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  • Writer's pictureSonja Lembke

Don’t Give Up Hope - Preparations in Times of a Global Pandemic

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

After I had received the confirmation for my voluntary social year by Corbenic Camphill Community in December, everything seemed to be settled. After the long application process, I was so happy to finally be accepted. I took care of the preparations right away: I applied for a passport and a Police Check, I raised money for the volunteer fund, and I got a medical certificate. But then the coronavirus pandemic gripped Europe and everything seemed to be hanging by a thread…

Disclaimer: I am only writing about my personal experience concerning the coronavirus pandemic in general and its consequences for my voluntary social year in particular. I know that there are people who have it worse than me and who are suffering from loss or existential fear during these times and I do not intend to devaluate that in any way.

When the news first covered the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China, I had hoped that the proliferation of the virus could be contained. With every day of new cases and deaths, this hope faded. The virus spread and gripped Europe and the world. It felt surreal to me until it affected my own life: concerts were cancelled, school was closed. Lockdown. At this point, I wasn’t even thinking about my voluntary service in Scotland. I was rather worrying about the execution of my final exams, which were supposed to be held from April to June. The contradictory approaches of the politicians only fed into that insecurity. In the end, our exams could be written as planned and I am very content with the results.

But the insecurity concerning my voluntary social year remained. I called the Friends of Waldorf Education multiple times but they knew just as much as I knew. I was plagued by the uncertainty whether or not I should hold onto going to Scotland. I started looking for alternatives, especially after the cases in the UK rose above those in other countries in Europe. I thought about doing a voluntary social year (FSJ) in my hometown in Germany, more specifically at the sheltered workshop where I did a voluntary internship one year ago. Another possibility was to begin my studies at university right away and maybe doing a gap year after or in between studies.

Yet, all these options were not as appealing to me as my original plan. My voluntary social year at Corbenic would be the perfect orientation year, combining everything I like: English, music therapy and social work. This was my dream and I did not want to give up on it because some alternative might be considered safer. If I have learned anything from these challenging times, it is that nothing is safe. I was prepared to take a risk and it paid off.

I decided to take action and contact Corbenic Camphill Community personally. I wrote an e-mail asking how they assess the situation and if there will be any delays. They were super friendly and responded that they would like me to join them on the 1st of August as planned. Their facility is well prepared for incoming volunteers from abroad, with testing and 14-day quarantine policy in place. The fact alone that I now have a person of contact in my facility in Scotland, who is so nice and welcoming, is calming in itself and it makes me look forward to spending the next year there even more.

The starting date of my voluntary social year could vary in practice because volunteers usually have to attend a compulsory preparatory seminar, held in Germany by the Friends of Waldorf Education, before their departure. At first, it was not sure when the seminar can take place. I spoke to the Friends of Waldorf Education and they said that it might be postponed to August or September, but there was also a chance that it could be held in July as intended. Either way, I was grateful that I could start my voluntary service in Scotland at all.

Now, the date of the seminar is settled on July 13th-22nd. After that, I will spend a few days at home until I begin my journey to Scotland. I am glad that I stuck with my plan despite the insecurity of the last few months. I am hoping to join Corbenic Camphill Community as soon as possible!

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