Solidarité Jeunesse France organized a work camp at La Fai, Veynes in the Alps Region in South France from 25th September-15th October 2017. The theme of the work camp was ‘Save Buëch river through environmental sustainability’.
During the first week of the camp, we had a warm welcoming ceremony in the traditional French way, The Centre at La Fai is focused on sustainable agriculture, restoration of monuments at heritage sites in the surrounding region, as well as the promotion of experiential living and learning, with community stay.
Ms. Leo and Ms. Maite explained about the project and schedule. In this camp, 9 volunteers participated – 4 from Germany, 2 from Mexico, 1 from South Korea, 1 from Holland and myself from India.
We worked for the ‘Model and construct wooden log dam’ program by SJ France. We visited an organic farm in the Alps Region, went on mountain treks, town tour, picnic and horse riding, old citadel visit, monument restoration work, international cooking and a French-style potluck party (parti d’espanole) with the local community, local market visit, campfire, herbal exhibition visit, yoga class and country presentation.
On the 2nd day of the first week of the camp, the team participated in monument restoration work with local communities. For the rest of the week, we worked on the Buëch river project. Mr. Cyril and Ms. Marion, 2 technical leaders of the camp explained about the plans and advantages of the river project. After that, we had to do physical work to remove the wooden logs and shift to the Méouge River project near Baret-sur-Méouge, another region of the Alps, because the Buëch river had less water than the Méouge river.
The work plan was to protect the river bank land sliding, soil erosion and increase fish breeding. All the work was done in an environment-friendly way, using natural resources which are easily available in the surrounding area of the river like rocks, stones, mud and dry wood.
We visited the local market for groceries and vegetables for camping in Barret-sur-Méouge for the next week’s project.
During the 2nd and 3rd week, we continued the same work to protect the Méouge’s sub-rivers at La Savarine and La Slaughter village near Barret-sur-Méouge. The technical leaders of the camp gave a demonstration of the technical tools to work with during the wooden log construction work and they provided us with long gumboots and hard gloves to protect ourselves during the physical work.
In those 2 weeks, we built 4 wooden log check dams and 1 square wooden log swimming pool mainly for fish breeding. We had to dig 50 cms inside, remove all the mud and rocks to make it deeper so the water can flow easily and after building, check the dams using some big rocks and mud against the wooden logs.
Every day, we could see the impact and result of the work and calculate how many levels of soil were protected. On account of that result, we were appreciated by the local government and were given a letter thanking us for our contribution.
On weekends, we planned a camping trip at Euorres mountain region 2100 meters above sea level. In this place, we visited agricultural lands, local villages, went horse riding, had a campfire and trekked with experienced guides.
Also, we went on a local town tour and attended a herbal exhibition and French concert at the town of Rosans. It is a small commune in the Hautes-Alpes in south-east France, where the local people give importance to sustainable agricultural products and use them in their daily life. There were many stalls giving information about the different kinds of agricultural and herbal products, as well as herbal medicines and their usages. In addition, there were stalls selling herbal foods and flowers. Finally, there was an old French music concert.
We prepared country presentations and presented on international cooking day, along with the local communities. It was good to learn about other countries’ cultures through the country presentations, the French lifestyle and traditions in rural places through interaction with the local communities.
To my surprise, SJ arranged a potluck party with the local community and most of the community people brought wine, beverages, and snacks along with them. By the way, it is called a “parti d’español” in French.
All the participants called this camp ‘mountain migration camp’ because we moved our campsite to another site with tents and especially because all the sites are in the mountain region. The final day, they arranged a trekking picnic with local food and everybody expressed their opinion and the feedback of 3 weeks’ camp with ‘post-its’ on the notice board.
On the last weekend, I visited the SJ office, Paris to share my feedback with Mrs Elodie and meet all the staff at the SJ office. Also, I got the opportunity to see their work style.
All the staff invited me to an Indian restaurant in Paris and we had a get-together lunch.
Finally, I enjoyed myself a lot at the work camp and understood about the different cultures. I thank FSL-India and SJ France for giving me this great opportunity to participate in a work camp abroad.