspects of life. In addition seeing your own country through new eyes is a surprisingly interesting, as is learning about what people from other countries are really like. Without Concordia there are so many countries that I would know no-one from, and this bringing together of people is one of the most best things about Concordia.

Volunteers enjoying Green and Away eco-festival

(Ed Steele, Concordia Group Coordinator, Trythall School and Green and Away, Summer 2018)