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  • Writer's pictureSonja Lembke

First Steps - Application and Confirmation

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

During my second last year of school, I decided to take a break between school and university. I needed to do something else than studying for a change and a gap year seemed just right. Working as an au pair or the popular work and travel concept didn't really appeal to me. Although I loved the idea of living in another country, spending a year abroad wasn't my first priority. Doing something meaningful was. That's why I chose to do a voluntary social year.

In order to figure out what exactly I wanted to do as a volunteer, I had two internships in the last summer holidays - one in a sheltered workshop and one in an epilepsyclinic for children. In the epilepsy clinic, I didn't have much contact with the patients, so it was more like working in a hospital, which wasn't what I was looking for. Helping in the sheltered workshop, however, was a lot of fun and I probably learned more for life than in eleven years of school. I supported people with disabilities in their workshops - in my case pottery and paper art. The supervisors and the supervised treated each other with respect and understanding, creating a work atmosphere that didn't feel like working at all. I felt very useful working with disabled people, even when we took a break and went for a walk to the nearby farm. Not only could I help the disabled people fulfil their tasks but I could also learn a lot from them, too. I remember one time, a woman told me with great anticipation that she was going to go out and eat ice cream with her sister on the weekend. Her happiness made me happy too. The woman showed me that you don't need much to lead a happy life and she taught me to appreciate the small things. Experiences like this convinced me to spend a whole year working in this field of the social sector.

At first, I wanted to apply to the same facility where I did my internship. The application process is divided in two parts: 1. applying to an organisation which supports volunteers (financially and with seminars) and 2. applying to the facility you want to work at. I had already come to terms with the fact that doing this kind of work meant also not being able to go abroad, at least not if you didn't want to spend a fortune. But after doing some research about the Friends of Waldorf Education, which supports volunteer work in my chosen facility, I found out that they also provide volunteer work with disabled people all over the world. And that without costing a fortune! – I applied right away.

The reason why the Friends of Waldorf Education are able offer a voluntary social year which everyone can afford is that their programme is subsided by the state. Of course, costs remain but the good news is that the volunteers don't have to pay everything out of their own pocket. Instead, it is requested to collect donations for the organisation. That way, the volunteers don’t only get financial aid but also ideational support.

It took several months until I got an answer from the Friends of Waldorf Education due to staff shortage and because my application required a medical certificate. (I cannot stress enough how important it is to apply as soon as possible! As a reference, I applied at the end of July and got confirmed at the beginning of December…) Finally, after one last telephone call, I got confirmed by the organisation.

Now, I only had to choose the facility I wanted to work at in a country I wanted to go to. I am very passionate about the English language since it is my major in high school. During my voluntary social year, I would love to improve my language skills and get to know a new culture. Initially, I wanted to go to Ireland because I am the singer in an Irish folk band  and as a consequence, I am interested in the Irish culture, language and music. I wanted to go to Ireland really bad but at the time I got confirmed by the organisation, there were only three suitable facilities in Ireland left. So I also checked out facilities in Great Britain because, as I said in the beginning,t he work itself matters more to me than the country. Soon, I found Corbenic Camphill Community, a sheltered workshop in Dunkeld, Scotland. This Community seemed to be the perfect facility for my voluntary social year. They offer a wide range of crafts, they do leisure activities together, and most importantly do they provide different sorts of therapies like riding, art, and music therapy. I am particularly interested in music therapy for I want to become a music therapist myself someday. I applied and two days later I got a confirmation from Corbenic.

I am so happy that I finally got confirmed by the Friends of Waldorf Education as well as by Corbenic Camphill Community. I am looking forward to a new chapter of my life beginning on August 1st, 2020. Until then, I'll keep you updated on the preparations!

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