Maria expressing her creativity for the festival

Name of the testimonial:  Maria Johanna

Sending Organization:  IBG Germany

Year of the workcamps:  2007

Place of the workcamp: Billom, Auvergne, France

Host organization: UNAREC

What was your motivation to join a workcamp?

When I was 17 years old, going on holiday with my parents seemed horrible for me. However, I was too young and I did not have enough money to just travel around by myself. So when I found out about workcamps, this was the perfect thing for me!

I picked a workcamp in France with a very interesting task for the volunteers: we had to prepare a fantasy festival in the small town of Billom, Auvergne. I had started to learn French at school some years before, so I thought this could be a good opportunity to use the language and improve my skills.

But I think the biggest motivation for me was the adventure: going somewhere I had never been before and meeting people I had never met before.

What did you take from that experience?

Being at that workcamp in France for three weeks for me was the beginning of a love story – although at that moment I was just enjoying the good times. But after coming back to my own hometown, I was thinking about how great it would be to organize a workcamp there. Then I started to study at university and got involved in other things, but this idea was still there.

So finally, in 2011 I got in touch with the local scouts and the mayor of my hometown and managed to convince them to host a workcamp with my German sending organization IBG. When the first international participants arrived in the summer of 2012, it was so exciting for me! Of course, I was really nervous about everything and I wanted the project to be a success. After all, I think it was – we had a great time together and even organized an art exhibition in my hometown.

What do you still carry with you?

The two workcamps I joined as a participant (in France in 2007 and in Peru in 2011) gave me the opportunity to stay in these countries not as a tourist, but within a community. Although I did not come back there yet, I feel that I have been living there for a while; I shared time and moments with the local inhabitants and I know these places better than I could if I had just been traveling around there. This is a great feeling, having spent a part of your life and great memories at these very beautiful places.

The most intense experience for me was the workcamp I organized in 2012, where I was a camp leader, too. I think, this has been one of the biggest accomplishments in my life so far, something that makes me feel proud and confident about myself.

And the workcamp has left an unexpected but very important impact for the future: I met my future husband there, Miguel from Mexico. We got married in spring 2017 and now we are living in Germany together.

Left: Maria during Fantasy festival in France Right: Maria and her husband Miguel in Mexico