VAP’s 2015 Annual Get Together
We are organising our Annual Get Together, on Friday 2 October at 6:30 pm, for all returning or soon-to-be VAP volunteers to meet up with like-minded people, discuss interesting topics, get ideas for your next volunteering adventure, or just find out more about what VAP does if you’re still considering getting involved.
As well as providing the chance to share experiences and ideas informally, the programme for the event will include:
• A presentation on the Migration Museum Project – a project aiming to open the UK’s first specialised museum with a positive approach to the theme of migration.
• A presentation by Better World Cameroon – a VAP partner organisation focused on sustainable agriculture and cross-cultural education.
• An overview of the “Raising Peace” campaign – an initiative organised by the Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service to ensure that peace and human rights remain at the heart of the volunteering projects that organisations like VAP are involved in.
• News from VAP’s latest orientation weekend for volunteers and camp coordinators, including a short video made by a former volunteer.
• A screening of the short anti-militarist film “The Unseen March”, followed by discussion.
We’ll also be holding our Annual General Meeting – a chance for you to find out exactly what VAP has been up to this year and have your say in where we’re headed next.
The event will once again be held at The Gallery, 77 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6EL. It’s a one-minute walk from Farringdon station, on the Metropolitan, Circle, Hammersmith and City and Thameslink lines.
See you there!
posted on: 24 September 2015
No More Deaths in the Mediterranean Sea!
VAP is joining our voice to thousands of volunteers represented by a long list of international voluntary service organisations in protest against the silence of European governments in face of the catastrophe happening right now in the Mediterranean sea.
posted on: 4 May 2015
All the fun of a volunteer workcamp – with extra Brownie points!
Volunteer Action for Peace is currently offering three camp coordinator positions for short-term volunteer projects in the UK coming up this spring and early summer. This is a great way to get involved in international voluntary work and meet people from all over the world without even leaving the country. That can make it cheaper for you (in fact, all travel costs are paid by VAP) and require less of a time commitment – but still means you can take part in meaningful voluntary work in an exciting international environment.
You’ll get to participate in all the activities that the camp involves, including the work and the social side – meanwhile, you’ll also be the team’s central point of contact, contribute as much as possible to making sure the group is getting on okay, and take a leading role in any decisions. It’s a workcamp adventure without the participation fee, and at the end you are sure to have gained new skills and can always use the experience for bonus points on your CV and for those tricky “responsibility” and “problem-solving” questions in job interviews! Read on to find out which projects we are now recruiting for:
The first is at the Quadrangle Trust in Shoreham, Kent from 29 April to 8 May. Housed in a farm built in 1870, The Quadrangle Trust is a non-profit enterprise that runs art, wellbeing, ecology and sustainability education programmes and workshops. The VAP workcamp will bring 7 international volunteers to work on clearing a small area of woodland to create an extra space for camping and to protect the trees. As well as this task, there will be a programme including documentary films and discussions, swimming in the river, Scottish dancing, and a one-day visit to London.
Next up is the Green Earth Awakening festival camp, which will be held from 14 to 29 May. This Buddhist festival for up to 2,000 people is focused on environmental and sustainability issues, while the camp itself also includes setting up the festival and disassembling when it’s over. There will be plenty of organised activities here too, including green crafts, yoga, dance and discussion on social change. The VAP team will consist of 12 international volunteers.
A further upcoming project is at “Taraloka” Buddhist women retreat in Shropshire from 19 June to 3 July. This is an all-women retreat and the workcamp will involve learning about Buddhism and meditation as well as taking part in daily life and maintenance at the retreat centre. The international volunteer team will be made up of 12 participants from all over the world. Not to be missed!
To find out more or to sign up for experiencing international workcamp volunteering in the UK as a camp coordinator for VAP, please contact Nuno at action[at]vap.org.uk!
posted on: 12 February 2015
UK projects – ideas welcome!
VAP is always on the lookout for new ideas to expand our programme of workcamps in the UK. This is your chance to shape the work that VAP does – and all you need is to give us your ideas!
If you are a UK-based VAP member who has participated in a project abroad or are applying to do so in the future, the chances are that you are also interested in projects on similar themes in the UK as well. So here is our question for you – do you know of any organisations in the UK that would benefit from the support of a group of international volunteers for a week or more? It might be an organisation you are already involved with yourself, or one that you have simply heard about and think might fit the bill. The only important thing at this stage is the idea! We’ll then get in touch with the organisation you suggest and see if we can develop a project there.
For inspiration, you can have a look at the organisations we organised workcamps with this year, such as the environmental conservation foundation London Wildlife Trust: http://www.wildlondon.org.uk/volunteer and the Othona peace and sustainability community: http://www.othona-bradwell.org.uk/Home. Or you could refresh your memory of VAP’s mission statement to see which issues we focus on: http://www.vap.org.uk/about-vap/. From supporting refugees to environmental work and projects with disabled people – we just want to make the world a better place!
Let us know your ideas on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Volunteer-Action-for-Peace/193838147321030?fref=ts. This is an exciting and easy way to get involved in where VAP concentrates its work and resources and could really help important UK charities and other organisations – don’t miss this opportunity!
posted on: 21 October 2014
VAP in Seoul with CCIVS
Volunteer Action for Peace is currently represented at the 33rd General Assembly and General Conference of CCIVS, the Coordination Committee for International Voluntary Service, which is taking place in South Korea. Paul Winter, our former chairman and current member of VAP’s International Working Group is our man in Seoul!
posted on: 16 October 2014
A move in the right direction
At September’s executive committee meeting, an important decision about VAP’s volunteer exchanges was made: we will no longer be treating “standard” volunteer programmes (in Europe, North America and other so-called “developed” areas) differently from what we used to call “North-South” programmes (in “developing” countries). All projects will now be presented in the same category.
This is a significant step for a whole host of reasons. For one thing, it addresses a long-standing inaccuracy in terminology that can simply cause confusion – it clearly isn’t even the case that all developed countries are in the “North” while all developing countries, still recovering from centuries of colonisation and exploitation, are in the “South”. But more importantly, the change shows that we at VAP want to move away from the idea that our projects should be divided in such a binary way between “poor” and “rich” locations at all. Of course, we are well aware that it is a fact that the situation in terms of poverty, health, education and oppression is better in some parts of the world than others. However, the committee’s discussion on this topic concluded that, as there is progress to be made all over the planet, it is better to consider these issues as being on an equal footing, rather than to perpetuate the assumption that the “North” and “South” are fundamentally different.
The other exciting effect of this decision is that volunteers placed on all projects will now be able to take part in the training that VAP offers. This opportunity was initially only available to North-South volunteers and those placed on longer-term projects. Extending training to all volunteers is another demonstration of the fact that it is just as important to prepare for a volunteer project in Iceland or Spain as it is to prepare for one in Kenya or Peru.
So there you have it: VAP has made a crucial, progressive change in its attitude towards categorising its global volunteer work. Let us know what you think about this decision on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Volunteer-Action-for-Peace/193838147321030?fref=ts
In any case, this certainly shows that committee meetings don’t have to just be about boring facts and figures!
posted on: 9 October 2014
The social side of VAP
This year’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) was a great success – it combined an official update on what VAP has been up to in the last year, and was also a fun social occasion for volunteers, committee members and staff to get together and share experiences and ideas. And there’s more to come because we are about to increase our social events programme for members!
One part of the AGM that was particularly popular this year was the screening of part of a film by Chloe Ruthven, along with a chance to discuss its themes with the director herself. The film, “The Do-Gooders”, is a documentary that questions the role of aid workers and volunteers in Palestine, and as a result it provided food for an interesting debate on precisely the kind of international development work that VAP is involved in. We found that this was an exciting way to keep things varied at the AGM – along with presentations on past projects abroad and an overview of how the year has been for VAP in terms of international volunteering, UK workcamps, finances and plans for the future.
It was also a super opportunity to meet up with other volunteers and hear about each other’s experiences, and it made us realise that this is a side of VAP that we want to expand further. The thing about VAP is that it can often work out that you are placed on a project abroad, have a great time, come home and then don’t get to speak to any other members about your experiences and get new ideas from theirs. This event showed how much fun and how useful it can be to get together and report back in an informal, social setting – we had returning volunteers from places as varied as Palestine, Sweden, and Italy this time.
So if you missed out this time, do not despair! We will be holding two more social events in the near future, timed to coincide with our committee meetings just in case you decided you want to get involved in those as well. Save the dates now: Friday 23 January 2015 and Friday 8 May 2015. The events will be held in the cool new setting of The Gallery in central London (http://alanbaxter.co.uk/about/gallery-events.php) – everyone who came this year agreed it was a very impressive venue! Again, we will have a film or presentation for discussion, followed by informal chat and whatever else people want to do!
See you there : )
posted on: 6 October 2014
Volunteer in Romania this Summer
Giving something back...
Having loved my volunteering experience with children from care homes in Romania last year, I decided that this year I would do go again but do my own project to be able to expand the local charity’s work.
On 26th July I will be sitting on a plane to Romania, approaching one of the biggest challenges of this year. For two weeks I will be working with children from care homes.
Together with two other volunteers (one from Norwich and one from Cambridge) we will be organising a summer camp for children in care homes in Romania. These kids, aged six to sixteen, are either orphans or have been abandoned by their parents (e.g. because they could not cope or because they could not afford them) or have been taken away from them by social services (e.g. because of child abuse). Given their background and the trauma some of them have experienced, it will be a massive challenge to work with them.
However, I really look forward to organising a week of fun for them in which they can hopefully forget that their parents did not want them or could not care for them. I want to give them a wonderful time that they will be happy to remember.
There are two aims to the activities I am planning for the kids: first, the most obvious one is to teach them some English; the second is more therapeutic, to give them hope and self-esteem. I want them to leave the summer camp taking self-made souvenirs with them and feeling good about themselves. I know that especially the second aim will be very challenging but if I can make even the slightest difference to the lives of these children then all my efforts will have been worth it. I have seen what a difference even the smallest thing can make to them.
If you want to get involved and help us set up the camp, if you want to get to know people from different countries and learn about yourself, about your limits but also about your strengths, then join us for our workcamp in Romania.
posted on: 6 May 2014
Volunteering in Burundi
Burundi is special. It is one of the smallest African countries, and one of the most beautiful, with beaches along the shore of Lake Tanganyika and steep slopes covered with banana trees leading up to the cooler plateau country in the interior.
VAP’s partner organisation is ABSV (Alliance Burundaise du Service Volontaire), founded in 2007, bringing together two small voluntary associations founded by young Burundians keen to build a nation based on peace and reconciliation, based on sustainable development. Burundi suffered from a decade of insecurity. ABSV and others are trying to build a more hopeful future.
ABSV is based in Buterere, a suburb of the capital, Bujumbura, where people are generally poor and their homes are liable to flooding. ABSV has run workcamps here, helping to rebuild homes, teaching English, advising on HIV/AIDS and working with the local community. ABSV has been involved in distribution of school materials and food, small income-generating projects in villages, assistance to street children, construction of houses and other help for Batwa (pygmy) families, delivery of seeds and hoes, planting of 12.000 fruit trees in Kinama and Buterere (Bujumbura).
ABSV received few foreign volunteers as the country is not well known and the flight from the UK involves changing at Nairobi, Addis Ababa or Brussels but for those with a pioneering spirit it can provide a great experience.
Burundians speak French and the national language, Kirundi, but an increasing number of people know English and many also speak Swahili.
Workcamps are organized most months and some medium term volunteer posts are also available (see the database for details). Burundi waits for you!
Nigel Watt, VAP’s chairperson
posted on: 31 May 2013
Volunteering in Zimbabwe
In 1993 CCIVS, the Co-ordination Committee of International Volunteer Service, ran a special workcamp and training in Namibia. One of the participants was Innocent Katsiga from Zimbabwe. He was so inspired by the idea that he went home and very quickly set up Zimbabwe Workcamps Association - AJUDE in Mozambique grew out of the same training.
I attended one of ZWA’s first camps, building teachers’ homes near Harare and running a stall at the annual agricultural show. ZWA grew strong and made special links with Germany – and each year a group from the Social Democratic youth come to a workcamp in Zimbabwe. I also attended the celebration of ZWA’s ten years in 2003. This was at their own farm where the maize crop raises funds for the association and half the crop is donated to poor villagers. More recently when Zimbabwe’s political crisis deepened it became harder to recruit volunteers, and the government also began to try to restrict foreign funding of local associations, but the farm and workcamps went on.
A worse blow struck ZWA early in 2011 when the dynamic Innocent unexpectedly died. His widow, Beverly, and the committee decided to carry on. Beverly was already working for ZWA and was joined by the former project officer, Ratherford Mwaruta who had just returned from studying in the Netherlands.
So ZWA is back on track - and the situation in the country has also improved a lot. The US dollar has replaced the crazily inflated Zim dollar, the economy is picking up a bit and security was never really a problem. Having previously just run workcamps, Ratherford has just been in Kenya, learning from KVDA’s long experience of Medium Term Volunteers, ZWA therefore now offers an attractive list of workcamps and medium and long term placements in community centres, schools, educational institutions and national parks as well as on ZWA’s farm. They plan to have a workcamp to paint their hostel which is near to the airport and where volunteers will first arrive. Check the database and you will find a project to suit you!
Nigel Watt, VAP’s chairperson
posted on: 29 March 2012