Co-ordinators of European WWOOF groups gathered in Skibbereen, County Cork, Ireland from 19-22 May for Euro-focused discussions and the exchange of ideas. These meetings take place every three years and this one included a very successful press launch for the LLOOF project.
WWOOF UK was well represented as Scarlett Penn, our Co-ordinator and Chief Executive was there in her UK role but also in her role as Chair of the global FoWO (Federation of WWOOF Organisations). Alex Lee, WWOOF director with special interest in IT, attended as did Nim Kibbler, a WWOOF UK director who has been closely involved in the LLOOF project, and Amanda Pearson, our Volunteer Liaison, who was officially wearing her FoWO International Development Officer hat. And last but not least there was Adam Cade, UK Fundraiser extraordinaire, who has made the entire LLOOF project possible through his successful Erasmus+ funding bid. Here are a few of their impressions from the meeting.
Scarlett: I always love our international gatherings. There’s nothing better than spending time with colleagues to guarantee a few days of fun, initiate cross-border co-operations and boost our cause globally. That said, WWOOFy people tend to be a passionate, expressive, free-thinking bunch, and fairly regularly, the business part of the meeting can involve deep debate and disagreement. I had begun to worry we (worldwide) were expending too much energy examining each other and our minute differences, rather than concentrating on the important job of showcasing and supporting a more organic and ecological way of life. In Ireland though, I felt a shift. There was a lot of talk about the relatively recently formed Federation of WWOOF Organisations (FoWO), created to ‘unite, promote, protect and support the WWOOF movement around the world’. Every country present was a member of the Federation and so, naturally, there was a lot of curiosity about FoWO’s birthing pains and its achievements to date. Slowly, though, the emphasis changed from cautious uncertainty, through interest, understanding, appreciation, to ‘how can I be part of the FoWO future?’ My reflection in the closing circle was a feeling we now had something other than our values to draw us all together, to unite us, for the first time in WWOOF’s 45 year history, and I left County Cork energised to a wonderful WWOOFy high. That, of course, was all before Brexit…
Alex: I attended the meeting in Ireland to discuss LLOOF, the WWOOF learning project that the UK and other European partners have been working on together. I spent a day in Cork before the meeting having a look around the place, and discovering how beautiful it is. On the Sunday I arrived in Russagh Mill Youth Hostel in Skibereen. I have been involved in the IT sub-group for the LLOOF project since December 2015 because of my past
experience managing large e-learning sites, but this was the first time I had met the other European partners. Having built and planned the Moodle e-learning site as part of this sub-group, it was great to finally meet people face to face. The first day of the meeting was the press day, and we all went to hear a presentation about the project. There were demos of some great video tutorials that were being produced. But the best part was hearing how excited ‘external’ people were about the project. Lord David Puttnam (director of Chariots of Fire among other major films) had recorded a video, saying how amazing LLOOF was, and it seemed suddenly so much more real. The following day, we had a very productive meeting; we covered video production, content of courses, schedules and how to structure the site. It was really important doing this face to face so I could get to know the characters and build relationships across Europe to make the WWOOF community stronger.
Amanda: Every three years these international meetings enable us to keep in touch with our peers and share knowledge and experiences for the greater good of the worldwide WWOOF movement. We are, of course, in contact between meetings, but nothing quite compares with chatting with someone face to face…over breakfast, lunch and dinner! As well as business meetings we were treated to several excursions to experience the joys of County Cork – including a host who has created a sculpture park in his woodland that focuses the mind on sustainability issues (www.theewe.com) – and a barbeque at the home, and headquarters, of WWOOF Ireland’s Co-ordinator, Annie King. Sue Coppard, founder of WWOOF, was able to join us, which was, as always, a treat. In addition it was lovely to meet WWOOFers from around the world who had received special invitations to attend and support the meeting in various ways. A truly family affair.