Volunteers for Peace is an organization that connects American citizens with international non-profits that invite volunteers to travel to exotic locations to give their time. My first experience with VFP took me to Antwerp, Belgium where I joined a group of international volunteers to spend a summer rebuilding a school.
As volunteers, we were provided with housing and meals. We stayed in the school building, which is pictured above. The school building had a kitchen in it which was where we took shifts cooking group meals. We all slept in sleeping bags on the floor in one of better maintained classrooms.
As the school was located only fifteen minutes away from the center, we got to spend weekends exploring the heart of Antwerp. We sampled chocolates, ate Belgium waffles and admired the diamonds (Antwerp in the world’s diamond capitol).
Although we had a lot of fun, we had to work 8 hours almost every day. We had a few tasks to complete over the course of the summer which included building and polishing new desks and tables, cleaning the entire second floor of the school, and most importantly, preparing the ground for the new building. Over the course of our time in Antwerp, we removed over 10 feet of dirt and leveled the ground for the new building. Above you can see Andy and Shiori working.
For our last weekend in Belgium, the local community raised enough money to send us to see Bruges (Yes, the place from the movie In Bruges). The town is incredibly beautiful. Our weekend included a canal tour and a medieval times festival.
Besides providing the opportunity to travel, Volunteers for Peace brings people from every corner of the globe to live and work together. The highlight of my time in Antwerp was meeting the other volunteers and making friends from other countries. That summer our group included myself (an American), two girls from Japan, one German, one Serbian, a Croatian, and two volunteers from the Czech Republic.
I had a fantastic experience with Volunteers for Peace that summer in Belgium. In fact, I have now participated in three work camps through VFP. Unlike some volunteer experiences I have had, I do feel like I made a significant difference for the children living near the school in Antwerp. I had the opportunity to live in a different country and meet people from all over the world. I’d recommend the experience for anybody.