ISSUE 01 SUMMER 2021
Finding magic in and around Reykajvík
Observing a SEEDS camp and getting to know the leaders
THE FORMER VOLUNTEER WHO ALWAYS HAS A GAME UP HIS SLEEVE
A MELTING POT OF
How hearing and speaking different languages shapes the mind
SEEDS' Projects & Activities
SEEDS Iceland was founded in 2005 as a non-governmental, non-profit volunteer organisation with international scope. Our main activities relate to the promotion of environmental protection and awareness, intercultural understanding and peace, through voluntary work on social, cultural and environmental projects in Iceland. We aim to empower, inform and expand the horizons of people of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds, to inform and share with them about the world in which we live and to take an active role in its future development.
SEEDS works closely with local communities, local authorities and other Icelandic associations both to develop projects jointly, aimed at fulfilling an identified need, and to give vital assistance to established initiatives. Projects are designed to be mutually beneficial to all involved: the volunteers and participants, the local hosting communities and Iceland as a whole.
SEEDS brings together volunteers and hosts from different nationalities and backgrounds, aiming at building up intercultural understanding and encouraging peace, while working for an identified need within a community. SEEDS enables the participants and volunteers to get to know Iceland from a different perspective, to meet the locals and have an insight into Icelandic culture, learn new skills, gain intercultural understanding, make new friends all over the world, and give something back to the environment.
SEEDS provides opportunities to live, learn, understand and experience while sharing and cooperating with others from different cultures and backgrounds.
Activities developed by SEEDS include voluntary service, international learning camps and exchanges, internships and lifelong learning programmes, awarenessraising initiatives and campaigns, seminars and training sessions, and cultural, artistic and educational exhibitions.
Through the Environmentally Aware programme, SEEDS shares environmental messages with the international and local participants in their projects.
SEEDS Iceland @seedsiceland Funding and Support SEEDS is funded by contributions from volunteers and participants in the projects and the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Commission. Support comes from the engagement of our long-term volunteers and interns. Additional non-financial contributions in kind from the local hosts of the projects. SEEDS is a member of the Icelandic National Youth Council (LÆF), the Icelandic Environment Association (LANDVERND), the Senior European Volunteers Exchange Network (SEVEN) and works actively as a partner organisation of the Alliance of European Voluntary Service Organisations (The Alliance) and Service Civil International (SCI).
EDITOR/LAYOUT/DESIGN Inna Hallik PROOFREADING Clare Nedin COVER PHOTOS Helena Teixeira
Interview with Filipa Gomes
A volunteer's reflection
15 Years of SEEDS: Interview with Oscar Uscategui
How language shapes the way
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE CHAIRMAN OF SEEDS P. 14
we think and perceive the world
The new excursion
SEEDS camp in April
Sneaky roads of Iceland
Columns by volunteers
WHAT IT'S LIKE TO LEAD A SEEDS CAMP P. 24
SEEDLING is the official SEEDS magazine.
SEEDLING SUMMER 2021
Winter is going
humans transform and grow as we move from one stage of life to another. For the aforementioned reasons and inspired by the “A Song of Ice and Fire” books, I chose as the theme of this issue “Winter is going.” However, I think winter means something more than just the season. Sometimes it can be a state of mind, sometimes a state of spirit, sometimes a state of hibernation and isolation. In some way, the last year in its entirety could be considered winter. Now, with all the vaccinations, it seems like summer is just around the corner, waiting to make its lively appearance, perhaps. That winter, however, is what brought me, and I think many other volunteers, here. It wasn’t my plan, I am not a fan of the cold, and I knew nothing about the European Solidarity Corps projects, yet I feel this is an experience I needed. Despite arriving here in winter, in some sense, that is when summer began for me. Creating this magazine has been one of the most exciting things I have done in the past year and I am really excited that so many people made a contribution either by writing an article, submitting photos, answering interview questions, or offering moral support. I am also really grateful for Clare who was my second pair of proofreading eyes. This issue will feature shorter and longer stories about the organization, volunteering, traveling, the people who are or were part of SEEDS, and culture. It gives some insight into what it means to be a volunteer, what it’s like to travel and live in Iceland, especially during winter, what it means to live in a culturally diverse environment, and who the people are who work or volunteer at SEEDS. I think volunteering is a transformational experience for many, if not all of us, and these articles are snapshots of that. Finally, no matter where you are in your life or what transition you are going through, I know you’ve got this, and I wish you a happy summer!
SEEDLING SUMMER 2021
A few months before I arrived in Iceland, before I even knew that I would be going to Iceland, I finished the fifth and latest edition in George R. R. Martin’s heptalogy “A Song of Ice and Fire.” If there is one sentence ingrained in people’s minds from the books and the corresponding TV show “Game of Thrones,” it is “Winter is coming.” I flew to Iceland, the land of… I don’t think I need to actually say it, everyone knows it, right in the middle of winter on January 11. That is when I started my 8-month European Solidarity Corps (ESC) volunteer service as a photojournalist for SEEDS. I had graduated from a U.S. college back in May and was living in Concord, California, but in late fall I started contemplating moving back to Europe (I’m originally from Estonia), not really knowing where. I was open to anything and when this opportunity in Iceland arose, I was ready to depart immediately. In fact, I was excited to swap the gray, uneventful Californian winter for some snow and cold that makes your cheeks rosy—I had forgotten that the cold could also sting—and looked forward to experiencing Iceland in different seasons, witnessing the wonders of winter and discovering the surprises of summer. One of my tasks as the photojournalist was to create this magazine. When I started thinking about what I wanted it to represent, I was drawn to the notion of transition and the passage of time, how long nights turn into long days, how winter goes and summer comes, and, perhaps, on a more metaphysical level, how we as
Clare’s chatter We are now heading towards summer, I have just begun the fourth decade of my journey through life and our first official SEEDS magazine, expertly put together by our editor Inna, has come to fruition. Along with that, comes a bit of chatter from me, so let me introduce myself. My name is Clare and my part in the SEEDS family is as a mentor and office volunteer providing plenty of support and guidance where I can to my fellow volunteers – however I am no ordinary SEEDS volunteer. Originally from South Wales in the UK, I relocated to Iceland two years ago to move in with my Icelandic partner. New opportunities and new beginnings were just around the corner for me and after about six months of finding my feet and working at a local hotel, I was excited to see what would happen next, but no one could have predicted what did happen next – COVID-19. Like so many others, the pandemic affected me in various ways, but I am so grateful to have remained healthy with a roof over my head and supportive family and friends throughout. My background is in marketing in the leisure and tourism industry. At the start of the pandemic, jobs in tourism in Iceland were like gold dust, many people were affected and unemployment was at a high. Hard times indeed but this was when I found SEEDS. After being welcomed with open arms, I felt I could use my expertise and copy writing skills to support the Project Managers and the rest of the team as well as bring a bit of Welsh humour to the office. Put it this way, the guys know when I’m in the office! For me, volunteering gives me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction knowing I have helped someone else. Living, or even visiting a foreign country for a long period of time, can be hard at times no matter what your age and doing this in the middle of a pandemic makes things even more challenging.
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For that reason, I take my hat off to all the SEEDS volunteers, both short and long-term, for trying something new, wanting to make a difference and helping local communities in a strange land. However, Iceland is never strange for long and is a very friendly, accommodating place to live with so many adventures waiting to be explored. Why am I talking about this? Well, I wanted to give you an insight into the reason I am part of the SEEDS family but to also give a different view on volunteering. I am not a participant in a SEEDS camp or a camp leader, but I am part of the team and help to make a difference. So much goes on ‘behind the scenes’ to bring you the wonderful camps and projects SEEDS offers. With such a small team, no two days are the same and there is always something to think about and I am proud to be part of that process. If you have ever wanted to try something new, do a bit of volunteering or give something back to the local community, I highly recommend you get out there and do it!
Clare Nedin Bis
From long-term volunteer to project manager
An interview with Filipa Gomes Interviewed by Annie Heine
Filipa Gomes, former project manager at SEEDS Iceland, was the one to welcome me and all the other European Voluntary Service (EVS) and European Solidarity Corps (ESC) volunteers in the past two years and introduce them to Iceland and their tasks at the NGO.
AH: Hæ, Filipa. Unfortunately, you are leaving SEEDS Iceland at the end of April 2021. Tell us a little bit about your background and studies! FG: I started my academic path in health care, visual sciences, and worked as an optometrist for four years. However, it was far from my passion as I was always very keen on learning about nature and sustainable solutions. I decided to quit my job and volunteer in South America for six months in permaculture and bio building projects. When I went
back to Portugal, I decided to do a master’s degree in Ecotourism as it focused more on the three dimensions of sustainable development. That led me to Borneo, where I did my internship, developing environmental education programs for the mountain communities in Kiulu. Filipa at the SEEDS office. Photo by Inna Hallik. Once again, I returned to Portugal. I decided to work as a September 2018, and right at the end mountain guide in the Peneda-Gerês of my service the opportunity came National Park where I am from, for me to continue working with focusing on bringing awareness to SEEDS—this time as a project mantourists and organizing interpreta- ager. tive walks and tours. At the moment, I am pursuing furAt the last moment, when I was ther studies in the environmental about to become 30, max. age to join field at the University of Iceland and youth projects, SEEDS popped up gaining some new professional skills in my email through a Portuguese in the area. NGO’s newsletter with a volunteerAH: When did you start working ing opportunity under the European as a project manager and EVS coorVoluntary Service program. I dinator at SEEDS? Can you tell us a decided to apply as I felt it came at bit more about what you do and what the right moment to do it and I was your main tasks are? eager to try again living in a different FG: I started working in March country. Luckily, I was selected. I vol- 2019, a bit over two years ago. My unteered as an environmental camp main task was to coordinate the leader for five months, starting from Erasmus+ and European Solidarity
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She was in contact with us before our arrival in Iceland and answered patiently all our important and not so important questions that were on our minds before leaving for this adventure. Since she has been a volunteer here as well, she was able to put herself in our shoes and listen to our concerns and problems, always ready with a solution. April 20 was her last day at work and we were all sad to say our goodbyes. I interviewed her before she left to find out more about her and commemorate her time with SEEDS Iceland.
Corps projects. This included among other tasks applying for projects, reporting, managing the mobilities and grant distribution, selecting candidates, training, mentoring, organizing activities and scheduling, and communicating with partners. AH: How was your experience as a volunteer? Which memory will you keep forever from your volunteering experience? FG: It was pretty relaxed and cozy, as I came during the winter time. My strongest memory is of course the people I met and shared the house with. It was also rewarding to feel I managed to raise some environmental awareness and inspire people to change daily habits or see natural resources in a different way. AH: Which was your favorite SEEDS work camp and why? FG: It was the NYE camp because the group was amazing and super fun. We still keep in touch nowadays. AH: How did being a volunteer beforehand help you once you started working for SEEDS? How exactly did you go from being a volunteer to an employee? FG: Timing was my main advantage—to be at the right place at the right time. It helped me get the job, the fact that I was an insider already and knew how the organization worked. Plus, I had the field experience as a volunteer myself, which was very important to be able to coordinate the volunteers after that and put myself in their shoes. AH: Why did you decide to come to Iceland in the first place and why did you finally stay here? FG: I decided to come because I wanted to volunteer with SEEDS and I only stayed because of the job opportunity. I was planning to go to New Zealand next before I heard about the job vacancy. AH: What’s your favorite thing
SEEDLING SUMMER 2021
about Iceland and what is the weirdest? FG: My favorite thing is the peace and quiet—the small population. The weirdest is the language. AH: How do you get along with the Icelanders? FG: I find Icelanders very kind and relaxed, although it is not very easy to get in the society if you don’t speak the language (as in every country, I guess). I have been in Iceland for almost three years and I have an Icelandic boyfriend, so that must mean something good. AH: What are your recommendations for meeting and getting to know local people? FG: Go to places, mingle, attend events, network and talk to people.
You keep encountering the same people on the streets and places, so one must be very thoughtful about the relationship with others. They are usually very open if you go and talk to them. AH: Everyone keeps saying that Iceland is so small and you always meet someone you know when you go somewhere. Has it ever caused any funny or awkward situations? FG: I had that feeling shortly after I arrived. I felt I lived in a very small community, even though it was the capital city. You keep encountering the same people on the streets and places, so one must be very thoughtful about the relationship with others. AH: What is your favorite place in
Reykjavík? And your favorite place in Iceland? FG: The parks. I always look out for the greener areas. I haven’t been everywhere in Iceland, but the highlands are pretty spectacular. AH: We all know Iceland is expensive. However, what is something in Iceland that is worth spending all your money on? FG: Definitely try out the swimming pools for a real local experience (and not so expensive). AH: During your position as an EVS coordinator you met so many volunteers from all around the world. Was it sometimes difficult? FG: Yes, probably the hardest part of the job is to have to constantly say goodbye to people after months of bonding and close contact. AH: Are there volunteers you have stayed in touch with even after they left? FG: Yes, many. Especially the ones I volunteered with. AH: What kind of people do you think do well as SEEDS volunteers? FG: Pro-active, motivated and independent. AH: What advice can you give to the current (and future) volunteers at SEEDS? FG: Have fun and share your feelings. “Þetta reddast.” AH: Thank you, Filipa, for welcoming us in Iceland and for always listening and being here for us. Good luck for your future and we hope to see you around! FG: Thank you, Annie!
Most mesmerizing experience... Maybe
Text and photos by Marelle Reis ISSUE 01
For the past few weeks I’ve been trying to figure out my most favorite and most precious memory from the time I’ve spent in Iceland. Over the past 10 months that I’ve been here, I have, no doubt, had the most breathtaking experiences of my life so far. I’ve had the chance to walk on a glacier on a sunny summer day in just a T-shirt; see the amazing Westfjords in autumn when the colors are even more stunning; experience the craziest and scariest weather; stand on top of many mountains while taking in the beauty of everything around me and my friends; visit countless waterfalls and enjoy the most beautiful and dramatic sunsets. I’ve also had a variety of experiences
SEEDLING SUMMER 2021
with volcanos: I’ve gone into lava caves, been inside and on top of an actual volcano and I’ve stood next to a fresh, hot newborn volcano with the lava still flowing slowly just two meters away from me...
But even after going through all of these memories, there is always one that I connect to in the deepest way. That is the memory of my first camp—a pilot camp— after arriving in the summer of 2020. That is when I first experienced the strong, emotional feelings in this country and maybe that’s the reason it has stuck with me the most. The camp took place in the western part of Iceland in Húsafell. We stayed there for almost two weeks. For me the main purpose of the camp, as a newbie, was to learn how to be a camp leader. Since it was an outdoor camp, we had a host who gave us tasks. We worked in two different places—one of them was our accommodation and the other was an artist’s home on the other side of the town. We helped cut the grass and mow the lawn and built a small field of lava rocks in front of a church with the help of a lava rock master. We heard funny and some odd stories from our host,
met his friends—vikings—and had dinner together while one of his friends sang opera for us. We played football at one o’clock in the morning with the sun still above the horizon. On our days off, our host drove us around the area so we could see the amazing landscape and nature. We went on a small hike to the top of a mountain called Tunga. To reach it, we had to walk through an Icelandic forest. Of course, we made the joke about “What do you do when you get lost in an Icelandic forest? – Stand up.” However, in reality, you can get lost very easily as the trees were more like huge bushes and it was difficult to walk through them. We managed to find the right exit and soon enough we were on top of the mountain. And that’s when it happened: for the first time in my life, I had a strong emotional moment where I had literally no words to describe the feeling of seeing everything that surrounded us and feeling the energy of
the place. It’s like I wanted to start saying something to describe it but words couldn’t come out. I wanted to say it’s amazing, it’s breathtaking, it’s mesmerizing, but the words were not even nearly close to describing how deep the actual feeling was. I still get the same feeling when I think back to that moment. And it’s still indescribable, there are still no words that can explain it—for that
reason I chose to share this story. I really hope that everybody gets the chance to feel this kind of connection: looking at something, being somewhere, and feeling that there are no words to describe it, not in a cheesy way but for real. No matter how hard you try, no matter how good your vocabulary is, there is just nothing that could explain that feeling.
SEEDLING MAY 2021
Family Aid—a fight against hunger and food waste Written by Inna Hallik
signed up for support on that day. To learn more about Iceland Family Aid (IFA) and its role in Iceland, I decided to speak to its CEO Ásgerður Jóna Flosadóttir, who has been with the organization since the beginning. She and four other women, three of whom are now sadly deceased, founded the organization in 2003. I sat down with her in her office on March 30 and it became clear that learning more about IFA meant also learning more about her. Ásgerður, her hair styled into a blonde bob, lips colored red, and a leopard print scarf around her neck, is turning 67 in November. She was the youngest of the five and is now the only one still working there. When she answers questions, she is calm and straightforward, when she listens, she looks inquisitive and sharp, and when she moves about the building, she exudes confidence and composure. A businesswoman in a nonprofit world
Ásgerður did her BA in Political Science & Media and her MA in Business Administration. She worked for private organizations before joining the nonprofit sector and has been helping people for about 25 years. However, first and foremost she is an entrepreneur. Ásgerður started her first company, a fashion store, at the age of 18. The business grew and eventually she was managing around 60 employ-
ees. Her other experiences include working in the restaurant and wholesale businesses. Ásgerður began her move towards a career within the nonprofit sector when her political party asked her to do some volunteering. After that, having seen the reality of those in financial hardship and the amount of people living in poverty, especially among single parents and disabled people, she became more involved in helping people in need. She explains how rent can take up most of a disabled person’s income, leaving them little to no money for other expenses. When she was asked to join IFA it was a progression from the work she was already doing. Now, as the CEO, which she describes as a 24/7 job, she does the planning, handles the finances and donations, and manages the volunteers and communication. In addition to running Iceland Family Aid, she is also a deputy city councilor on the Reykjavík City Council and a member of the People's Party (Flokkur fólksins). The foundation of IFA
Apart from the CEO, the cashier and the bookkeeper, the workers at IFA are volunteers, a group of around 40-50 people. The organization depends on them. Ásgerður describes it as a big family, since people feel comfortable with each other, have meals together, and share a common purpose. Family
Food bags waiting to be distributed at Family Aid. 12
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Since November 2020, SEEDS has been working with the Iceland Family Aid (Fjölskyldahjálp) on its latest solidarity project which gives long-term volunteers the opportunity to work with the local community. The work involves assisting the organization’s regular volunteers by putting food packages together and distributing them to lowincome individuals and families. Up until May, SEEDS volunteers, usually in a group of four, went to the store and distribution center in Reykjavík at least twice a week. Shifts would start at around 10 o’clock, with a brief lunch break in the break room—a small dining room and kitchen—and the day would end at around four in the afternoon. The exact finishing time depended on how many packages needed to be assembled and how many families and individuals had
Aid also provides something for the is planning to change how they volunteers, most of whom are dis- distribute food and deal with food abled or retired and among them waste. seniors older than 70 years: a place Dealing with criticism where they can feel useful, needed, and appreciated. In addition, the Ásgerður has also faced a good volunteers are provided with lunch share of criticism regarding the way and, if they need, can take home she runs the organization. When the some of the food. organization distributed food past The running of IFA is supported its expiry date, it didn’t go down by donations from private compa- well with all the people. Ásgerður nies, the government, and city coun- explains she has been against food cil. While the volunteers are one part waste since the start and as the food of the foundation keeping the orga- was frozen, it was still good for connization up, donations are the other. sumption. When people needed to The organization’s expenses include stand in a line, some found it downrent and food for the people they grading—now people receive a text help, which can add up to 1,000,000 message with the date and time they Icelandic króna per month. should be there (and that they need Although a lot of the food is donated to keep a 2-meter distance). and is therefore free, it is not always Another, more recent controversy sufficient, which is why a lot of the surrounded her in December 2020. funding IFA gets goes to She was accused of purchasing food. When racism and xenoIn March, they need to buy food phobia by former Family Aid themselves, they choose volunteers and clithe cheapest products helped ents as reported by and avoid expensive 2,300-2,400 Reykjavík Grapevine. items such as cheese. One Supposedly, she was families, of the biggest food donaasking volunteers to tions IFA has received— which give less food to nonworth 47,000,000 ISK— amounts Icelanders, specifioccurred on November 1, cally Muslim women. to about 2020 from a big company However, every time with shares in multiple 6,000-6,600 I have volunteered at smaller food companies. individuals. Family Aid, everyOther types of compaone, regardless of nies can donate too. For example, in their origin or religious background, April, a Nordic information technol- has received the same type of food ogy company sent IFA Easter Eggs package. While the contents varied that their employees didn’t need. depending on what was available To make additional money, Family at the time, e.g., when we ran out Aid has a store section where they of one type of vegetable, we had to sell used and imported clothes. put a different type of vegetable in Additionally, since 2013, IFA has the bags. There were no separate been producing and selling outdoor packages for locals and foreigners. candles. Now, Ásgerður has the I asked the other SEEDS volunteers plan to start making organic soap. about their experiences and none Furthermore, she has several ideas of them had heard or seen anyfor how to improve things: she thing like described in the article.
Ásgerður herself thinks that there are many people who would like to be in her shoes, which is why these kinds of accusations get made. Food distribution
In the beginning, IFA distributed food only at Christmas and Easter. During the first Christmas, when only five people were working there, 350 families signed up for a food package. Since the organization had no money yet, the founders used their own cars, phones, and other equipment to run the program. Now the organization has two locations—the other one is in Reykjanes and has been open for 12 years—and food is distributed on multiple days a week. While people usually need to go to the distribution center to pick up the food, the organization also helps those who cannot pick it up themselves by delivering the food directly to them. People who qualify for food aid include low-income families, unemployed individuals, single parents, less affluent students, and the elderly. To sign up, people need to show their tax report so IFA can make sure the donations go to the people who need it. In March, Family Aid helped 2,300-2,400 families, which amounts to about 6,000-6,600 individuals. On the day I interviewed her, around 315 families received support (including the location in Reykjanes). However, Ásgerður says there’s more demand than they can meet, which is why currently people can only get one food package per month. Moreover, she feels that politicians ignore the reality of the people who cannot cover their basic needs. However, as a deputy city councilor, she is in a position to raise the issue and make others on the City Council aware of the situation. Miste
SEEDLING SUMMER 2021
15 years of SEEDS
An interview with Oscar Uscategui Interviewed by Inna Hallik
SEEDS has been hosting international volunteers, who come to Iceland to work on environmental and social projects and learn about different cultures, for 15 years. The NGO's aim is to foster intercultural understanding and raise environmental awareness, while also popularizing volunteer work among the locals. I sat down with the chairperson of the organization, Oscar Uscategui in May to get more insight into the past, present, and future of SEEDS.
SEEDLING SUMMER 2021
IH: SEEDS turned 15 last year. How did you celebrate offering them during the winter season, between October it? and March. We also started exploring social projects, such as cooperating with the Icelandic Red Cross, Family OU: We wanted to do something like we had done Aid, The Salvation Army, Icelandic Church Aid and a before. When SEEDS turned five and when it turned ten, few other organizations in Reykjavík. During Christmas we organized a week-long celebration around November time, we worked with the church and Kringlan to prepare and invited former long-term volunteers to join us. As presents for children in need. That's something our volpart of the celebration, we organized voluntary serunteers will probably also continue doing in the future. vice projects and campaign actions on the streets of Regarding the matter of staff, it has been difficult. We Reykjavík, and had lunch and dinner together. used to have four paid employees, but now we're only This was also our plan for last November and I believe two and work part-time. That has been one of the main around 50 people wanted to come to Iceland for that, but impacts of COVID. We have fewer camps, of course, but no one was able to fly here because of COVID restrictions. we still have a lot of work to do. We had not planned any camps for that time to be able to host everyone in our houses and to do what we had done IH: What has helped the organization stay afloat? for our previous anniversaries. The former long-term OU: In a regular year, about 70% of our income comes volunteers who are now living in Iceland, there are probfrom the fees short-term participants pay to join the ably more than 20 of them here, were ready to come, but camps and 30% is given by European programs, such then the government imposed new COVID restrictions as European Solidarity Corps (ESC) and Erasmus+. Now and instead of a big gathering, we just had a small celethe 70% is almost all gone, but since we're an NGO and bration with the long-term volunteers and staff that were do not pay out profits, we have put our surplus revenue with SEEDS at the time. To also celebrate with the people during good years into a reserve fund and those savings who couldn’t come to Iceland, we organized online meethave helped us stay running. We still have the same fixed ings, parties, games, and chats. costs—renting the houses and the office, heating, elecI hope that this November we can celebrate our 15th, tricity—and we manage to cover all of that. Of course, although it will actually be the 16th, birthday properly we have also tried to increase the number of volunteers and also host our former long-term volunteers. who come with grants from the ESC, which helps SEEDS IH: We probably cannot get around the topic of cover some of the expenditures of long-term volunteers. COVID-19. With travel and gathering restrictions, busi- Conversely, we have had to reduce the number of longnesses having to shut their doors, and people asked to term volunteers who come without a grant. stay at home and isolate, last year also impacted SEEDS IH: Have there been any other years as difficult as this and drastically reduced the number of participants in the one? camps. How did you and the organization deal with that? OU: At the beginning of SEEDS, it was very difficult— OU: In regard to SEEDS, last year we had fewer parno paid staff, no office, no projects. We were just a group ticipants and even now they are very few. However, we of volunteers with some ideas. No one knew what SEEDS created virtual camps related to photography and enviwas about. Those years were very difficult, because peoronment that became very popular, so now they have ple had other responsibilities as well and not everyone become part of our program and we plan to continue
was ready to commit to SEEDS fulltime. However, it was the beginning, so it was similar to many other organizations that are trying to get their project or company off the ground. Once we became known and started to organize camps and hired some paid staff, we managed to generate enough income to become sustainable. We have faced difficulties in some other years as well, like in 2010 when the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted and air traffic was stopped. Then we also had no volunteers for some time. That was tough, but it was a much shorter period than the current one.
IH: Leaving aside COVID-19, what is the biggest change SEEDS has gone through in those 15 years?
ar M by
ar M r. ce
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and bad, I thought we could do something similar in Iceland and improve the experience. That’s how I got the idea for SEEDS. We started in 2005 and our idea was to organize work camps for international volunteers who wanted to travel to Iceland, learn about Icelanders and other cultures, do something useful, meet new friends, learn practical skills, and have a different experience from the typical tourist who rents a car at the airport, IH: Where did the idea for goes on a few excursions, takes picfounding SEEDS come from and tures, and then leaves. Many who why was it founded? come, of course, also go traveling OU: This is such a long story, but before and after the camps, but it's I will try to make it short. The three still a different travel experience. founding members of SEEDS, Víktor, IH: You were born in Colombia. Héctor, and I, had all been volunteers What made you want to move to before and the idea was based on our Iceland? experiences. We thought that we had OU: When I was a kid, my something new to offer. There were of course more people, some Icelandic parents lived in Germany, so I had friends, who helped us at the begin- this connection to Germany. I ning, but they weren’t as involved as went to Germany when I was 23 in 1998, did some volunteer work the three of us. Iceland already had some volun- there, and met some Icelanders. We teering projects, but most of them stayed in touch and in 2003 I went were for long-term volunteers. to visit them. We went traveling, There were some short-term proj- hiking, camping… I didn't know ects offered by the national park much about Iceland but I really liked service who had started organizing the country, the nature, the lifestyle, them in the 90s or early 2000s. I also and the people. On my last day, we volunteered with them and worked went to visit an organization that in a national park. There was also a hosted long-term volunteers and Finnish organization who organized they asked me if I wanted to train the camps in Iceland, but in general, new volunteers coming to Iceland. I there weren’t that many opportu- had done that before and had some nities for short-term volunteers. experience as a volunteer in Asia and Africa, so I agreed and Since environmental short-term stayed for the projects had become very popular across the world and I already had some experience in that field, both good Ill
OU: It's difficult to pick a single change, but one of our milestones was when SEEDS made the decision to hire somebody. We had realized that SEEDS couldn't be run by volunteers anymore and we also needed office space. We hired our first employee, an Icelandic woman, in 2008. We also got an office. Before, we had been working from our homes, cafés, libraries—anywhere with Wi-Fi. Once we hired staff, SEEDS became a more formal institution that wasn’t just a group of people with nice ideas anymore. Another big change was deciding to have camps all year round. At first, we had camps just in the summertime, from May until September. We didn't know if people would want to come to Iceland in winter because it doesn't have the friendliest weather, but surprisingly many people were interested. So, we started offering activities during the wintertime in 2009 or 2010, which allowed us to have less camps in the summer, spreading out our workload throughout the year. Nowadays, we have periods during the winter, around Christmas and Easter, that are super busy. Also, when there are winter holidays in Asia, we get a lot of volunteers from that region. One more positive change has been getting more people from different age groups to join our camps. In the
beginning, we only had camps that were open to adults older than 18 and most of the volunteers were usually in their twenties. But then we started to organize teen camps that were aimed at people between the ages of 16 and 20. We also opened camps that targeted older age groups, such as people over 40 or 50. The oldest volunteer we have had must have been 72 or 73. It is inspiring to see people in that age group come and volunteer.
summer. In the fall I went back to Berlin to continue my university studies, but I think that experience had already given me some ideas for SEEDS. I didn't permanently move here until the end of 2008 when I met my girlfriend and we started a family. As I mentioned, SEEDS used to have camps only during the summer, so I did not need to live here all year-round. However, by that time, SEEDS was already working, and the idea was looking better and better. All in all, it was a lot of coincidences that brought me here. IH: What exactly is the goal of SEEDS? Has the goal changed since the organization was founded and might it change in the future?
Oscar (right) and volunteers at an eatery in Reykjavík. Photo by Annie Heine.
OU: SEEDS has three main pillars that shape our activities. The first one is environmental awareness and nature protection, the second is intercultural learning and exchange, and the third is the promotion of voluntary service. At SEEDS, we want to merge the three. Over time, some things have changed, some things have been added, some things dropped. At the beginning there was rapid growth, we tried many different projects, then we became smaller to focus on better quality projects that were more related to volunteering and promoting intercultural learning. We used to be very active in sending Icelanders abroad, but then we decided to focus more on hosting, because we weren't as effective as we had thought. In some years, maybe in 2012 and 2013, we sent around sixty volunteers abroad. Nowadays we send maybe one or two per year, people who come to us with that wish. On the other hand, we now have social projects that were not part of our IH: Why have you stayed with SEEDS for so long while plans before. The main goal is to provide the space and the other two founders have moved on to do other things? time for these types of opportunities to develop. OU: There are different reasons. One of them is that IH: If SEEDS were to spread a message about the enviI love my job and really enjoy what I'm doing. I'm also a ronment to the people in Iceland and around the world, very social person, I like being surrounded by the volunwhat would it be? teers and it's nice to see the impact SEEDS has on them. OU: We are already spreading different messages about While my academic background is in engineering and the environment, but if we think on a bigger scale, it's I have done other work, this has been the most excitabout sustainability and the way we use our resources. ing and rewarding job I have had. Of course, it's very How can we make sure we're not depleting our resources demanding and sometimes my energy goes down, but I for the younger generations, but leaving behind a place do it with passion and feel very engaged, which I probathat is suitable for them? Sometimes people don't think bly wouldn't if I worked for another company. Most of the
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about the small things they can do, but in our camps we talk about how to change our daily lifestyle in small steps, how to be more environmentally friendly, and when many people do that, then the change will happen on a bigger scale. Recycling, managing waste, reuse, repurpose—these are just some of the little things, like seeds, we try to plant in our volunteers and hopefully, when they go home, they can spread the message. Sometimes volunteers point out that most volunteers come here by plane, even though we're trying to spread an environmental message, but I hope that the impact we make in their lives is bigger than that. Also, we think that most people would come to Iceland anyway, but now we can also offer this environmental knowledge. We also want to spread a message in relation to intercultural learning, about peace and understanding between different nations, age groups, religions. We see so many conflicts around the world, people just killing each other… The conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is very current now, but we also see it in Europe among different nations. When we have volunteers coming from those countries that might not get along that well, this experience helps them find similarities and overcome prejudices, leading to intercultural understanding. Peace is the ultimate goal.
time it has been great, even though we are going through a crisis currently. Nevertheless, I prefer this to working for a large company where I would feel like a cog in the wheel. Additionally, SEEDS is so personal to me, it was my idea, so even when I contemplate doing something else, like starting a company, it’s hard to step away. The other guys helped me push the idea forward, but it was more like a hobby for them. They left after a couple of years, before the financial crisis in 2008, and they both found very good jobs at an Icelandic company that built geothermal power plants all around the world. One of them is still in Iceland, the other one is always traveling around the world.
IH: What are some of your main tasks and duties?
working with people. Most of our long-term volunteers come for 5-6 months, so their period of stay is long enough to get to know them. At first, it was emotionally very difficult when they left. I used to go to the pool with them, have meals together. Now my skin is thicker and I know how to handle it better. Also, humans are complex beings, so one of my biggest challenges is trying to understand everyone well. Moreover, culturally I'm different from most of the volunteers, who are mainly from Europe. So, every 5-6 months it's a new beginning and I need to learn which communication style suits which person. Then, working with volunteers is different than working with staff. If volunteers are motivated, it's great, but when their motivation gets low, it's very challenging. Sometimes they lose their motivation when they're about to leave, when they miss their friends and family or don't like the weather. So, it's a challenge to support everyone in the way they expect and need it. At the beginning of SEEDS, I was in my late 20s/early 30s, so the age gap wasn't so big and I used to feel like I was one of the volunteers, but now I'm 46. However, SEEDS is still youth-based and most of the long-term volunteers are in their twenties, so now I could be the father figure to some of the volunteers. Overall, I see all those challenges as an opportunity to learn and do things better.
OU: Mostly, I oversee the operations and assign resources, financial and human, to different projects. I am also the legal representative. Additionally, I coordinate and manage the work, do strategic planning, ensure that SEEDS fulfills all its legal and financial commitments, and that the financial situation is good. Since SEEDS is a beneficiary of funding from the European commission, I need to make sure we are following the rules and regulations of the EU, the ERASMUS+, and the ESC program. I also support the work at the office, the logistics, and the hosting of short-term volunteers. I communicate with IH: What are some of the obstacles SEEDS as an orgathe hosts, who organize the outdoor camps, and the city nization has had to deal with in Iceland in order to exist of Reykjavík to see how we can help. and thrive? IH: What have been the biggest challenges or struggles OU: For instance, in recent years one of our employees, you have faced as the head of the organiation? our only Icelandic staff member, left. Iceland is a small OU: The biggest challenge is trying to separate personal community and Icelanders consider themselves a closely life from SEEDS, because I take SEEDS so personally and related society, so when we only have foreign employwhen something happens at SEEDS, it impacts me a lot. ees and our organization's name is not in Icelandic, It's like one of my kids. Icelanders think of us as a foreign organization. That in Then, of course, the challenges I face are related to turn is an obstacle to promoting SEEDS. But in general, Icelanders are very open-minded and ready to try new things. I hope that when COVID gets better and we can hire another person, we'll be able to hire an Icelander or someone who knows the language on a very high level, because it would help with applying for grants. Another obstacle is that some hosts and municipalities have had bad experiences with other organizations and volunteers, e.g., volunteers not showing up, the group being bigger than expected, or their equipment getting damaged, which has tainted the reputation of volunteering in some places. Some locals tell us, “No, thank you, we already had that expeOscar (right) with Carolina (left), the current employee, and Filipa (middle), who used to work for SEEDS until April 2021. Photo by Annie Heine. SEEDLING SUMMER 2021
rience and it didn't go that well.”
Language for us humans is like water for fish. We use it all the time and yet we rarely think about it and its use. Language opens the world to us and narrows it down at the same time. This is what the author Kübra Gümüsay claims in her book “Sprache und Sein” (“Language and Being”). She expresses a longing for a language that does not reduce people to categories; for a way of speaking that allows people to exist in their multifaceted richness; for a communal way of thinking in an increasingly polarizing world. Kübra Gümüsay was born in 1988 and is an author and a speaker. She studied political science in Hamburg and London, spent several years in Oxford, and now lives in Hamburg with her husband and child. She writes and speaks on the topics of the internet, politics, feminism and racism. Her book “Language and Being” was published by Hanser Berlin in spring 2020 and has since been a bestseller. Kübra Gümüsay campaigns for a language that respects every individual and promotes communica-
How language shapes the way we think and perceive the world Written by Annie Heine
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IH: Besides you, SEEDS has one employee OU: In one year I would like SEEDS to be and a couple of office volunteers. What kind stronger again and for things to have gone back of tasks are they responsible for? Are there to how they were before. In 10 years, I would enough people to run an organization like this? like to see SEEDS as one of the leading volunteer organizations in Iceland and Europe—a OU: The employee is in charge of the longrole model for other volunteer organizations— term volunteers, which entails managing the as well as having more grants for running the projects, adapting them to our activities and organization, so we could reduce some of the adjusting them to the needs and expectations fees of our camps. of our long-term volunteers. She corresponds I would like to see SEEDS have a base in differwith the volunteers, conducts the interviews, ent locations outside of Reykjavík—currently welcomes and prepares everyone for their we only have housing facilities in Reykjavík. tasks, follows up with them during their stay, Maybe we could own a farm and some land and offers support. Afterwards she checks how where we could have a nursery to grow trees the projects went and collects feedback. and host a forestry project, so we could develop We have tried to create opportunities for volour own forestry and reforestation initiatives unteers to support our work and gain new skills and host outdoor camps on our own facilities. in the office, which includes promoting the Currently we do those projects in collaboration organization and recruiting volunteers. Office with other organizations. volunteers are in charge of placement, commuMaybe also a training center with conference nicating with partner organizations around the rooms to offer courses related to the environworld who send volunteers to SEEDS, sending ment, conflict resolution, peace building, and information and documents to the volunteers, intercultural understanding. So, in general, and updating information about the projects. more facilities and better infrastructure—that We also have volunteers in the office who have is my dream. We could organize photography been helping with public relations and social classes, cooking lessons, yoga classes if we had media. that. I would also like to see SEEDS getting Of course, we would like to have more staff or more Icelanders involved. We need to have a maybe more volunteers to do office tasks. If we few good years ahead of us to save some money, had three people working full-time, it would be get a loan, and start developing the other facilivery good. ties. If things continue with COVID, it will push IH: Looking ahead—what will SEEDS be like those dreams further back. But I try to be optiin a year and when it celebrates its 25th anni- mistic and hope that things will get better.
tion at eye level. She explores how language shapes our thinking and determines our politics. Kübra inspires to think about both the power and the limitations of language. The book gave me the inspiration and idea to do a podcast episode and talk to two of my fellow long-term volunteers, Hella from Budapest, Hungary and Martín from Galicia, Spain, about language and the limitations of our perception. Does the way we speak shape the way we think? This was the main question I was interested in. We talked about living with so many people from all over Europe and about the limitations and misunderstandings because of different language backgrounds. Hella and Martín told me their favorite words in their own languages, described sayings, words and phenomena that you cannot translate to English and explained how language shapes the way they express themselves. At the time of writing this article, there were 19 volunteers living together in the SEEDS family, speaking a total of 12 languages natively: Dutch, Estonian, French, Galician, (Swiss) German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Slovakian, Slovenian and Spanish. The main language of communication among the volunteers is English, but often other languages can be heard in the house. These include when volunteers from the same country speak to each other in their native language, motivated students trying to improve their foreign language skills or some of my roommates talking on the phone to their loved ones back home. Icelandic is mostly heard from diligent and curious humans repeating new words on the language app Drops. Usually, the motivation fades after some weeks, but luckily after new volunteers arrive with fresh motivation, people are eager to learn this peculiar language once again. Languages are always a topic of discussion in our daily lives. There was a time when I was in the kitchen and shouted to the living room that I was making fried eggs. When I asked who would like to have some as well, I heard another volunteer asking, “Fried eggs?” and saw a puzzled look on their face,
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“What do you mean by that?” In German, we call them “Spiegeleier”—mirror eggs. But honestly, I have no clue why they are called that. Someone said they call them “bullseye” in their language. In Italian, Slovak and Slovenian (to name but a few), the fried egg is the “bullseye egg” because, of course, it resembles a bullseye—or a porthole, which is the same word. Interesting. When my Spanish roommate arrived, I asked him if he also wanted a bullseye egg. He didn’t understand my question but luckily he is always up for any kind of eggs. Situations like these occur in the house all the time, whether with food, kitchen items or other expressions. It’s very interesting to find out about the similarities and differences between words in other languages, as well as expressions, proverbs and habits that come with it. Most of the people in the house come with the projects funded by the European Solidarity Corps initiative and are therefore open-minded young humans between 18 and 30 years old. There are exceptions of course, but almost everyone has a university degree and a similar background. Even though we have the commonality of being from the same generation, growing up in Europe, and coming from a similar background, I wonder if differences still exist because we grew up speaking dissimilar languages. The Sapir‐Whorf hypothesis from 1961 holds that human thought is shaped by language, leading speakers of different languages to think differently. This, in turn, implies that the speakers of different languages think and perceive reality in different ways and that each language encompasses its own world view. Whether the language we speak totally determines our attitude towards reality or whether we are merely influenced by its inherent world view remains a topic of heated discussion. This hypothesis has sparked both enthusiasm and controversy. There are about 7,000 languages spoken around the world. We are losing about one language a week and by some estimates half of the world’s languages will become extinct in the next hundred years. They all have different sounds, vocabulary and structures,
The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis from 1961 holds that human thought is shaped by language, leading speakers of different languages to think differently.
Click here to listen to the podcast episode on Spreaker
nitive universe, but 7,000." I want to say thank you, “danke,” “merci,” “kiitos” and “takk” to all my fellow SEEDS volunteers for all the interesting discussions, for their ideas based on their cultural and linguistic background, and for expanding my universe a little bit every day.
Written by Alain Corbeau
Blue lines represent the routes of the current SEEDS excursions. Red oval marks the area where a new excursion could be added.
SEEDS offers several excursions to the short-term volunteers participating in its camps. The most popular ones are the Golden Circle, the route that is well known to most tourists who have visited Iceland since it takes them to famous landmarks, such as Gullfoss and Geysir, and the South Shore, known for places like Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss and Reynisfjara—also known as the Black Beach. The other excursions offered include one around Reykjanes, one around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, the Hot River Hike—a ride and hike to the Reykjadalur Valley where you can bathe in a river fed by thermal springs— and Aurora Hunting—driving to wherever the best spot is that night to take photos of the northern lights. When looking at these routes plotted out on the map of Iceland, one can notice a particular region that is within reach for a daytrip, yet no excursions are offered there.
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All photos, except the group photo at Barnafoss, by Alain Corbeau.
which shapes how people think about orientation, time, quantities and number words, words for colors, grammatical gender and gender pronouns. Cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky shares examples of language in her TED Talk from 2018, such as an Aboriginal community in Australia using cardinal directions instead of left and right or the multiple words for blue in Russian. Her main research question was if the way we speak is shaping the way we think. Hella and Martín told me in our talk that their native language enables them to make a connection with someone very fast as you can be precise and get quick reactions and comprehension. A similar background and experience of a word will give a better understanding of the context, for instance, when someone is telling a joke. Hearing the mother tongue creates the feeling of being at home even when you are in a foreign country. Sharing the same language or even dialect is a big thing and can create a strong bond between people. But the language is not the only common factor of a nation; the culture and the background are also very important. Misunderstandings in our intercultural house mostly happen because of different pronunciations. We don't have big misunderstandings, but sometimes we cannot express ourselves perfectly in English. We share new vocabulary, expressions, music from different countries, similarities between the languages, and of course we also make fun of each other but in a loving and endearing way. Boroditsky says: "The beauty of linguistic diversity is that it reveals to us just how ingenious and how flexible the human mind is. Human minds have invented not one cog-
Years ago I had visited Iceland as a tourist and made a trip to the region beyond Borgarfjörður, so I knew it had quite a number of interesting places. Marelle, a fellow longterm volunteer, had done a camp there last summer, and so she also knew some beautiful sights in the area. Thus, I devised a preliminary route for a trip through that part of Vesturland. Of course, one thing is to create a route and another is to actually follow it. To know if the proposed route would make a good excursion, it needed to be tested. My initial idea was to rent a car and test drive it with just four companions. However, Marelle suggested a better plan: since it's going to be a SEEDS excursion (hopefully), why not ask Oscar, the chairman of SEEDS, if we could use the organization’s van. We could even offer to pay for the fuel ourselves. When we asked him, not only did he like the idea, but he proposed bringing his big car too, to make it a team event! But first, Oscar scrapped some of the proposed stops and added some others to make the trip more manageable in one day and perhaps more interesting as well. However, there was one problem: both vehicles combined could only transport 16 people, which was not enough for all the people at SEEDS, both the long-term volunteers and the employees of the NGO. The number of long-term volunteers was exactly 16 at that time, so the plan was to wait until there were fewer of them, ultimately meaning that the people whose projects were to end soon would sadly not be able to join. Around New Year was the time when a few volunteers finished their volunteering service and went home, but the deep dark winter posed another problem—the days
were simply too short for an excursion! To make it work, the route was altered to have all the stops relatively close to each other, so the excursion could be done with less daylight. After browsing the calendar for the best day to finally take the trip, Friday the 29th of January was chosen. Unfortunately, Carolina and Filipa who worked for SEEDS and Clare who assisted the organization as a volunteer couldn't make it, but they were happy with us going without them. Another thing made the timing slightly less than ideal: some of the new long-term volunteers had to participate in a mandatory online training that day, which at first called into question whether they could join. However, they finished at noon, so everyone just needed to be ready to depart shortly after that. After one and a half hour of driving—I was driving the SEEDS van and Oscar his Land Rover—we arrived at the village of Reykholt (not to be confused with Reykholt near Geysir) where the famous medieval saga author and politician Snorri Sturluson lived and died. The weather was splendid: sunny and clear (which also makes it quite cold
inland, but we dressed accordingly). Most of Reykholt is actually a museum with the Snorrastofa study center, a church, and a reconstructed version of Snorri's 13th century hot pot, Snorralaug. All the buildings were closed, but since everyone was elated to be out of the city in the sun after so many long, dark weeks without many camps (understandably, pandemicrelated travel restrictions are also detrimental to international volunteering), just strolling around the area and looking at the pool, the church, and the landscape was a
SEEDS long-term volunteers standing by the hot pot called Snorralaug in Reykholt. SEEDLING SUMMER 2021
Long-term volunteers admiring the Glanni waterfall.
falls”). The parking lot there, however, was completely iced over, so we had to be very careful, both when driving and walking. A short path led us to a magnificent sight: Hraunfossar is a wall of waterfalls pouring out of the lava rock wall down into the river Hvítá. We enjoyed the view, taking lots of pictures, before we contin-
treat. Even though there was much more snow and ice inland than in the city (where there was, in fact, none—that winter barely deserved its name as far as Reykjavík was concerned), the roads were in good condition. Shortly after leaving Reykholt, we arrived at Hraunfossar (“lavafield
ued the path up to Barnafoss (“children's falls”, named after the legend of two children who drowned there), a completely different type of waterfall where the river cascades down a narrow gorge. The sharp winter colors made this a sight to behold, especially when looking down into the gorge from the bridge. Here Oscar took a group picture of us. Upon slowly driving away from the icy parking lot, the van started sliding, but I kept control and it turned into kind of a drift—to the delight, rather than fright, of the passengers. The road up to our farthest stop, Húsafell, was more difficult than previous roads because there was much more ice and snow on its surface. Driving extra carefully, we arrived safely in Húsafell. Emboldened by the controlled slide on the previous parking lot, I got the audacious idea to pull another power slide on this parking lot. Again, the others inside the van liked it, but if I were to guess, then the people in the other car—especially Oscar—were not so pleased to see me behave like a stunt driver with our common van. Deildartunguhver.
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I must admit that I was only thinking about safety and not about the fact that the van had done 700,000 km and counting. Fortunately, the reliability of Toyota goes unparalleled, so everything was fine, even though I must have made an irresponsible impression. We didn't have much time to explore snow-covered Húsafell. Since we had only started the trip at twelve, we had to turn around and continue to the next stop. Driving back the same way as we had come, we stopped not too far from Reykholt at Deildartunguhver, Europe's biggest hot spring by volume, which provides the nearby towns with hot water. We goofed around in the steam before heading off to the Ring Road, which would carry us to the Grábrók crater. next attraction. Not far from the town of Bifröst were the last two stops. First the waterfall of Glanni. After a short ride and walk over a snow-covered path, we arrived at a platform with a wonderful view over the river. The waterfall itself is not nearly as amazing as the two earlier ones on the trip, but the river canyon, complemented by the mountains in the background, makes for an amazing vista. It wasn't long before snowball fights broke out among the more playful children on this class trip. After having pelted each other and the ice on the river below with snow for a while, the setting sun urged us to be on our way for the last stop. Further down the road we halted at the Grábrók craters. After a difficult climb over the snow-covered staircase, we reached the ridge of the biggest crater, from where the view over the land was beautiful. The bright weather ensured a far view, with a valley full of snow on the one side and the lights of the houses of Bifröst on the other. The temperature was dropping and soon we were clambering down the snowy stairs back to the cars, where we congratulated each other with the success of this excursion and drove back home in the dark.
I am happy that the idea I had set in motion was realized to everyone's con-
Group photo at Barnafoss by Oscar Uscategui.
tent. It was a beautiful day and the route and stops proved to make for a good daytrip. Hopefully, it will be a permanent addition to the list of SEEDS excursions.
Húsafell. SEEDLING SUMMER 2021
Day 1. First dinner together at the camp. Photo by Inna Hallik.
SEEDS camp in April: new leaders, traditions and lifestyles Written by Inna Hallik
During the Easter weekend in April, the land in Reykjavík once again covered with snow, I celebrated the holiday with five other SEEDS long-term volunteers, four camp leaders and a member of the logistics team, plus four of our short-term volunteers. We were staying at one of the SEEDS houses in the Botanical Gardens, where the camp leaders organized activities for learning about the environment, different cultures and photography. That was the “Easter in Reykjavík” camp.
On Saturday, 3 April, the camp leaders and the short-term volunteers, also called the participants, colored eggs with blueberries (blue eggs), ground turmeric (yellow eggs) and onion skins (brown eggs). That was also the day of the international dinner, which meant feasting on dishes from everyone’s home countries in the evening. On Sunday, one of the camp leaders, Julia (19), hid giant chocolate eggs and sent the participants to look for them. They found the eggs between the shoe shelves, in the washing machine, and in different drawers. Julia explained that she hid the eggs because her mom used to do that for every Easter. “Even as I got older and knew these things didn’t exist, my mom always put little chocolate eggs everywhere and I really loved this tradition—I thought it was really cute. Of course, as a camp leader, I feel a bit like a mom, so I felt like it was the perfect thing to do. In a sense, the camp leaders are a bit like the parents and the participants are like the kids.” To open the eggs, Sara (27), another camp leader, demonstrated how to do it—she sat on one. With the shell broken, confectionery (chocolate buttons, licorice, sour candies, and lollipops) fell out. It was not because of a tradition—perhaps it will become one—but
Day 3. Camp participants and leaders visiting the Ingólfsgarður Lighthouse during a city game. Photo by Sara Ramez.
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Sara was merely imitating the style of opening chocolate eggs of another long-term volunteer.
Becoming camp leaders
Julia and Sara had already been with SEEDS for a couple of months before it was time for them to become the main leaders of their first real camp. Even though both volunteers had previously led virtual camps—in these camps all the activities take place online and the participants can be located anywhere in the world—and Sara had helped facilitate a physical camp with more experienced leaders, they had never had to plan and carry out a ten-day city camp on their own before. Sara mentioned that it was always nice to be with people in person. “You can feel their energy more than in the virtual camps.” Julia added, “It’s really good that when you do the sessions you really see the participants, whether they are interested and listening to you, because in the online camps it is a struggle when you cannot see the participants very well and feel like you are just talking to a computer. Of course, a real camp is also a bit harder, because you have to be there every hour of the day for ten days straight, working and focusing on the participants.” Before the start of the camp, Sara felt the most challenging part was planning everything and making all the decisions on their own because last time the other longterm volunteers had been in charge. However, she was positive that things would work out fine and the participants would be happy with the camp. Of course, they were not the only long-term volunteers in the camp. There was also Marco, the photography leader, Martín, the logistics volunteer, me as the photojournalist, and Katarína, another environmental leader who joined us two days later. Girls on a gap year
The camp began on the evening of Tuesday, 30 March when I, along with the other long-term volunteers, said goodbye to our housemates. We left our home base near Klambratún Park and drove in a van to pick up the first two camp participants: Emma (20) from France and Amelie (18) from Germany. Emma is on a gap year from her cinema studies in Paris to get more practice in filmmaking and learn about the environment and social issues. Amelie graduated from high school last spring and is also on a gap year. She has used her year off to volunteer for different projects, such as planting trees in Portugal, before travelling to Iceland alone. This year has given her the opportunity to become more independent before starting university next fall. Amelie explained, “I had this idea for a long time—I love traveling and I wanted to see and do something else besides studying before university.” Amelie also liked that this gave her the opportunity to meet people from
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different countries. “I really enjoy this time and I think everyone should do something like this. It doesn’t have to be traveling abroad, just doing something else besides studying and going to school.” With both girls and their luggage picked up, Martín drove us to the camp house, which became our home for the next ten days. The first evening was reserved for icebreakers and settling in, so we all gathered in the cozy living room while sipping on the tea Sara had prepared. When discussing hopes and expectations, Amelie expressed her great interest in environmental topics and photography. She was curious about how to solve environmental issues and was hoping to have good discussions. Emma’s reason for attending the camp was very similar: “I applied because I am very interested in environmental issues and want to learn more about photography.” Two women from England were also supposed to join, but due to flight cancellations and Iceland’s border policy (everyone who entered was required to quarantine for at least five days and get tested twice unless they had been vaccinated), they were still in quarantine at the start of the camp. Instead, they participated in workshops virtually until Friday and when their quarantine ended, they joined the group. Due to personal reasons they wished to remain anonymous, which is why their name, photos, and other personal details are not shared in this article. SEEDS used to have more than eight participants in every camp, but this year even four was considered a lot due to the restrictions imposed by the worldwide pandemic. At the same time, COVID-19 was the reason Emma and Amelie had ended up in the camp. Emma’s initial plan had been to go to Japan, where she would have been volunteering on a farm in a rural village and carrying out various tasks related to food production. However, that plan had to be scrapped due to COVID19—at least for the time being. Amelie wished to go volunteering in national parks in North America but encountered a similar barrier. Amelie: “COVID-19 caused bad things, but also good things, like Portugal—I wouldn’t have been there with-
Day 3. Julia giving a presentation on slow tourism.
Day 6. Camp participants and leaders befriending Icelandic horses. Photo by Sara Ramez.
ing this period. Additionally, Julia who was already a nifty shopper at thrift stores, said that making more sustainable choices also meant changing her lifestyle and thinking about how to become the best version of herself. Finding balance
out covid and it was so nice in the end. I learned to be thankful for the good things and to handle this weird situation with the pandemic.” Amelie also had another project lined up after the SEEDS camp: volunteering on a sheep farm in South Iceland. Contagious energy
Mass tourism and DIY deodorant
Each participant found a topic that gave them new ideas regarding sustainable behavior. Amelie’s favorite workshop was the one that discussed slow travel, given by Julia and a former long-term volunteer. While Julia focused on explaining the history and meaning of mass tourism, the other volunteer laid out the environmental impacts of it. Amelie: “With traveling I’m struggling the most, so it was interesting to talk and think about it. It was nice to be surrounded by people in the same situation with the same interests.” Julia decided to do a workshop on the topic when she saw the documentary for the first time. “I got really interested, especially because I used to do the same— going on a plane but just for a few days. I didn’t really care about any of its impact. Now it feels so strange and
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On the first evening, to bond as a group, break the ice and have fun, Julia taught the group a game where players needed to draw images and give titles to each other’s drawings. Everyone needed to draw or write something on a piece of paper and then fold it before passing it onto the next person so they would only see their work. This process was repeated until the papers returned to their original owners. Unfolding the papers and seeing how the original sentences had transformed, e.g. from “a sheep is eating a dog” to “a cow is falling in love with a clown,” filled the room with laughter. Julia could be described as an energetic, bubbly, and go-with-the-flow type of girl. When she gave a presentation about her country, Hungary—camp participants and leaders alike are expected to give a presentation about their city, country, or an interest of theirs during the camp—Julia was excited to talk about her country’s history, popular travel destinations, and its capital, Budapest, her hometown. When there was a need for a fun game, good music, or order in the kitchen, everyone could count on her. Her energy was contagious. Emma: “Julia was motivating people and tried to fill everyone with energy.” I asked Julia which environmental topic she personally found most interesting. Julia: “I think that trying to be more zero waste and trying to reduce my consumption. It’s really hard but also interesting. I think you have to be really creative and also make sacrifices, so it’s a bit like a challenge.” Despite feeling it was hard sometimes, she was enjoy-
Workshops, lectures and city activities started on the second day. In the mornings, everyone had breakfast together—who ate Julia’s porridge, who pastries, who fruit—and then the day proceeded with one of the camp leaders giving a workshop or leading an activity, such as playing a city game, going trash hunting or visiting the recycled house (the home of an Icelandic filmmaker). Marco’s lectures and workshops were on different aspects of photography while Julia’s and Sara’s were related to the environment. Amelie said she liked the combination of photography and environmental workshops, considering them, in a way, to be connected. “Photography was always kind of a hobby for me and I’ve been interested in environmental topics for two years now. The workshops made me think more about how I can behave and how I can improve.” To a question about making changes in her life, Amelie responded that she realized everyone had to find their own way—people were in different situations—but for her, it was about finding a balance between making improvements and feeling comfortable. One change she found easy was reducing consumption. During a workshop on do-it-yourself cosmetics, she brought out her own zero waste kit consisting of a homemade deodorant in a jar, a shampoo bar, and a soap bar in a cotton bag.
bad that I used to do that. It’s also linked to trying to have a better lifestyle, trying to take care of things like this, and I want to make other people aware, too.” Emma, on the other hand, found a workshop on making your own deodorant most memorable. Sara said her mom taught her how to do it. Sara: “My mom has been doing this for the past couple of years. When she does it, I always help her.” Another reason for creating this workshop was noticing that people put different products on their skin without considering where it came from or the impact it had on them and the environment. “Usually, we think about food and how to lead a healthier life and be active but we never think about the cosmetics part. There are many alternatives to buying chemicals from the store—we can actually make things by ourselves, which is healthier and cheaper.” Sara’s nature could be described as calm, collected, and down-to-earth. She is from Koper, Slovenia and has experience working in tourism. She was excited to gain more experience in facilitating events and experiences related to the environment and sustainability. Additionally, as a caring and attentive leader who always paid attention to the general mood of the group, she wanted the participants to have a camp that would go beyond their expectations and make them happier than they expected to be. Sara: “This seemed like a connection between my work in tourism and guiding people, organizing things. Environmental topics—I studied sustainable development—are important for future generations and I like to spread awareness about environmental issues. At the same time, being a camp leader feels like organizing holidays, because in some ways these camps are holidays for young people from all over the world.”
sand and climbing basalt formations at the Reynisfjara beach, admiring a rainbow at Skógafoss waterfall, and lastly, taking in the beauty of another waterfall called Seljalandsfoss. Looking back
Sara: “We could feel a bigger connection every day between all of us—that was nice to see.” Amelie said she was really happy with the camp leaders. “They were really nice, always motivating and made us feel very comfortable and welcome here. It felt like we were on the same level—we could talk to them and ask them everything.” Emma expressed similar sentiments and added she felt like they could really rely on their camp leaders. Emma: “I think communication inside the group was very nice. I feel it was one of the most well-working groups I have been with. Also, we all had the space to Day 5. Visiting the Recycled House by the ocean, the home of an Icelandic filmmaker.
Getting out of the city
Part of every SEEDS camp is going on at least one excursion. On the sixth day of the camp, all the participants went on a trip to the Golden Circle, which encompasses visiting famous sights such as Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area and Gullfoss waterfall, followed by aurora hunting that night. Additionally, an excursion is not complete without a stop somewhere on the way to pet Icelandic horses. While witnessing the northern lights can never be guaranteed, the camp leaders try to plan the activity on the day with the best aurora forecast. It worked out and even if not very strong, there was light in the night sky to hunt with camera shutters, away from city lights. Two days later, some of the camp participants went on an optional excursion to the South Shore. While the weather during the Golden Circle excursion had at times tested the participants’ tolerance to wind and accompanying cold, the South Shore trip exposed them to a cardinally different mood of Iceland. Almost completely windless, the day was warm and sunny. The trip included gazing at the Sólheimajokull glacier, walking on black
express ourselves without anyone being judgmental and it’s nice to learn new things like this.” The camp ended on Thursday morning, 8 April, although the last group activity together was celebrating Amelie’s birthday on the evening before. She turned 19. It was the perfect way to end the camp as everyone had got closer to each other and truly cherished the last evening together. After the camp finished, I was curious how Sara and Julia felt about the whole experience. Julia: “In the beginning it was a bit awkward, or they were really shy, but by the end everyone really got to know each other and started enjoying themselves and I’m really happy about that.”
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If there was one thing the two camp leaders would have liked to have done differently, it would be planning more activities. Sara explained, “We hadn’t had many experiences with real camps, so it was hard to plan, because we didn’t know how it would be like in real life.” According to her, some camp participants had felt that the camp was quite intense while others would have liked to have had more things on the schedule. “You have to find a balance for that.” Spreading awareness and making friends
VOLUNTEER PROFILE This section provides some insight into the background and interests of the people who have volunteered for SEEDS.
Day 9. Julia (second from the left) bringing a cake to Amelie (third) to celebrate her birthday on the last evening of the camp.
their parents and friends… I don’t know what exactly, but I’m sure each one of them will take away at least one thing. Some about food, some about traveling, others about cosmetics.” Julia: “Also, they found friends among us, I think. When they think
about this camp, they will also have this warmth in their heart.” Sara agreed, “True, it’s not just about the environmental things but also the group, the people we met. Maybe we’ll see each other again one day, so that’s a big part of this as well.”
The Pole and his old shoe Written by Inna Hallik
Michał Grabowski volunteered for SEEDS as an environment camp leader for six months from the end of September 2020 until the end of March 2021. He was the one to initiate and lead group games, tell funny jokes, and his energy brushed off on others, encouraging them to join in.
Michał had made such a memorable impression on the other volunteers that for his 25th birthday in January, another SEEDS volunteer designed a poster with all things Michał: Goofy and the other characters from the funny and bizarre animations in his videos-to-watch-on-YouTube repertoire, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, the Polish Cow, and the bald guy from Jackbox games. However, to fully understand what all those characters and objects mean, one needs to spend quite a few evenings in the Pole's company. The poster, designed by
Vincent from France and currently hanging on the living room wall in the volunteers' house, looks like one for a new blockbuster movie. The names of the actors—in this movie they are the other volunteers that Michał spent most of his time with last fall during the second wave of COVID-19—are positioned at the top and Michał, the protagonist himself, is standing heroically in the middle of all the iconic figures. Once you get to know Michał, it becomes obvious that a movie poster was not a random choice. After all,
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While every camp has an ending, there are some things that participants cannot leave behind: new ideas, memories, and friendships. Sara and Julia shared how they thought the camp impacted the participants. Sara: “The most important thing for me is that we actually spread awareness about the environment and if they change one thing in their lives—it can be small—I think that’s a lot already. Then they will talk to
Michał has been uploading short skits and even short movies to YouTube under the name Grupa TRAFL for close to 10 years. The core group consists of him, his sister Martyna and their friend Filip. Michał was eight years old when the three of them created their first skit together, a parody of the “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Michał wrote the script, he and his sister bought some plastic swords, and then the camera started rolling. He also did some theatre in elementary school, although he moved on to other things when younger children joined and the spirit of the group changed. Despite his long track record of acting and creating humorous, entertaining skits, Michał decided to do his bachelor’s and master’s in something completely different: first a degree in international management and then in finances and controlling. When asked about it, Michał states matter-of-factly that he prefers to keep filmmaking as a hobby. Of course, there is also the possibility that Michał is secretly preparing to launch his entertainment empire—yes, empire, because not only does Michał make movies, he also develops games and draws comics—and doesn't trust anyone else with the finances. Or perhaps he is just practically minded. Talking to him about his upbringing and growing up in Debica, Poland, I learned that he has a supportive family who always has his back. Nevertheless, it ran through our conversation that in Poland, one has to be practical. A country where the economic conditions lag behind Western Europe, its average wage falls in the bottom third of the European Union, and its minimum wage places it 14th among the 21 member states—six EU countries do not have a national minimum wage— financial freedom isn’t exactly a given. However, Michał values financial independence and mentions in a self-assured way that since the time he worked at a hotel in London, he has been making his own money, not needing to depend on his parents. The few months he spent in London constitute one of the key experiences in his life. That was the first time he went abroad alone, found a job, a place to live, and managed to do everything on his own. He calls that the point when he stopped being afraid of anything. Even so, he describes it as a dark time. On the one hand, he is being literal: he worked nights and slept during the day, not being able to do or see much in the city. On the other hand, there must be more to the story than he is willing to reveal as the only good thing he found about that experience was going back home with some money. Perhaps it has something to do with his girlfriend at the time—he went to England because she was there—but that is as much as Michał is willing to share. In general, he finds it more enjoyable to listen to other people’s life experiences than talking about himself.
What Michał does like to share are his creative interests and work: skits, games, and comics. When it comes to games, Michał's passion is quite unrivalled, at least among the other volunteers. He was the one in the group who always had a game up his sleeve and was ready to play something new, especially if it was a strategic game. Furthermore, he enjoys being challenged and even beaten in a game, because for him that is just another opportunity to learn about different game strategies. Instead of moping or getting upset when things don’t go his way—and this applies to the other aspects of his life as well—Michał likes to focus on what he can take away from the experience and then investigate other options available to him. Coming to Iceland was also, in a way, the result of exploring alternatives after the pandemic had ruined his original plans. To still do something useful and purposeful, he enrolled in university and when he saw he could attend his classes online, Michał signed up for a volunteering project in Iceland as well. Iceland had always been on his bucket list, but before even knowing if he would be going there any time soon, he had already scratched an “X” over the country on his scratchable world map. After six months in Iceland, Michał said goodbye to the other long-term volunteers, who had become dear to him, and flew back to Poland just in time for his friend Filip’s wedding. Now he gets to completely scratch off Iceland on his map. Michał also has a plan for what to do next. He has his mind set on opening a bar called “Stary But,” old shoe in Polish, before he turns 30. A revelation came to him when he went abroad for the first time and saw the differences between Polish bars and the bars abroad. To bring diversity to the Polish or some other country’s bar scene—he is open to the idea of moving abroad— he started paying more attention to the bars he visited elsewhere and gathering inspiration from his travels. Michał also involved his sister in the project and together they have been working on a bigger concept for the bar, which is kept hidden from the world in their holy book of ideas. Hopefully, it won’t take long until his bar opens to the public and starts attracting people from all over the world.
Young Michał driving in style. SEEDLING SUMMER 2021
Jökulsárlón (Glacier Lagoon)
Text and photos by Helena Teixeira Having spent three and a half months in Iceland so far, and being lucky enough to see so many of its breathtaking landscapes, the one element that has always stood out the most to me wherever I go is water. Water, in all of its shapes and forms, is all around this island. In a short time you get to experience all of its strength and fragility, density and fluidity, heaviness and lightness. A paradoxal presence which somehow permeates every existing body. This short selection of photographs was inspired by an excerpt from the book “Bodies of Water: Posthuman Feminist Phenomenology” by Astrida Neimanis, which I feel better explains the omnipresence of this element, and its significance: “Blood, bile, intracellular fluid; a small ocean swallowed, a wild wetland in our gut; rivulets forsaken making their way from our insides to out, from watery womb to watery world: we are bodies of water. […]
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But as bodies of water we leak and seethe, our borders always vulnerable to rupture and renegotiation. With a drop of cliché, I could remind you that our human bodies are at least two-thirds water, but more interesting than these ontological maths is what this water does—where it comes from, where it goes, and what it means along the way. Our wet matters are in constant process of intake, transformation, and exchange— drinking, peeing, sweating, sponging, weeping. Discrete individualism is a rather dry, if convenient, myth.
For us humans, the flow and flush of waters sustain our own bodies, but also connect them to other bodies, to other worlds beyond our human selves. Indeed, bodies of water undo the idea that bodies are necessarily or only human. The bodies from which we siphon and into which we pour ourselves are certainly other human bodies […], but they are just as likely a sea, a cistern, an underground reservoir of once-was-rain. […]
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Somewhere along Snæfellsnesvegur, after Kirkjufell
As themselves milieus for other bodies and other lives that they will become as they relinquish their own, our bodies enter complex relations of gift, theft, and debt with all other watery life. […]
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To figure ourselves as bodies of water not only rejects a human separation from Nature ‘out there’; it also torques many of our accepted cartographies of space, time, and species, and implicates a specifically watery movement of difference and repetition (Deleuze 2004). Always aswim in these explorations is a call to consider our ethical responsibility towards the many other bodies of water we are becoming all the time.”
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Somewhere along a fjord in Vestfjirðir
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Written by Inna Hallik
On one of the snowiest days in March, the volunteers working at the SEEDS office in downtown Reykjavík decided to find out their personalities by taking the Neris Type Explorer® (NTE) test, similar to the well-known Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI). Once they had (re-)discovered their personality types, feeling curious about the types represented among the volunteers, they asked everyone else to take the test as well.
Neris Type Explorer® vs MyersBriggs Type Indicator®
Before taking a look at the results, it’s beneficial to examine the test it-
self. As mentioned above, NTE can be seen as similar to another test, MBTI. Despite similarities, like dividing people’s personalities into 16 types based on four dichotomies, the two frameworks, the NTE and MBTI, cannot be used interchangeably. It is easy to confuse the two, since they I—E: Introversion vs Extraversion S—N: Observing/Sensing vs Intuition T—F: Thinking vs Feeling J—P: Judging vs Prospecting/Perceiving
Limited, an organization whose focus lies on creating content and tools for personal and professional development that are “accessible, rewarding, and fun” as described on their website. To ease doubt about the test, the company lists three metrics they have used to measure its validity: internal consistency for making sure that the questions from the same scale produce similar results, test-retest reliability for seeing whether people get the same results when they retake the questionnaire, and discriminant validity for confirming that the scales measured are discrete and unrelated.
are both based on Carl Jung’s theory about psychological types and use the acronym format developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers. However, NTE uses different termiInternal Consistency nology than MBTI and inE.g, if you agree with the statement that “I like order,” stead of incorporating all then you’re also more likely to agree with “I am bothof the Jungian concepts ered by mess” and disagree with “I don’t keep my into it, its creators have room organized.” reworked the Big Five Discriminant Validity personality traits model E.g., when you ask a question to measure the Introand added an additional verted vs. Extraverted scale, then you have to be sure personality aspect to the you are not also measuring some other scale, e.g., list, identity. Thus, the Feeling vs. Thinking. results received on the Four Dichotomies NTE’s website need to be If there’s a slash, then the word on the left side is used interpreted according to by NTE and the other one by MBTI, but the letter, the NTE’s definitions. abbreviation of the word, remains the same. The host of the test’s website, 16Personalities. com,, is NERIS Analytics com
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The test is free and comes in the form of a self-report questionnaire, which can be considered a type of psychometric testing, and takes less than 15 minutes to complete. Psychometric testing belongs to the field of psychometrics, aka psychology concerned with testing, measuring, and assessing human traits and behavior. At the same time, not everyone in the scientific community considers NTE and other similar personality tests scientifically rigorous, questioning their reliability and accuracy. Moreover, personalities are complex and hard to reduce to discrete types. To describe what personality is, the American Psychological Association provides the following definition: “the enduring configuration of characteristics and behavior that comprises an individual’s unique adjustment to life, including major traits, interests, drives, values, self-concept, abilities, and emotional patterns.” While a test might provide some information about one’s personal traits and values, it won’t be able to encapsulate everything that makes someone uniquely them.
Sentinels 1 result accurate, it was an opportunity and analyzing the volunteers and to examine one’s traits, strengths, their personalities, it can provide and weaknesses from a different some insight into the types of peoperspective. Those whose re- ple who choose to go volunteering. Analysts sults did resonate with them Diplomats, the most common role, 3 could feel more understood, includes personality types who bebecoming more aware of the lieve it is possible to create a kinder Diplomats way they interact with the world, and strive to do so every day. 10 environment, approach dif- Protagonists, the most common Explorers ferent situations, and direct type among the volunteers at the 3 their energy. time, have the Extraverted, Intuitive, There were 17 volunteers at Feeling, and Judging personality SEEDS back in March when the traits. The website describes them as test was passed around. The re- warm and forthright types who love sults revealed that the most common helping others, tend to have strong role among the volunteers was the ideas and values, and back their Personality types Diplomat with ten people, followed perspective with creative energy to by the Explorer and Analyst, each achieve their goals. Results role represented by three people, and People in the Diplomat group seem Coming back to taking the test, then the office volunteers sent the website Roles Analysts Diplomats Explorers Sentinels link to the volunteers’ group chat on WhatsApp. Not too concerned about intuitive + intuitive + observant + observant + Role thinking feeling prospecting judging the test’s validity, before long, SEEDS characteristics volunteers started sharing their rerational empathic spontaneous hard working sults, turning the WhatsApp group impartial diplomatic self-reliant meticulous These chat into a buzzing flow of messages. intellectual caring quick-thinking traditional descriptions strategic idealistic flexible grounded There was excitement for at least 15 are not generous ingenious self-motivated comprehensive. independent minutes. Declaring their personalopen-minded cooperative utilitarian cooperative ity types helped the volunteers disimaginative imaginative practical practical cover who, if there were any, shared their personality roles and types. Architect Advocate Virtuoso Executive Volunteers discovered new comLogician Campaigner Entrepreneur Consul monalities between each other and Types Commander Mediator Adventurer Logistician perhaps even felt Advocates closer to those with Debater Protagonist Entertainer Defender the same results. Protagonists Even if some people Mediators didn’t one Sentinel. The most common type to naturally exhibit the character10 believe was the Protagonist with four people istics that are associated with volCampaigners 9 in the and then the other types applied to unteers, so it is not surprising that 8 test’s either two people—Campaigners, they form the majority. Regardless, Entertainers 7 validMediators, Advocates, and it is possible that this was just a co6 ity or Virtuosos—or just one—Entertainer, incidence and with different volunVirtuosos found Defender, Logician, Architect, and teers the makeup of the personal5 Commanders their Commander. ities would be vastly different. On 4 While taking the test the other hand, if diplomats do tend 3 Architects was more about hav- to dominate the volunteering space, 2 ing fun than it is a good moment to think about Logicians 1 mapping what else might be the reason for Defenders
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that—are diplomats encouraged more to volunteer or are their skills and talents undervalued in the labor market—and how to get other types more involved in volunteer work in order to utilize their strengths and talents as well.
Personality Aspects Mind: Introverted vs Extraverted How people interact with and are impacted by their surroundings and other people. Energy: Observant vs Intuitive How people see the world and process information. Nature: Thinking vs Feeling How people make decisions and cope with emotions. Tactics: Judging vs Prospecting How people approach work, planning, and decision-making. Identity: Assertive vs Turbulent Underpins all others; how confident people are in their abilities and
Sneaky roads of Iceland Maybe this is not the first question that comes to your mind when preparing for your trip to the Land of Ice and Fire, but it’s something to consider: do you know what driving in Iceland is like? Iceland—that rock in the middle of the Atlantic; the country of 1,000 waterfalls; the land of Ice and Fire; northern; wild; isolated; mesmerizing… This country can be described in many different ways, but there is one thing that surely is not a characteristic of Iceland: public transport for travelling around the country (well, maybe I should say “cheap public transport”). Yes, there are different ways to travel around this island, but, for instance, train is not one of them, since there is no railway system in the country. You can take a plane (actually, there are a lot of small airports around the country), but let’s be honest: that’s not the most environmental nor the most economical way. Or, you could travel by bus, but surprisingly, you’ll have to prepare your wallet for that, too. So, unless you are willing to empty your bank account here, the best way to travel around Iceland is to rent a car and drive around. So, what is driving in Iceland like? For sure, it doesn’t have the best road system either: only one “highway”— Route 1, or the Ring Road—a two-laned road limited
Written by Jose Celis
to 90 km/h (do not speed up, my friend!) circling the country, single-laned bridges, gravel roads, F-roads [challenging and dangerous roads for accessing the highlands of Iceland – Ed.], dumb sheep crossing in front of you… And the weather is a whole other matter: of course, it all depends on which season you are planning to come (Icelandic summer or Icelandic winter—no other choices), but the conditions can be tough: mountainous and icy paths, snow covering the roads, intense fog, below-zero temperatures, heavy precipitation, and last but not least, the never-ending wind. As part of the Logistics Team of SEEDS since December 2019, I take part in different tasks, for example, supporting the logistic planning of the organization, driving to the supermarket to buy groceries for the team, picking up volunteers from the office or the airport, helping with maintenance of the cars and houses and driving camp groups to projects across the country… A bunch of essential tasks, but there is one that clearly stands out above all the others—driving. However, don’t think that we, the logistics team, are taxi drivers or personal chauffeurs. We are people responsible for the plans that involve driving. Being good drivers is just one of the things that is expected from us.
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Maybe this is not the first question that comes to your mind when preparing for your trip to the Land of Ice and Fire, but it’s something to consider: do you know what driving in Iceland is like?
And this responsibility comes to your mind in some specific situations. I remember one of the first times I was driving without “supervision” (this means without a fellow logistic volunteer in the van) it was during the first hour of the morning, I was surrounded by the darkness of the winter days, the roads were almost invisible under a white layer of snow, and the sun was not planning to come out that day because the clouds had taken over the sky. Heavy rain, hail, snow. I didn’t know it was possible to have all of that at the same time. On top of that, one of the front lights of the van was not working. The only things I could see—although barely—were the red light dots of the car in front of me. That kind of situation requires a lot of focus. I think I was sweating after that. Driving in Iceland has made me a more experienced driver, but you should never underestimate the roads. A couple of months later, I was driving along the South Shore, one of the main one-day trips we offer to our short-term volunteers. We were leaving the first stop of the trip, the magnificent Sólheimajökull glacier. The curvy path was delimited by walls of snow that reached
“ÞESSI ENDALAUSI VEGUR ENDAR VEL.”
up to your waist in some places, and we were faced with more than a road, what we had was a sheet of ice. The ending is pretty obvious, my colleague was driving in front of me with a 4x4 van (this means a better grip, not like mine), I tried to maintain the same speed as him, not having in mind the grip of my own wheels, and when I realized that, it was too late. In the first turn I didn’t have time to react, I tried to brake, the tires slid on the ice, and we ended up off the road. When this happens, with eight other people in the car and you are the only one to blame, you start to rethink if you are doing a good job. Luckily, nothing bad happened, and with the help of everyone’s teamwork, we managed to move the van and continue the trip. Now this is just an amusing anecdote. The funniest thing is that just two minutes before the “incident”, one of the participants told me the magic words: “You are such a good driver.” Since then, I kind of prefer not to be told that anymore. So, if you are planning to come and drive in Iceland, just keep in mind the conditions you are driving in. These roads are amazing, surrounded by incredible landscapes, and going through them can be a lot of fun, but they require responsibility, not only for the people in your car but also for the other users of the roads. SEEDS van stuck in the snow. Photo by Laurent Herry.
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Top 5 places to visit in and around Reykjavík Text and photos by Leonardo A. Valderrama P.
his free time over the past six months walking and getting lost all around the city. I bet that if you have already been there or if you will go one day, you will agree with me that these places are unique and full of magic. 1. Sæbraut
On the first position I'm listing quite a popular and easy to reach place. It's the seafront of the bay of the city center and even though it's a very popular sightseeing spot, I'm pretty sure most people only cover a small part of it, from the majestic Harpa Concert Hall up to the Sun Voyager sculpture. Going forward, you will have the chance to appreciate a beautiful view of the sea, some small beaches scattered along the coast and the view of the little cozy Viðey Island near the shore. It is quiet and for a moment you are going to forget you're still in the city, as the meadows around are vast and welcoming. However, turning your back you will have one of the nicest views of Reykjavík's downtown, this lovely combination of traditional buildings, led by the peak of Hallgrímskirkja, and modern tall buildings stretching up to reach the sky. It is a nice feeling of being inside and outside at the same time. Yet the best thing you can see is the next place on my list: Esjan.
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When you come from an old European country like me, you expect to find in the capital of a nation the traditional recurring urban model: a big central square with the most important buildings of the town: the old church, some historic monuments and a straight road that connects with another significant and more modern area. At least that is what I would expect coming from Italy, where all the main cities follow this scheme. But Reykjavík is a unique capital and you may be pleasantly surprised, or maybe not, it depends on your personal taste, by how particular the Icelandic capital is. It was only when the Americans occupied Iceland during WWII that the people of Reykjavík were inspired to become a more modern city. Instead of opting for a model closer to the Scandinavian relatives, it was built following the “American style,” similar to cities like Detroit in the States. This is not meant to be an urbanistic class though and I do not have enough knowledge on the subject anyway. What I want to tell you is that some of the most fascinating places of Reykjavík, that I learned to love and appreciate, are not always nearby and sometimes may require you to explore parts of the city that otherwise you would not visit. This list is based only on my personal taste, an ItalianColombian volunteer in Iceland who has spent most of
The iconic mountain is not exactly in Reykjavík, yet it is a constant presence in every part of the city. Whenever you look north, you are going to see this enormous and gorgeous harmony of rock and snow that never stops impressing and touching for its beauty. It even becomes reassuring with time, like a strong and gentle arm protecting all of us from the icy wind of the North. It is easy to reach even by bus from the center. It takes less than 30 minutes and once you are there you can choose different paths based on the difficulty. When I went with my dear colleagues, we took the medium one and had a pleasant and exciting hike until almost the top of the mountain. It's not necessary to say that the view is breath-taking, and you can see a vast part of the land around you until the sight allows. It's easy to fly with your imagination all over Iceland while filling your lungs with cold and pure air.
3. Botanical Gardens
I am still waiting for the good season to finally admire all the species of plants and herbs that the Botanical Gardens has to offer. While most of the ground was dead during the winter, all around this place I can feel so much living power. During the weekends there are always kids playing and families going for a walk. The rocks around the garden have something mystic about them—they always make me think about trolls during some old rituals. And the contrast of the green of the trees with the red sky at sunset is wonderful. I can imagine John Keats or some other romantic poet walking through the little paths and being inspired to write wonderful poems... And not to mention that I was right in the middle of these gardens when I saw the best northern lights I have ever seen since I’ve been here, surrounded by familiar trees while the sky was burning green and white lights.
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4. Geothermal Beach
Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach is the coziest place you can find in Reykjavík! When you arrive there, you are going to get the impression of being in a tropical scenery thanks to the clear water, the white sand beach, and the green hills. Only on a second look you will start to see the typical Nordic elements like the hot pool and on the other side of the bay the Nordic-style houses of Kópavogur. That is the place where brave Icelanders of any age come to swim in the ocean and challenge themselves by swimming in the cold water after warming up in the hot tub at the entry of the beach. On a sunny day it is perfect for lying on the sand or the grass, admiring the endless sight of the ocean and enjoying the nostalgic marine breeze. I cannot wait for this summer to swim in the ocean under the midnight sun and relax in the hot waters. I did not know what real cold was until I decided on one random day in December to go for a swim in the ocean! It was a wonderful experience, but oh my goodness, I could not feel my feet afterwards for more than 20 minutes. I thought I was going to lose them! Be careful if you want to try that. 5. Grótta Lighthouse
Prepare for a long walk as the most beautiful place in Reykjavík— for me, since technically it’s not part of the city—is at the very edge of it. Walking along the south coast of Reykjavík, starting from the
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Geothermal Beach, you will have the chance to admire this unique landscape with the ocean, clear sky, big fields of grass and in the far distance the snowy mountains of the interiors. These days it is even possible to admire a volcanic eruption! All this while walking next to Vesturbær, my favorite neighborhood as it somehow infuses me with a constant summer feeling, even in full winter! At the end of this pleasant walk there is finally the natural reserve of Grótta and its famous lighthouse. It is the quietest place I know in the area where you can finally listen peacefully to the sound of the waves crashing against the coast, the ducks’ call and birds of different species singing all over the sky. It is the perfect place to meditate while contemplating the infinity of the ocean, its mystic colors that mix with the sky, and feel the energy of nature all around your body and soul. Be careful with the tide timetable, as with high tide the land that connects the mainland with the lighthouse gets completely covered by water and you might end up trapped there! But there is another nice surprise in that area: when leaving in the direction of Reykjavík, on the north coast, there is the little Kvika footbath just next to the ocean! It is really small but it's such a pleasant feeling to rest there for
have a small snack and never stop eating eat the doughnuts today or get fat next week don't worry it's inevitable
a bit after the long walk and meanwhile admire again the horizon, the city center in the distance, and even Snæfellsnes Peninsula if the sky is clear enough. After so much time living here, I would expect to get used to all this beauty, yet every time I am in these places, I still feel the same joy, the same enthusiasm, and the same astonishment as the first time months ago, and sometimes even more. Like the famous song "The Hardest Karaoke Song in the World" says about Iceland: JUST COME AND VISIT! I wish you feel the same as me and get the best experience from these places.
your drink of choice tea, fake beer, orange juice why choose? have 'em all at once but make sure to wash your cups or someone will be mad (You have 1 new WhatsApp message) argue about vegetable milk dishes in or next to the sink the disappearance of dairy products or blame M-Middle for being awesome and hiding the Camembert
A POEM BY BENEDIKTE PETRUTIS home is wherever you feel at peace a safe place free from judgment full of joy and laughter today it's M40
find a movie that no one has seen or be scarred for life watching documentaries when's the next good movie coming out?
silent afternoons everyone is here no one's talking grab a blanket take a nap on the couch someone will join you
2 rooms and a boom the only time you can't trust them with your life (if) you're the President
buzzing from life at 22 PM dinnertime always vegetarian changing the world one bite at a time
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a wild mix of 17 souls blissfully not knowing what comes after we leave this magical place all we know is however long we stay we'll always have a home right here, at M40
Intercultural understanding Written by Julia Boros
The elephant, the lava and the foreigners— A subjective travelogue
Written by Hella Wagner
My biggest regret is not having taken my sunglasses, which is already saying a lot. As I’m blinking in the obscenely bright sunshine, trying to take in the view, it suddenly hits me how differently I had pictured it in my head when still back at home. “I’m reading the manual for Iceland!” I said, and being the hopeless bibliophile I am, I had no doubts whatsoever about having selected the best way to prepare myself for my upcoming ESC project. Kristof Magnusson’s book did give me an adequate amount of general facts and personal impressions, but I definitely overestimated my capacity of actually remembering everything I read there, from the Sagas to the wonders of nature and political disputes over power plants. So, no wonder that even though I had something in the back of my mind about a small, inhabited island that got half-covered by lava after a sudden eruption decades ago, it was more a
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Intercultural understanding—what does this expression mean? Of course, it surrounds us everywhere and I’ve heard it so many times in my life that I thought I knew what it meant. However, as with so many other things here in Iceland, my way of thinking about this topic has changed, even though “change” might not even be the right word for that. Intercultural understanding used to be something I could not completely describe. I just had an idea about it in my head, although I never considered I would truly experience it. And now I am. When I used to think of this phrase, my head would be full of scenarios about big conferences: people from all around the world trying to understand each other with little to no success; angry businessmen and -women sitting in a big hall, explaining their traditions to each other while everybody is thinking that their traditions are better. I know, I shouldn’t think of it this way because that’s the opposite of understanding but still, this was the first picture that came to my mind. Now when I think of this expression, I think of something totally different. Much simpler, yet much more beautiful. Now this word brings me joy and I associate it with unbelievable memories that I will never forget. I think of an apartment full of amazing young people from all around Europe. I think of my chosen family. I think of evenings turning into nights filled with laughter and joy, I think of all the different movies we have watched, the food we have tasted and the songs we have listened to (“Polish Cow” forever!). Of all the words we’ve learned from each other (why are they mostly swearwords, I have no idea) and the jokes we made about stereotypes. I think about how I used to struggle with understanding everyone and expressing myself in English and how I now just have to look at them and I already know what’s in their heart. I think of all the country presentations I listened to and never got bored of, and I think of the spontaneous discussions about history and traditions where I ended up crying because I never knew about those things. I think of all these beautiful people I got to know here and I feel so unbelievably lucky. I could never have dreamed of it. I never knew how well you can get on with someone who has another mother tongue, differ-
ent from yours, and now I’m laughing at myself at how stupid I was, because I did not just find friends here, I found a family. And in this sense, family means more than friendship. We don’t necessarily go out to cafés or talk about our deepest feelings, but we are here for each other no matter what happens. If you are sad or miserable, you can be sure that the others will wait for you in the living room with a warm group hug (yes, we do that!) and some sarcastic humor. These memories have made me realize how big this world is that we live in—so much bigger than I used to think. It has also made me realize how small I am, in the best way possible. How this world is filled with people who have different traditions but the same heart. How everyone has been through so much—so many terrible but also beautiful moments that define them—but still, we are here together, sharing these moments of bliss. This is intercultural understanding for me.
smudgy allegory of the Icelanders’ perseverance for me rather than a complete story or an idea where that island was or what it looked like. Fast forward half a year: I’m standing on top of Eldfell, one of Iceland’s youngest volcanos, the stunning red rocks beneath|my boots and the yellow-greenish moss (it grows back so sloooow!) over the lava field looking nothing like the dark, smoky and all black little piece of land I had imagined when I heard about the Westman Islands for the first time. “Where are we and what happened to this place exactly?” you might be asking, so let me give you some geographical and historical context. Vestmannaeyjar is an archipelago located, using my own scientific unit of measurement, half an hour ferry ride away from the southern coast of Iceland. It consists of a few islands of varying sizes, but the biggest, and the only one inhabited, is Heimaey, with a population of 4,300 people. The island’s only town was partially destroyed by a volcano eruption in 1973 that lasted five long months. It was mostly a matter of lucky circumstances that the residents could be evacuated without a deadly mass accident. From up here, I can clearly see the line where the land originally ended and where the extra square kilometers added by the lava flow start. As I turn around to look at the town on the other side, it feels almost surreal that people still—or rather once again—live there. Mementos of the eruption can be found all over the place and there are small rivulets of steam coming out of the mountain, still warm to the touch after more than forty years. And yet, the town is just like any other one, with the harbor, shops, pubs and guesthouses that now, without the masses of tourists, stay mostly empty.
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What is a curse for the locals whose living depends on tourists is actually a blessing for us: we get to experience Heimaey’s unique beauty without bumping into people everywhere and having to compete for a room to rent and a spot on the ferry. Instead, we hike on the unearthly mountains, wander across Vestmannaeyjabær and admire the famous elephant-shaped rock, accompanied only by seagulls and the ever-pres-
ent wind. The Westman Islands are not considered one of the most praised off-the-beaten-path destinations for nothing, after all. As we are leaving the southernmost point of the country, I notice that the vivid sunshine has been replaced by a rapidly ascending fog, blocking most of the island from view, but I already have the memory securely stored in my mind and heart forever.
M40 playlist I sent Martín on a mission to develop a playlist for the readers. He then went ahead and asked the long-term volunteers living at M40—that’s what we call our home in Iceland—to send him songs that in five years will still remind them of their time here. This is what he came back with. I hope you discover some new favorites and have fun listening to these songs! Baiuca, Carlangas – Fisterra Tongo – Pumped Up Kicks Dancing Polish Cow (Cypis – Gdzie Jest Biały Węgorz) Shreksophone (De Hofnar – Zonnestraal (MÖWE Remix)) Polo & Pan – Mexicali Carlos Puebla – Hasta Siempre, Comandante Alt-J – Taro BRÍET – Rólegur Kúreki Bad Lip Reading – My Stick! Bad Lip Reading – Seagulls! (Stop It Now) Clementino – Cos Cos Cos Tame Impala – Feels Like We Only Go Backwards Cumbia Sobre el Mar – Quantic & Flowering Inferno Ásgeir – Youth IZAL – Eco Tame Impala – The Less I Know the Better The Cat Empire – Brighter Than Gold BSÍ – Vesturbæjar Beach C. Tangana – Demasiadas Mujeres Jeff Buckley – So Real List created by Martín Fernandez, introduction written by Inna Hallik
RECIPE BY CLARISSE TAUFOUR
A famous, easy and delicious recipe loved by most French people is the crepe. Infinitely adaptable, the crepe can be eaten both sweet or savoury. For example, in Brittany they use a special flour, the buckwheat flour. In the North of France, we like to add beer in the batter, which gives lightness and taste. Some people also cook it with rum. Even if you eat it all year long, in France we have this special date when everyone eats crepes, “La Chandeleur” (or Candlemas in English), which is celebrated on February 2. Deriving from the Latin “Festa
Ingredients (about 15 crepes) ■ 6 eggs or 3 tablespoons of starch ■ 250g of flour ■ A pinch of salt ■ 25cl of tepid milk (can be plant based milk) ■ 25cl of lager beer ■ 120g of butter or 2 tablespoons of oil
Instructions Mix the flour and salt with the eggs (or starch), then add the butter (or oil) and the milk. Let it rest for about one hour. Butter the pan before cooking the first crepe, then you just have to cook each side of the crepe for a few minutes, waiting for it to turn a golden colour. If you are a master, you can flip the crepe by popping it. You can eat it with anything you want—sugar, brown sugar, chocolate and banana, jam… ENJOY!
to the weather we still have today, for instance, “Rosée à la Chandeleur, l'hiver à sa dernière heure” (Dew at Candlemas, winter at its last hour). Whatever you believe in, just enjoy crepes with your family and friends!
If you have any questions regarding any of the content in this magazine or would like to give feedback, you can reach out to SEEDS via one of the social media channels or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com..
CONTRIBUTING WRITERS & PHOTOGRAPHERS
Alain Corbeau from the Netherlands Annie Heine from Switzerland Benedikte Petrutis from Estonia Clare Nedin from Wales Clarisse Taufour from France Helena Teixeira from Portugal
Hella Wagner from Hungary José Celis from Spain Julia Boros from Hungary Leonardo A. Valderrama P. from Italy Marelle Reis from Estonia Martín Fernandez from Spain
P.S. How many cats did you see?
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Candelarum,” meaning Festival of Candles, “La Chandeleur” was the day of the year when all candles destined to be used by churches during the coming year were delivered and blessed. It is also the day to commemorate the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. In the common tradition, “La Chandeleur” was the chance to use the flour remaining from the past year to ensure a new beginning and by extension a good year to come. With its golden colour and circular shape, the crepe recalls the sun, evoking the return of spring, good weather, and hoping for a flourishing harvest. Due to France being mostly an agricultural country at this time, the weather had a big influence on people’s lives, which explains proverbs related
Upcoming SEEDS' camps From 06.08.2021 to 14.08.2021
SEEDS 051. August Photo Marathon in Reykjavík Arts/Study/Discussion/Research
From 14.08.2021 to 22.08.2021
SEEDS 053. Environmentally Aware & Trash Hunting in Reykjavík
An immersive photography-related learning camp. SEEDS coordinators help the participants develop their unique photographic skills through workshops and feedback sessions on technical settings, compositional considerations as well as developing conceptual frameworks, which progress the participants’ individual style.
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This camp allows participants to learn about global and local environmental issues, through nonformal activities such as workshops, discussions, presentations and visits, as well as to contribute directly to environment protection by joining outdoor cleanup tasks.
From 30.08.2021 to 07.09.2021
From 04.09.2021 to 19.09.2021
SEEDS 062. September Photography in Reykjavík
SEEDS 064. Forestry in the Far East of Iceland
An immersive photography-related learning camp. SEEDS coordinators help the participants develop their unique photographic skills through workshops and feedback sessions on technical settings, compositional considerations as well as developing conceptual frameworks, which progress the participants’ individual style.
SEEDS volunteers will be working on a project in the beautiful Hallormsstaðaskógur forest in the far east of Iceland, doing nature and environment-oriented tasks. The main tasks will be to maintain hiking paths, build stairs, make and put up signs. Volunteers will also put up benches and tables in the forest. Other tasks will be to trim branches and beautify groves that are located near hiking paths.
Click here for more info
Click here for more info
To find more projects and sign up for a camp, visit the SEEDS website. website.
SEEDLING ISSUE 01 SUMMER 2021