Since January this year, Mum and I have been hosting WWOOFers at Anita’s Garden. WWOOF is an international organisation which operates in many countries around the world. It stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms. The concept is relatively simple. Travellers, both foreigners and nationals, are provided with accommodation and meals by hosts in exchange for 4-6 hours of assistance outdoors each day. The work undertaken by travellers is voluntary in nature. The idea is for hosts to teach wwoofers about organic principles and sustainable living. The organisation also promotes the concept of a cultural exchange, whereby hosts and volunteers can learn from one another on a variety of levels.
As many of you will know, we do not live on a farm, but rather an urban property in Auckland. Prior to joining WWOOF New Zealand (http://www.wwoof.co.nz/), I enquired whether owners of urban properties qualified to become hosts so long as they were committed to producing food in accordance with organic principles. Fortunately for us, WWOOF NZ was extremely supportive of the concept of an organic urban homestead and encouraged us to register as hosts. With section sizes decreasing globally, the organisation felt that it would be good for volunteers to see how a large quantity of food could be produced in a relatively small space.
Since joining WWOOF, we have hosted seven sets of wwoofers from the following countries: France, the United States of America, Germany, the Netherlands and Canada. For the next two months, we will be welcoming two further French pairs and also two individual travellers from Slovakia. So far, we have been very impressed by the way the scheme operates and by the calibre of the volunteers who have stayed with us. Each wwoofer, in his or her own way, has contributed tremendously to the development of Anita’s Garden and left a lasting imprint on our lives. We really enjoy working together as a team and find that we can accomplish so much more than if we worked on our own. We also have a lot more fun in Anita’s Garden! Both mum and I take our responsibility as educators very seriously. We do our best to ensure that wwoofers leave Anita’s Garden having learnt a lot about gardening and acquired new skills. As wwoofers have often spent time volunteering at other properties in New Zealand, we have found that we have also learned a lot from wwoofers and their own experiences. Wwoofers have continually reminded us that we should feel very grateful for the fact that we can grow edibles year round, which is not possible during the more temperate winters in Northern America and Europe for the most part. For this reason, quite a few wwoofers were in awe of our lemon tree, which we found amusing as it is a pretty standard feature in most New Zealand gardens. We all love gathering around the table for lunch and dinner each day, which are both prepared by mum and draw upon as much fresh produce from Anita’s Garden as possible. We have had some very interesting conversations with wwoofers during our meals, as well as lots of laughter. Back in February, we were even spoiled by a couple from the United States who cooked for us, making homemade sushi twice and also a delicious Thai curry.
About a month ago, we registered as hosts with a similar organisation called HelpX (http://www.helpx.net/index.asp). The main difference between WWOOF and HelpX is that the former focuses on the production of organic food and the involvement of wwoofers in those activities, whereas the assistance provided by volunteers through HelpX can be more general in nature. As mentioned above, two French pairs will be staying with us after we return home from our holiday tomorrow. These volunteers were booked through HelpX. Through these experiences, it will be interesting to compare and contrast the two organisations. In particular, I am curious as to whether there are any differences in expectations on both the part of both hosts and volunteers.
If any of you have been either a volunteer or host via WWOOF or HelpX, I would be most interested to hear from you. In which country did you either volunteer or host a volunteer? What was your experience like?