Finding new energy through the power of community

Workcamp: New Energy. Monar Gaudynki

I attended my sixth SCI workcamp at Monar, a therapy center for people with addictions, located in the beautiful region of the Great Masurian Lakes in the north of Poland. During two weeks, my fellow volunteers and I got to experience daily life at the center, as well as enjoy a 4-day camping trip together with the patients.

At the beginning, it took a couple of days to acclimate myself to the house and its pace (waking up earlier than I’m used to, having fixed hours for meals, all of that while having to follow the general house rules). But the positive effects of life close to nature, manual work, taking care of the garden and relying on it for our food, felt very much like “returning to the land”. I was amazed at how it all impacted my physical and mental health quickly, in a beneficial way.

The camping trip was an occasion to get to know each other in a different context and to have more time to participate in fun activities like kayaking, which was a first for me. Those four days went by in a blink of an eye, but I will carry with me for a long time the memories of playing the guitar by the bonfire, the watercolor sunsets and the laughter in the air that smelled of wood smoke.

The sense of community that you get while living at Monar contributes to a safe, nonjudgmental environment that lets you embrace who you are. My personal experiences and my training as a social worker had already planted the seed of the understanding that community is an important tool of empowerment. At Monar, I have witnessed how it allows people to take responsibility and change their lives around. It enables people to embody and carry out values of solidarity, respect for oneself and others, discipline, as well as build new skills and self-esteem. Along with therapy, this model can really help patients to restore a healthier lifestyle and to continue taking care of themselves when they are ready to leave the center.

Patients must commit to one year of therapy, and we stayed there for only two short weeks, but this experience inspired me to engage in healthier habits myself. It also encouraged me to become more involved in my own communities in order to pursue what I found here: a compassionate approach to living together in a society that tends to put stigma on the most vulnerable, and building bridges between each other, to share our many knowledges and skills. That way, we can support one another to become stronger and more equipped to navigate a challenging modern world.

The workcamp took place in 2023

Poland, Gaudynki

The story was written for us by Marie Martens