▲ UNESCO volunteers at the Hyodoncheon Valley, Seogwipo City. Photo by James Hill
An Englishman, a Korean girl and a Russian girl were climbing up a river valley. It may sound like the setup for an awful joke, but it was actually the annual UNESCO Work Camp, organised by the Korean National Commission on Wednesday, Aug. 14.
This year’s camp, the 48th, brought 13 international participants from seven countries: Spain, Italy, Russia, Turkey, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Indonesia. In addition to the international guests, the camp hosted six Korean students who had organised the whole camp themselves.
The theme was ‘sustainable devel-opment’, and the focus for our day was tourism in the Yeongcheon and Hyodon-cheon valleys, where Donnaeko is found, internationally important habitats recognized by UNESCO.
The main English liaison for the camp, Jackie, a summer intern from the Wash-ington University in St. Louis in the USA, was a lead organiser. She wanted to do something productive while visiting her family in Korea. Being passionate about sustainability and environmentalism, the UNESCO Work Camp was a snug fit.
She tells me that the Korean leaders had it the toughest, organizing every minute detail: “From the small things like when the buses leave...to misunder-standings among campers due to cultural differences.” The days also had to be activity-packed and participants had to be supervised, she said.
When we arrive in the morning, we are put in pairs or small groups with a participant from the camp, who will be our bright blue-shirted twin for the day. I am paired with a small, slender, auburn-haired Russian girl named Tosha.
Tosha and the group had been on Jeju for a week prior to our trek, finding their feet and exploring the area. Our task for the day was to hike up the valley from the 5.16 road up to the Wonang Falls, where the famous swimming pool lies.
As well as a trek, our partners act as tour guides, and are on the lookout for carelessly discarded rubbish to collect. As we start picking our way along the riverbed and over the great rocks that litter it, there is a subdued atmosphere as people get to know their partners. This quickly eases to jovial babbling as everyone quickly gets along.
The whole trip had a very “outward-bound” feel to it, complete with team games at lunchtime. After reaching the falls and having a good long swim in the arctic waters there, we finish up with a galbi-style barbeque. It was a great day, and a wonderful introduction to a valu-able project.
“Even though we have faced some difficulties during the program, I cannot deny that I am very lucky and privileged to be a leader of the workcamp,” Jackie tells me. “Not only is it rewarding and fun to meet new friends and do something meaningful with them, but also I have the time to learn more about myself and about leadership.”
“After two months of planning, to see the participants having fun and enjoying their stay on Jeju is very rewarding and assured us that our hard work this summer was worth it. Meeting new friends, having fun, and doing something meaningful and awesome with them were the best part of this workcamp.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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