Work camp

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International work camps (from the English, "work camps") are forms of voluntary service with the aim of international understanding .

Historical summary

As a special form of international youth encounters, the type of peace service , voluntary service or youth community service emerged at the beginning of the 20th century . Especially after the First World War, international understanding gained in importance and in the years after the Second World War it became more explosive, especially in and for Europe. With increasing globalization , global exchange is becoming more and more important. Working on a charitable, social or local project is typical of these measures.

Examples of work projects

Participant in an ecological work camp in the Spreewald , 1990
Participant in an ecological work camp in the Spreewald in 1990 with conservationists from France, Ghana, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and the USA

Social projects are, for example, helping in children's or handicapped homes, helping with children's holiday programs or organizing a culture, youth or music festival. Environmental protection activities are z. B. reforestation, beach grass planting, stream restoration, construction, landscape maintenance or restoration work, war grave maintenance, restoration of listed buildings, monument preservation, construction of common rooms or sanitary facilities (especially in developing countries), construction or restoration of children's playgrounds, renovation of a youth home , kindergarten or homes for the disabled or the creation of hiking trails.

It is important that the project should be manageable in terms of time (usually completed in three to six weeks), non-commercial and meaningful projects that would not be financially viable or affordable without the international group. H. the workcamp shouldn't take away any local jobs, nor should it be used as cheap labor for stupid jobs that could be done faster with machines.

Project sponsor, workcamp organization and participants

As a rule, the local project sponsor provides the work management, simple accommodation for the participants and a subsidy for the workcamp organization, which is based on the number of days worked. The work camp organization takes care of the entire organizational process, provides a trained camp management, takes over the insurance of the participants and recruits the international participants through global partner organizations. As a rule, participants pay a registration and placement fee directly to their national organization and pay for their own travel. Accommodation, meals, insurance and the leisure program are then free in return for working on the project.

Work camps today

As a rule, 10–20 participants of different nationalities between 18 and 26 years of age work and live together in work camps for two to four weeks during their holidays. Depending on the organizer, young people from the age of 14 can sometimes register for so-called “junior camps”.

Basic knowledge of the respective camp language - often English - can be a prerequisite for participation. Due to the multinational composition, linguistic diversity will indeed prevail in the camps.

In addition to the completion of the respective work project , intercultural learning , language learning and the reduction of prejudices through direct experience can be the focus in everyday camp life with self-sufficiency and in leisure activities (excursions in the surrounding area, getting to know the camp site) .

Organizations in Germany

In Germany there are numerous organizations and non-profit associations that carry out international youth community services in all federal states and also place participants in partner organizations around the world. They usually receive grants from the Federal Youth Plan through these umbrella organizations to hold international encounters .

The sponsoring organizations have come together in several umbrella associations, the largest being the “sponsoring conference of German workcamp organizations”. A complete overview can be found on the website of the IJAB (Department for International Youth Work of the Federal Republic of Germany) given below. All other international exchange programs and offers are also listed there. The most important of these organizations are:

Organizations and origins in Switzerland


Important impulses for the community service movement and international work camps go back to the pacifist Pierre Cérésole , who organized the first "services" (work camps) with international volunteers in France and Switzerland as early as the 1920s. He founded the Service Civil International (SCI) , which still organizes and carries out workcamps both in Switzerland and internationally.


Organizations in Austria

  • Service Civil International (SCI) Austria (since 1947)
  • Limitless (since 1949)
  • Austrian building order

Individual evidence

  1. Historical list of the work camps of the Service Civil International up to 1981 ( Memento of the original from February 10, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. ^ History of the SCI
  3. About Limitless