From Iceland to Belgium for the PEACE CAMP

This year I had the opportunity to take part in Europe’s biggest AFS camp, where students who had been in trimester (three month long) programs in European countries gather in Belgium, to become the future’s peacemakers all around the world.
At a short drive from Brussels, in the forests of Destelheide and Hanenbos, there are two training camps, and I was lucky to be in the bigger venue with 179 exchange students and 32 volunteers.
I would have expected a lot more chaos coming from the sheer number of the participants, but with the help and dynamic cooperation of the volunteers we were able to achieve an outstanding environment for intercultural learning and teaching, connecting for both students and volunteers!

The camp started two days earlier for us volunteers, during which we formed an atmosphere of endless respect towards each other, bonded and got to know each other’s limits and strengths, so that we can work together the most efficient way possible.
In an agreement of not stepping over boundaries, and knowing that everybody is here for the same reasons, we bridged over our language, cultural and personal differences.

With this basis in mind, we were confident in our team, when the students arrived.

I thoroughly believe in honesty, and teaching by doing; our participants adapted to the great atmosphere we based for them of respect, peaceful communication and helpfulness.
They truly were what we believed them to be; amazing youth that were open to the workshops, contributed their own ideas and thoughts, created materials on human rights, equality, global citizenship, environment, conflict solving and personal development.

Walking around in the venue, you could see all the smiles, laughters, friendships forming; going into the workshop rooms, people opening up, and experiencing what the AFS values have to offer to us.
Us volunteers often stayed up chatting in the volunteers’ room late, after we sent the participants to sleep, and these after-midnight talks had been the some of the highlights of my stay.
When, after 4 intense days, the camp was over, we had an evaluation session just for ourselves as a team, to process the things that happened, to have room for growth for next year and of course to wind down together with a last party.

I opted to stay a couple of days in Belgium, where in post-PEACE the volunteers in both the venues met up finally for two nights in Brussels, where we exchanged invitations to our homes, that would take a lifetime to follow up on!

In total it had been exciting, exhausting, motivating and an invigorating experience. I met people who amazed, supported and taught me a lot, and I hope I had the chance to do the same for others.

I hope to see you there next year!

Katalin Elizabet, ESC volunteer in the AFS á Íslandi Office