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Help Exchange

Gierle (Lille)
All Year: No
Area (ha): 0,37
Persons: 6
Category: Other
Host ID: 58912
Country: Belgium

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Last Updated: March 3, 2019

Contact us at least two weeks in advance. No stays possible for July 10 thru 22nd (except for permanent volunteers).
Take the opportunity, this may be the last year for volunteering here!

* * * * * * * *

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. 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. There is no max. duration for stays, as long as it feels good to all. You may grow into a more responsible position.

No alcohol, drugs or weapons allowed at The Oak. So PLEASE be respectful to the place and DO NOT APPLY when you cannot be without alcohol or drugs during your stay!
Smoking only in the Smokers' Space.

PLEASE only apply when you recognize yourself in this description:
- you're responsible and empathic
- you're communicative and have a sufficient level of English
- you have a feeling of TAKING CARE of stuff: keeping things and the area TIDY an CLEAN. This is very important, so if that is naturally a must for you, The Oak is your place to be! :-)
If, on the other hand, you're rather nonchalant and careless, then you'd better look for a place that doesn't need you to take care so much
- you are aware of living in a more ecological and mindful way, or want to start doing so: avoid (plastic) waste, stop wasting good food, water and electricity, be mindful of all life that is surrounding you, etc.
- you love working in the finishing phase of the building - which means you'll need to do a lot of challenging cleaning jobs (especially cleaning lime from the wood, a very daring job!) and wood protecting stuff
- you love cooking and/or helping to keep the kitchen clean

Anyone who fits this profile, who is a bit handy and wants to be part of manifesting this (already) healing project is very welcome!

Always wanted:
– cooks for the volunteers- 3 - 8 people, responsible for the kitchen (VERY needed!!). You don’t have to be a very skilled cook, as long as you are okay with cooking creatively with very basic ingredients. Keeping the kitchen clean at all times is part of the job. THE KITCHEN IS THE HEART OF LIFE at this project, so don't think small of it. And enjoy the natural setting!
– (ecological) builders and people with carpentry skills. However, anyone who wants to be part of manifesting this (already) healing project and is a bit handy, is very welcome!
– volunteers for odd jobs, such as gathering fire wood for the central Fireplace, picking up trash that is on the site, cleaning the bathroom and the Lazy Lounge (very easy and quick, since it’s outside :-)), etc.
– help sawing and chopping wood for the woodstove in the winter period.
– long term or permanent volunteers (April-October), who help coordinate the work on the site, and take care of newly arrived volunteers. To find the job description for that function, go to our website > English > Volunteers, and then apply on the HelpX platform!

I'm building a hobbit like, ecological round small weekend house (mainly wood and hempcrete). The map doesn't really show the right location.

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 official website

When finished, this place 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, we may provide a harmonizing space for e.g. mini-workshops and other small-scale events with themes that match (RE-)CONNECTION through Rest, Nature, Healing and Creativity.

This is a 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 a lot of houselike accomodation. Instead, I offer you a one of a kind, warm, connected exchange and experience with people from all over the world.
When you come to The Oak there may be a bunch of other volunteers (although this year I'm limiting the maximum number to 6 at a time), OR you could be there working alone with me or one more volunteer.

Even though it is almost finished, accommodation is still quite back-to-basics and natural, almost like camping in the wild: a tent - your own or mine - in the forest (as long as the outdoor temperature allows) or your own camper van near the path.
There is one small and simple indoor bedroom at the back side of the site hut, good for one or two people.
Two people can sleep on the mezzanine in Robur.
In October 2017 we built Querculus, a partly insulated garden shed, with space for one to four people.
Bringing your own sleeping bag is very helpful, but not mandatory.

The Oak has an outdoor kitchen and outdoor bathroom (with buckets to shower hot or cold), and since November 2018 also a real outdoor shower (that has to be finished yet) with hot water.
A heavenly Lazy Lounge will provide you of nice relaxing moments, on your own or with other volunteers.
And of course, the heart of The Oak is the central Fireplace next to the kitchen, where volunteers can gather every evening, for the meals and in their free time.
There is potable water from a well (143 m deep) and green electricity from the grid.

We have some (old) bicycles that can be used for short distances.
You can also use a bus card that almost halves the regular price on the bus.

Internet only available of your own (3/4/5G, a SIM card with internet only (e.g. Orange), etc.), or wifi to be found in a nearby restaurant/pub 'Hestia' (at 1,5km) and in the two villages (at 4-5km).
If you need your own internet, make sure you have it before arriving at The Oak!
If you only need internet to be able to buy tickets for your next trip, you are welcome to ask me and we'll do it together on my laptop.

You can do your laundry manually for free, or have it done in the washing machine for a small contribution (the real cost of the amount of laundry that you want to have washed: between €0,10 for one piece, and €2,50 for a full machine).

There are a lot of hiking and biking opportunities with a nature reserve on walking distance; also on walking distance are a camping site with a huge natural swimming pool (day entrance €5,-), a horse riding centre, a country golf club and a waterski club (just in case :-)).
Fairly cheap public transportation (bus) to the cities of Antwerp and Turnhout after half an hour walking to the nearest bus stop.

There's too much work for one almost elderly woman with physical limitations ;-), so there will always be happy with any help for the most needed jobs.
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.). Not showing up makes the work harder for those who did show up, may disrupt the follow-up job organisation, and another enthousiastic volunteer may have been declined because there was no space anymore.

You are invited to apply for any period available in the calendar.
Weatherwise April through September is the best period, but also later you'll be welcome. This place is heated, so you can always find a warm and dry place if the weather is bad!

Being able to smoothly communicate is really a must! At least intermediate knowledge of English is needed, because not being able to speak and understand English well enough creates a lot of misunderstandings and unintended frustration.
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.

1) If you can't bring your own WORKING CLOTHES, there is a limited choice of clothes at The Oak. In case you need them: safety gloves, dust masks, safety glasses and ear plugs are available.
2) What personal CLOTHES to bring? 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. It is now heated, and people can sleep there.
When you come in late spring, summer and early fall, make sure to bring a SWIMSUIT. You can swim outdoors in a lake at Camping De Lilse Bergen (day entrance € 5,-) at only 10 minutes' walk.
Also bring some outdoor shoes that are easy to put on and off: Querculus is shoe-free and so is my van.
3) In spring and summer, bring MOSQUITO PROTECTION! And when you are allergic to mosquito bites, also bring your own medication. There are not so many mosquitos all the time, but sometimes it's like an invasion (during a hot and wet 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 (or use one of the available bicycles).
5) Staying here 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 this pace and keep feeding my volunteers. 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!

This 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!

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