The international volunteer camp is not just 6 trucks of garbage collected in the river, forests, and ravines, 16 made and set up owl nests, 6 ecological festivals held for 140 children, 80 locals polled on the “garbage” topic, ecological round tables and seminars for residents of the nearby villages, it is also the volunteers who have done all this!
About 60 volunteers – including young people from France, Slovenia, India, Poland – took part in this year’s camp in the Izdrevaya river valley, held near the “Uchebniy” train station July 19-30. Organizers, journalists and volunteers of the camp share their impressions with you in this article.
…They are on vacation or a break, but they work. Novosibirsk school students and Indian university students, a banker, a teacher, a sociologist, a musician live near each other in a tent camp and do good deeds. They clean the Izdrevaya riverbed from trash, build homes for owls, remove illegal dumps near the village… Valery Klamm, photographer, author of the project “Springs on the map”
…It’s like in that cartoon about a chick: he was walking and walking and found friends… If a person has been to this camp – he is forever our person, regardless of where he lives or works. The nature needs her people everywhere… Elena Dubinina, the Siberian Ecological Center public relations coordinator
This year in the camp I had to take up something I’ve never done before: organizing of the children ecological festivals. It was incredibly interesting to prepare the festivals with people from different countries, to decide which games to use etc. The guys were active in making up and adapting their national games to the ecological topic. In spite of the language barrier, at the festivals themselves they enthusiastically explained rules of games and helped children if they had any questions. The games were fun, and a Slovenian game was peculiar, which drew attention of many people and encouraged them to take part in our contests. Not only kids, but their parents, too, participated in our fetivals! Irina Kochkina, the Siberian Ecological Center volunteer
…The volunteers walk down the stream, cleaning the bottom and the banks of the river from trash step by step. Sometimes the task becomes extreme. In the parts where the river narrows, it becomes impassable. Getting through the now-brook becomes impossible. Just when I went into the water I got a feeling of being pulled in to the bottom. In just seconds I completely stuck, and water started to get into the boots. But it doesn’t harm my optimism, I try to catch up with the guys, and fill a bag with garbage. The diversity and size of rubbish impress me: in this small river there is everything from bottles, bags, cans, old dishes and pails to beds and furniture. It’s understandable: if you don’t need something – throw it away. But why into the river? Lyudmila Harlamenko, the “Soviet Siberia” newspaper journalist
Along with many activities at our camp there was one called “the Splav.” The volunteers would put on long swamp boots and walk the river, collecting the garbage from the water and the banks. This year we were cleaning an area very close to summer houses, that’s why we were progressing slowly: many gardeners put trash on the banks or into the river itself. It should be noted that most dumpsters were rather old. It looks like the designated areas for trash collecting in the summer house communities are effective now. In 8 work days we’ve covered about three kilometers. It’s very pleasant that many house owners keep the river near their property clean: some people collect plastic bottles they come across, others plant the banks with bushes and trees. We were also greeted warmly: house owners treated us with tea, gave wheelbarrows for getting the garbage to the road, and sometimes even joined us and helped us with difficulties. It not only makes us happy, but also gives us strength, for it shows that what we do is not in vain. Ekaterina Balakina, advisor of the NSU Ecological Club, the Siberian Ecological Center volunteer, employee of the NSU Department of Higher Mathematics
Just as rabbits are not only valuable fur, a volunteer camp is not just 5 to 7 trucks of collected garbage and biological research, but also social work – polling and children festivals, round tables, meetings with students. For high school children from Gusiny Brod and Zheleznodorogny villages we’ve held a meeting for planning their future ecological work. To be honest, while working with students we tried to go a standard way of offering the children to take responsibility for a spring or a forest in order to collect garbage and study plants there etc. But the teenagers of the 21st century have a more rational and sensible way of thinking: they need not a small piece of nature, but the whole area near where they live – a forest near the village, a green area around the neighborhood. They outline a big circle of problems and are not afraid to see their roots. The garbage problem is due to lack of organized removal; a reason for air pollution is uncontrolled emission of waste by the local brick plant. Right now the school groups already work actively: they have organized cleaning days, they collect signatures and send letters to the authorities. During the camp we have put together a questionnaire, which will reflect the residents’ opinion about an organized trash removal. This questionnaire should become the first step to organizing this kind of removal from villages, which is still not done even now in the 21st century. But with such ambitious youth we can believe in a bright future! Alexandra Egorova, employee of the Central Siberian Botanical Garden, Geoinformation system specialist of the Siberian Ecological Center
The general impression from the camp is awesome! In spite of the heat and mosquitoes we stayed optimistic and worked hard: cleaned dumpsters and the Izdrevaya river, built owl nests and held educational children festivals… the most memorable moment was when we collected 155 bags of trash from a dumpster near the Dubrava train station! And it was not even all the garbage that was there. We have found a real treasure: a lot of glass, old shoes, bottles from alcoholic drinks, and other objects that will exist long enough for our grandchildren to see… but nothing could suppress the volunteers’ high spirits! We had forces left to play volleyball, to sing, and to play games. I hope it will be as fun next year! Nastya, “Interra” volunteer, Novosibirsk - Poland
Acclimatization was hard for us, because of the heat, mosquitoes and other surprises. But it didn’t hurt the general atmosphere. All Russian people were very friendly to us. The fact that there were several foreigners at the camp made the communication more difficult, because the average level of English among Russians was quite low. It was a problem indeed, because at times we felt separated from a process, from the organization, and it could be hard to find something to do. But after all, our general impression is great; we’ve met many good people whom we hope to see again. About the work: it is true that the enduring heat complicated everything, but we still managed to do a lot. We’ve collected an enormous amount of garbage (and were in a good mood while doing it!), and even found a lot of interesting things, like a collection of vintage shoes or toys! We think that this kind of life (we lived in the woods, in tents) has given us a lot of new experience. It’s always interesting to get to know a culture from the inside, especially when this culture is so different from ours. Thank you to all the volunteers who came to the camp. Also, if you want to make a volunteer project, you can come to France, and we will be glad to welcome you to Pommiers. Claire and Alexine, France