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Volunteer for a Workcamp

If you have a question about workcamps that doesn't appear in this list, do not hesitate to email or call QWI.

What is a workcamp?
Do I have to be skilled?
How old do I have to be?
Do I have to be religious?
What does it cost?
Do you offer meals for people with special dietary needs?
What if I have allergies?
What's workcamp discipline?
When can I come?
What should I bring?
What is provided at the work site?
Who's in charge?
Have you had problems with behavior?
What is "dual ministry?"
How do I register?

What is a workcamp?

A workcamp is a voluntary coming together of people to accomplish a task usually involving construction or renovation. Workcamps have involved war relief, work in soup kitchens or shelters, and recently, rebuilding arson-burned churches.

Quakers have been workcamping since World War I. Recent witness through workcamping has occurred in a ministry to burned African American Churches. QWI was born to fulfill this ministry in 1997. This ministry has been going on under Friends' care since 1996 though if we step back further in history we may see this witness as an extension of the 33 rebuilt churches in Mississippi in 1964 by a joint committee of New York and Philadelphia Yearly Meetings.

A workcamp can be joyous, enlightening, and fun. In the words of Tim McCarthy, a student workcamper: "In the shared context of a Quaker workcamp-in which hard work, peaceful consensus, and respect for diversity, are paramount values-people with elsewhere intractable differences worked in concert with one another: hammering nails, stuffing insulation, cutting sheetrock, sharing modes of worship, singing 1960's worksongs and 1980's pop rock and timeless hymns, eating grits and catfish, playing basketball, praying silently and out loud, expressing gratitude, laughing endlessly, and living in peace."

That sounds cool. But, do I have to be skilled?

No! We train our workers to accomplish the tasks for each day and have skilled leaders who will direct your work. One of the gifts you will take away from the experience will be learning to practice abilities you never knew you had!

How old do I have to be?

High-school age students in a group with adult leaders can have 9th to 12th grade students. Individuals have to be 17 years old.

Do I have to be religious?

No, but you have to be loving, kind, and want to help rebuild a church. You will be expected to interact with the church members by going to church and being with them at times when you are not working on the building. They will try to be the perfect host, so you should try to be the perfect guest. We have a time for silent meditation every morning that is not an optional activity. Quaker workcamps are also interfaith workcamps so you have to be tolerant of religious expressions other than your own.

Sounds good but what does it cost?

All workcampers have to get themselves to and from the workcamp. We charge $150 for a seven day week or $50 a weekend. Overseas workcampers may have a special reduced rate. (Note that scholarships are available on a case by case basis. Please apply for a scholarship if you need to.) The workcamp fee pays for your housing, local transportation, oversight on the job and training. We also provide hard-hats, necessary tools and, of course, food.

Speaking of food, what do you offer for people with special dietary needs?

We offer a vegetarian alternative entree at every meal. Plus we have lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. We try to cater to everyone.

Even cooking Kosher?

Yes. We ask those who keep Kosher to inform us in advance and to help us so that we all have a good time together.

What if I have allergies?

If you have any medical condition we should be aware of, note it on your medical form. Send a copy of your medical form in with your application and discipline form.

What's this about discipline?

It is important when visiting a new place to learn the customs of that place. We ask that you observe, as well, certain personal disciplines noted in the Workcamp Discipline form. We ask that you read the form carefully and sign it. Note that all Quaker workcamps are drug and alcohol free. We strongly discourage smoking and no indoor smoking is allowed.

Great! When can I come?

We generally have week-long workcamps starting every Saturday afternoon and ending after worship the next Saturday morning. Some sites may have weekend workcamps. Depending on the site, our workcamps run throughout the year. Volunteers are welcome to stay for longer than a week. International people are encouraged to stay for at least 3 weeks.

What should I bring?

For work you will need shorts, jeans, work shoes or boots, and leather gloves. For church and special events you will need dress clothes and dress shoes. For everyday use you will need a sleeping bag, comfortable shoes, underwear, socks, rain coat or poncho, toilet articles, towel, swimsuit, and a warm jacket. Bring any prescription medications you need and an extra pair of glasses (list all medications on your medical form and include your glasses prescription as well). Be prepared to share of yourself with others. Bring postcards of your town and pictures of your family. Bring a recipe of a dish you can cook. Bring a song you can sing and teach to others. Musical instruments are always welcome.

What is provided at the work site?

We provide a good bed, mattress, pillow, and sheets. Expect three good meals a day with an alternative menu for those with special dietary needs. For the tasks you will do we'll provide tools, a tool belt, a hard hat, on-site transportation, and on-the-job training. And we'll send you home with a commemorative t-shirt.

Who's in charge?

Workcamps are led by a diverse team:

The Project Director is the administrative head of the workcamp, coordinating our efforts with the worksite hosts and their building contractor. They also recruit new volunteers, keep the financial records, and serve as the chief purchasing officer.

The worksite hosts appoint an On-Site Leader who works directly with the Contractor and Project Director to coordinate tasks, order materials, etc.

The worksite hosts hire a Contractor to make all construction decisions. The Contractor may also have skilled workers on-site to direct your efforts. They serve as "crew chiefs" who show you what needs to be done and how best to do it. You will be working with them side-by-side during the week.

The Friends in Residence are our spiritual leaders and guide our silent meditation and other worship together.

The Co-Director or Volunteer Coordinator helps make your stay engaging with the church and the surrounding community. They also keep the work records and write thank you letters. All final volunteer records are their responsibility.

The Cook is everyone's friend, as you will discover when you help them cook and clean up. The Cook is also in charge of buying things for the kitchen.

The Safety Officer and Tool Steward sees that you work safely, and that you care for our tools. This person, in concert with the rest of the team, develops the emergency response plan in case of a serious accident or injury.

Have you had problems with behavior?

No. In a workcamp we are involved in a dual ministry and people who do not wish to participate in such usually don't come.

What do you mean "dual ministry?"

We are almost always involved in building. Since this work is done to seek justice, it is a ministry of physical work. The work is also done with a community. Whether this community is orphans in Romania or the people of a burned church, they need others to walk with them on their life journey as do we all. We call this the ministry of being with. If we truly feel compassion for others, we find ways to share with them and walk by their side. Workcamping is a process in which both of these ministries are intertwined. The individual discipline we talked about earlier was one indication that a Quaker workcamp is not a Quaker summer camp. The ministry aspect speaks to our working as God's servants in the world. This is why elder friends who fondly talk about their early workcamp experiences in war relief as "life changing," are not surprised when our church rebuilders return home and talk about the same today.

How do I register?

Choose a workcamp project and pick the dates you want to join us. Call ahead to make sure there is an opening for the time you want to come, and once you have made your reservation do not break it. Print and fill out the application forms and send them to the workcamp project office with the workcamp fee. If the project does not yet have an on-site project office, you may need to send your forms and fee directly to the QWI main office at the address shown below.

Quaker Workcamps International
1225 Geranium St., NW
Washington, DC 20012
(202) 722-1461 Office
(202) 723-5376 Fax
Director: Harold Confer
website maintained by: Larry Clarkberg

last updated 5/25/98