Solidarity in Community and in Coexistence of Wilderness and Civilization


Written by Jules Domalain from France

July 2023

Jules in the forestThanks to SCI France, I traveled to Croatia to participate in a two-week European volunteering project. It was an incredible human and cultural adventure! The volunteering took place in Crno Jezero, a very small village (which is not even on google maps!) located in the Velebit, the mountain range that runs along the Adriatic coast. We were in the heart of a magnificent forest, where the bear is king: we saw bear tracks and droppings as well as destroyed ant hills and stones turned over by the bear less than 100 m from where we were sleeping! I even had the chance to see a wolf during these two weeks!

After the place, the actors: we were 10 European volunteers, from 6 different countries, all with different backgrounds and cultures. But we were all motivated! We experienced community life during these two weeks, sharing rooms, meals, evenings, moments of free time… Household chores were also shared, as was cooking: at each meal, a team of 2 people finished work a little earlier in order to cook (vegetarian) for the others. It was an opportunity to discover the culinary talents of each other and everyone was able to cook dishes from their country: I notably made “crepes” and an apple crumble with the other French volunteers, the Spaniards made tortillas … Some cooked really well and we ate well! But it was necessary because the working days were physical!

Volunteers doing manual construction work

We worked from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. During these two weeks, under the guidance of Alex, our (French) coordinator, and Slavcko, a local, we carried out various activities related to the coexistence between humans and animals, the theme of volunteering. In particular, we have renovated a large pond, we have secured small basins so that the animals that fall into them can get out, we have also created a place for meditation, built walls with stones or branches… One of the objectives of the association VUK, which organized the volunteering, is also to revive the place where we worked, “Belle-any”, and we therefore also carried out many other activities, according to needs, and in order to help artisans: gardening, painting, transporting tiles or boards… These activities were often physical, but everyone was free to work at their own pace and according to their abilities. In any case, we often ended the days tired!

a pond in the forest

Since there is not only work in life, we also had leisure activities: we made two hikes, including one in a national park. The landscape was truly sublime. We also had the chance to go kayaking, and to participate in a workshop to learn about felting (how to use wool to make felt): we all left with our hedgehog made of felt! These activities were really nice, and they allowed volunteers to get to know each other better and to discover a little bit of Croatia.

Paddling on a lake

From a personal point of view, I really loved this volunteering. I still don’t really know what I want to do in the future, and this volunteering has allowed me to learn new skills, meet and discuss with fantastic people, and think a little about my future. Becoming a volunteer coordinator is pretty tempting to me now!

Meeting people from all over Europe is also a great cultural experience. It allows you to improve your open-mindedness, you discover new perspectives, everyone has a different story, a particular reason that led them to do this volunteering… Of course, there are sometimes misunderstandings, whether it is cultural or linguistic, small tensions, … But 10 young people together for 2 weeks, it’s just normal in fact!

And finally, I made new friends during this volunteering: I have already seen 3 people since the end of the volunteering, and I am about to leave for Kosovo for a new group volunteering, where I will meet Alex, our coordinator in Croatia.

In any case, if you could do group volunteering, go for it!