Workcamps – a Setting for Citizenship Education

Short description

Workcamps are short term international voluntary programs organized in local communities and mainly in less developed areas in Europe and the rest of the world, where volunteers (18+) participate. These programs are realized with the support of the local authorities and other local agents. This ensures that substantial actions can be developed to address local needs in areas such as environment and culture.
The volunteers in cooperation with the local community take over the implementation of a project of need on a local community level. (e.g renovation work of historical buildings, environmental-e.g opening of footpaths, local festival with a special thematic etc).

Origin and context

Esne, France,1920: a group of young people from different European countries came together to rebuild some of the houses destroyed in the first world war. The initiative for the first international voluntary work camp came from the Swiss pacifist Pierre Cérésole. He was convinced that a joint international group effort to help people in need is a means of building human bridges across deep trenches torn up by the war and of promoting peace and understanding. This work camp marked the beginning of the era of private organizations setting up international voluntary youth service programmes: programmes with strict voluntary participation, open to both sexes, in a co-operative atmosphere, with space for personal development, etc. (source T-Kit no 5 in International Voluntary Service)

Aims and objectives

Main aim is the development of skills for active citizenship via informal and non formal training. Intercultural learning and Understanding are in the core of every workcamp.
Also, the mobilization of the local community by using the international volunteers for setting an example of good practice. So at the same time local groups of citizens are supported so that they take action in their local community.

Theoretical base

Active Citizenship is something that is learnt and every society member needs to develop the skills for active participation.
Volunteering is not seen as a philanthropic action but as a responsibility a citizen takes over in his/her own local community, so as to become active agent of his/her own present and future.


The workcamps usually take place in local communities and in less developed regions worldwide.The parties involved for its realization are usually: local authorities, national voluntary organisation NGOs, local groups of citizens, international volunteers.
Usually the voluntary NGO takes over the role of the coordinator and ensures the interaction of all other respective "partners" involved.
Within its preparation and implementation, there is a combination of non formal and informal learning tools.
In every workcamp there are 2 trained campleaders and 1 coordinator who are responsible for the smooth implementation of the project as well as for creating a bridge for the different parties, that is the group of international with local volunteers and the local community.


Citizens in Action: Old Prisons of Oropos Greece, The Old Prisons of Oropos that were used for political prisoners during the dictatorship in Greece, are used since 2004 as a centre for the implementation of workcamps in the wider area, covering a wide range of cultural and environmental issues. The Italian organization Legambiente, specializes environmental volunteering. In 2001, for example 400.000 volunteers from Italy cleaned selected beaches in a collective effort to fight the growing pollution of the Mediterranean Sea. Over the years many municipalities have taken over the daily responsibilities inspired by the organisation.

Citizens in Action is as an active member of the "Alliance of European Voluntary Service Organisations",which is an international network, organising workcamps worldwide by offering the possibility to approximately 25.000 volunteers to participate in one of its projects yearly. In order to raise the standards of their work, enrich the experiences of those involved and promote the role of volunteering the organisations of the Alliance of European Voluntary Service Organisations have created the "Alliance Quality Charter" which serves as a standard bench mark for all its organisations members.
This Quality Charter refers to the rights and responsibilities of all different parties involved and guarantees a standard quality level.