European Voluntary Service > Letters from abroad > James Burns - Iceland

A letter about an EVS experience in Iceland

Having spent two weeks in a workcamp in Iceland, I thought to myself “I have to do this longer”. I have started researching EVS projects to understand what it was all about. So, I’ve decided to undertake my EVS project in Iceland with See Beyond Borders Iceland as a workcamp leader.

Off I went to the "Land of Fire and Ice" where the hidden people and trolls live. Two hours into the flight we were somewhere over Iceland when the captain informed us to look out of left hand side of the plane, to our amazement we were flying besides the Eyjafjallajokull, the volcano that caused so much disruption in Europe. What an amazing site and thought to myself “I’m going to love this country” and I did.

My EVS took me to some of the most beautiful places in Iceland while volunteering which included an Icelandic farm where I planted over 10,000 new trees - which had the best toilet view in the world!, I helped clearing an invasive plant in the Skaftafell National Park (Europe’s biggest National Park), I cleared a natural hot pool full of volcanic ash, and handed out hot chocolate during the Christmas season.

One of the best camps I did there was refurbishing a lighthouse dwelling in the West Fjords where 14 volunteers took the boat to spend two weeks in the "Lighthouse at the end of the world". I found myself playing Mastermind with an Italian at 12am at the top of the lighthouse when it was still light or sitting on the cliff edge looking out to the sea while seagulls were swooping passed me, while all the time I was thinking “Is the sun rising or is the sun setting?”.

Icelandic people were amazing and so very kind hearted. They will do anything for you and are so laid back. One thing they do like is baking and cooking... every camp you came home to or wake up to a freshly baked cake. However, one thing I had to try before leaving Iceland - Hákarl which is rotten shark and the verdict is...weird!

Spending eight months in ten workcamps allowed me to meet a lot of interesting volunteers from around the world and tasted their national dishes - my favourite being Bulgogi from South Korea. I learnt to spell my name in 20 languages including Hebrew, Japanese, Italian, Finnish, and Jordanian Arabic. But one thing remained common throughout all those camps: everyone hugged. :)

Volunteering as an EVS allowed me to grow as a person and it gave me a lot of confidence. I felt so happy because I was using my skills for free. It made me feel alive and happy to be in this world.

I recommend any 18-30 year old to undertake EVS as it is definitely one of the best experiences you will have, and it will help you in the future.

member of:
Volunteer Action for Peace, member of the Co-ordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service Volunteer Action for Peace, member of the Volunteer International Network Exchange UK
with the support of:
Volunteer Action for Peace, member of the European «Youth in Action» Programme

Quote of the day

« I appreciate that constructive criticism may be more useful to you than praise but I honestly have no gripes that I could possibly mention. I can only thank you for the experience that I really enjoyed and will undoubtedly follow-up in the coming year. »

Peter H. from Glasgow

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