Our first international volunteer since lockdown, Lloyd, tells us about his experience on a conservation-based project in the South of France. The main task was redoing a stone path that ran alongside the Church of St Pons.

During my 2-week volunteering camp in Collobrières in the south of France, I was able to make some great memories as well as friends and able to learn new skills.

The camp began on Wednesday 22nd of July, and all participants were picked up from Hyières station and driven to the small village of Collobrières which has approximately 3,000 inhabitants, and upon arrival we were able to put our bags down, have some refreshments and then rules of the camp, whilst working and whilst not, were explained to us. A rough plan of the fortnight stay was already there for us, with numerous gaps, this was to that we could suggest things to do such as a film night, an evening swimming pool trip and a visit into a nearby town which we all did.

Due to there being multiple nationalities in the camp as well, we had a board where we could write up different words that would be translated into all the different required languages. The night we arrived we also ate dinner with the families of the 4 locals participating in the 2-week camp, due to covid-19 we were only 8 participating (4 locals and 4 internationals) instead of 24. Covid-19 also meant that we were very careful when eating with locals or any sort of event involving those who we didn’t have contact with each day, when in a group however we didn’t see it appropriate to follow measures as it would have been a huge hassle to follow the rules closely

On this camp the work was very laborious and tiring however it differs depending on the camp. Monday to Friday were the days we worked and we would wake up at around 6:45, get dressed, eat and brush our teeth, and leave our hosts house so we could be at the meetup point for 7:30 in the morning. At first these work hours seem completely ridiculous but once you get to 12 o’clock you realise why we start early, almost each day  the last 1-2 hours of work saw 35 degree+ weather, which the locals are used to be for those not, it was very hard, however it means that at 12:30 you finished your day's work which allows you to relax till the next activity. At 12:30 we'd all head to the clubhouse where wed all eat and after that was free time, where some would stay at the clubhouse, but most would go home and have a shower.

At around 4 most days we’d have an activity, this included origami, card games, wood marking and in 2 cases, an outing to a nearby village to visit the markets. Once the activity was over or we had had enough of it, we would usually go to the local swimming pool at 6:30, although the pool was small, it was nice to be able to cool off in the still 30 degree heat at that time, the pool was also booked for us which meant that no one else was there. Right next to the pool there was also a sports cage which had been newly built. The cage featured basket ball nets, football goals and astroturf which meant that we play football and go swimming. Round 8 was when we’d decide we had had enough of swimming and from here we were free for the day. We’d head back to our families and eat dinner, and then we would go off to bed, so that we weren’t too tired for the next morning.