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help exchange   Host 58912
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Help Exchange

Gierle (Lille)
All Year: Yes (less in winter)
Area (ha): 0,37
Persons: indefinite
Category: Other
Host ID: 58912
Country: Belgium

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Last Updated: September 15, 2018


Come live and work in back-to-basics paradise for a while!
This is a healing and inspiring place that is already serving by bringing people together in a most harmonizing way. All people that have been here, go back home a more connected person. When you are volunteering at The Oak, you become part of a small-scale project with a great impact.

Staying for at least two weeks helps to get familiar with the work that needs to be done, although shorter stays are welcomed as well. (There is no max. duration for stays, as long as it feels good to all.)
Wanted from APRIL on: cooks responsible for the kitchen; (ecological) builders and people with carpenting skills. However, anyone who is a bit handy and wants to be part of manifesting this (already) healing project is very welcome!

I`m building a hobbitlike, ecological round small weekend house (mainly wood and hempcrete), called Robur at The Oak. The map doesn`t really show the right location; best is to type and find "Robur op Den Eik" in Google Maps.

Since February 2017 the project is officially a nonprofit organisation, and a year later it`s been accepted by the Belgian King Baudouin Foundation as a reliable `good cause`, to be found on the website

When ready, Robur will host burnt-out people, or people who need a break from their personal hectic life to prevent burn-out. Another possible use is a short stay (max. 3 months) for artists (e.g. writers) to be able to focus on their project ("artist in residence"). When not occupied, Robur may provide a harmonizing space for e.g. mini-workshops and other small-scale events with themes that match CONNECTION through Rest, Nature, Healing and Creativity. There is a Facebook group with photos and videos depicting the evolution: "Robur op Den Eik / Robur at The Oak" (send me a PM saying that you`re a volunteer with HelpX and I`ll accept you as a member). The website is in English as well, choose the first option in the menu on the homepage!

Be welcome to become a Roburger! :-)

This is a very back-to-basics project. I myself have been living as a nomad in a van for about 14 years now, meaning that I don`t have houselike accomodation to offer. Instead, I offer you a one of a kind, warm, connected exchange and experience.
When you come to The Oak there may be a bunch of other volunteers, OR you could be there working alone with me or one more volunteer.

Until Robur is almost finished, accomodation will be very back-to-basics and natural, almost like camping in the wild: your own tent in the forest (real mattress available, though!) or your own camper van near the path; there are two small tents available of my own. Also, there is one small and simple indoor bedroom at the back side of the site hut, good for two people. Two more people can sleep on the mezzanine in Robur, and there is also a provisory bedroom there. In October 2017 we built Querculus, a partly insulated garden shed, with space for three people (there is one double bed). Yet if you bring your own tent you ALWAYS have a (private) place to sleep at The Oak and there will ALWAYS be space for you to stay.
Bringing your own sleeping bag is very helpful, but not necessary.

The Oak has an outdoor kitchen and outdoor bathroom (with buckets to shower), but also a heavenly Lazy Lounge. :-) And of course, the heart of The Oak is the central Fireplace next to the kitchen, where volunteers can gather every evening and for the meals.
There is potable water from a well (143 m deep) and green electricity from the grid.
‘Real’ hot showers possible:
- at ca. 30 mins. walk, Beerse swimming pool and sports centre, see opening hours at The Oak (€ 4,20 for a swim)
- at ca. 10 mins. walk, in Camping De Lilse Bergen, fee: day entrance (€ 5) + € 1 or 2 for the shower.
Also, bicycles can be rented there from 9 a.m. till 8 p.m. for € 8.

Internet available from your own (4G, SIM card with internet only etc.), or wifi to be found in the nearby village. If you need your own internet, make sure you have it before arriving at The Oak! Unfortunately I can`t turn my laptop into a mobile hotspot anymore... An opportunity to discover Life Here and Now with the living people and nature around you?
Wifi will probably be limited available at The Oak from September 3 on.

IMPORTANT NOTE: No alcohol, drugs or weapons allowed. Smoking only in the Smokers` Space.

Robur at The Oak will always be happy with any help whenever I am there. There`s too much work for one almost elderly woman with a bad back! ;-)
JUST ONE REQUEST: to help voluntarily doesn`t mean to help without any commitment... As soon as we`ve set dates, I actually count on your help for that period, as I will have organized everything (work, food, sleeping place etc.) and I may have declined another enthousiastic volunteer because of you.

You are invited to apply for any period. Weatherwise April through September is the best period, but also later you will be welcome.

To be able to smoothly communicate is really a must at The Oak! At least intermediate knowledge of English is needed, because not being able to speak English well enough, creates a lot of misunderstandings and unintended frustration. It`s exhausting for both you and me (and others around), and time and energy consuming...
So please apply in English, and DO NOT use a translator, so that I have an idea of your level of English. Being honest about this, really rewards! Thank you for your understanding!

Make sure you have your own health and travel insurance, or come at your own risk. Robur at The Oak only has the mandatory volunteer insurance.

1) when working with hempcrete, and especially if you have a sensitive or dry skin, make sure to bring WORKING CLOTHES THAT COVER YOUR ARMS AND LEGS. Even more important: if possible, bring your own tightly fitting thin COTTON (or any other breathing cloth) gloves to wear under the protecting gloves (that helps a lot!). Lime is natural, but when mixed with water it can cause burns. I`ll provide safety gloves, masks and safety glasses (which you can wear or not (at your own risk)), and a cream to prevent your skin of drying out too much.
2) If you would apply for the fall/early spring period, you should be aware of the WEATHER CONDITIONS. In Belgium fall, winter and early springtime are often wet and cold, and unpredictable. It may freeze or it may not freeze at all. The sun may shine a lot (still cold, though), or not. Combined with the daring accomodation circumstances (which are evolving!) your fall or early spring stay could be a challenging experience! ;-) Ask me about that, when applying for that period. In the fall of 2018 Robur`s walls should be fully closed and heated (with your help! :-)), so we will probably continue until almost the end of the year, and people can sleep there.
When you come in summer, make sure to bring a swimsuit, you can swim outdoors in a lake in Camping De Lilse Bergen (day entrance 5 euros) at only 15 minutes walk.
3) Bring MOSQUITO PROTECTION! And when you are allergic to mosquito bites, also bring your own medicine! There are not so many mosquitos all the time, but sometimes it`s like an invasion (during a hot period).
4) Bring some CASH euros or at least test your bank card at an ATM in Belgium before coming to The Oak to see whether it`s accepted. Also, there is no ATM or shops in the direct surroundings of The Oak, you`ll have to walk about 45 minutes to an hour to find them.
5) Staying at The Oak while you are contributing by helping out with whatever needs to be done in that moment does NOT cost anything - unless you want to offer a free donation, since I have no real income and not enough money left to finish Robur and keep feeding my volunteers. I`m actually doing a fundraising/crowdfunding campaign on the website, so EVERY donation, even a small one, is very much welcomed. But I would never ever ask for a mandatory amount of money if people already give the best of themselves to make this beautiful project happen!

Anyway, Robur at The Oak is a project for and by many people. It wants to reconnect in many ways, so you are gratefully welcomed to help realise this beautiful project!
And when you leave, please consider spreading the crowdfunding campaign (website) in your own network, accompanied with a personal message! If 1,000 people donate 5 euros, there is already 5,000 euros available for the project...

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