August 2019

by Ulrike Gansen

Ulli and Lore enjoying the view of Vlahi village

I am in Sofia. I meet two young women from Belgium and Spain for a breakfast together. We are in a really nice caf? with a beautiful, shady backyard, carpets at the wall and the aromatic smell of freshly brewed coffee in the air. How did this happen? What am I doing here? I didn’t know both of them before. And now we are chatting, laughing – and sharing our expectations about our first workcamp. For all of us, it would be our first one. Honestly, we didn’t know what to expect. But we came all to Bulgaria to volunteer in a workcamp on gender equality with people we don’t know in a place we don’t know.

However – we made it to Vlahi, a small, remote village in the Pirin mountains with only 8 human habitants (and some dogs, cats and a lot of goats). For one week, we lived in the Vlahi Nature School – a lovely building made from only natural materials. We shared one big bedroom, used compost toilets and enjoyed refreshing cold showers.

But who is “we”? We were three international volunteers, three coordinators from Bulgaria and Poland and four young women from rural Bulgaria. And although I didn’t know anybody before, I felt quickly almost like home.

During one week, we did workshops on gender roles, gender stereotypes, beauty images and self-love. Although we all were from different countries and cultural backgrounds, we experienced the same expectations and obligations that are connected to being a woman. We hiked, we camped in the wild, we set a fire, laughed and discussed.

Even though the time period we spent together was short, we had language barriers and not everything ended up as planned, the workcamp gave me a lot of valuable insights in the intercultural perspectives of feminism and gender equality. I met wonderful human beings (and animals), challenged myself by adapting a really basic lifestyle, enjoyed the Bulgarian wilderness and night sky and reawakened my love for camping! Thank you really much!

 Posted by Shirin at 14:27 Volunteer activities

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