* Between The Sea (the Med) and The Alps -- {Pronounce: ontruh la mair eh lay zalp}

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An annual fall camp work week -- Part I

General 01

We recently participated in the annual fall clean-up of a camp facility mostly for disadvantaged kids up in the mountains, as we've done for the past four years.  Not too many capable people have a schedule that allows taking off work, so our "retired" status allows us to be available. 

I thought I'd share just what kind of work needs to happen behind the scenes in keeping such a facility in good operating condition.

General 02
Friends working together
While the property has been owned by an organization for a lot of years, the building itself was built by volunteers only in 1994, I think.  But nobody was really taking much charge of the upkeep until about five years ago, so there was a lot of catch-up maintenance needed.  We were involved in one of the first work weeks, and we quickly established what our strengths were.  Mine was definitely not cleaning, and I managed to get myself involved in a lot of ground work outside!  Big surprise.

Sometimes there aren't many other volunteers, which makes it harder work and less pleasant, but this time there were all kinds of new people to meet, so a lot of work got done.  These two guys were only there for two days, one of them was a friend who came from Germany just to work, and they did all kinds of odd jobs, including cleaning around the front gate.

General 03
An accountant playing in the yard

When we first started helping, nobody had been taking care of the grounds and there wasn't much equipment.  We brought up our own home tools, then we got them to rent some more substantial ones, and now they've finally bought a really nice lawnmower and big weed whacker. 

General 04
A presidential weed whack
It's been rewarding to see the weeds actually turn into some fairly nice looking grass.  I don't want to take away from what everybody else has done, but they give me credit for getting decent grounds upkeep started, so I take real pleasure seeing how nice everything is looking.

Here we have the accountant taking a break from kitchen duty to play with the mower, while the past president is whacking the steep hillside.

When it rains in this area, it really rains!  So they keeping getting gravel deliveries trying to create better drainage.  Of course, the gravel never gets dumped where it's needed, so it takes a whole lot of shoveling into a wheelbarrow, transporting, dumping.

General 05
Gravel being delivered
General 07
Gravel being utilized
General 06
Gravel being transported

General 08
Making the door close
General 09
Washing windows

The work needed involves a lot of upkeep, maintenance, and cleaning.  I personally prefer to clean out the brambles that have become way overgrown than clean the inside, and everybody else willingly lets me! 

This year, having so much help, they were able to get some doorways fixed up, while keeping up the never ending window washing.

General 12
Working around chaos

Because there was a massive kitchen project, all the pots and pans had to be relocated to the dining area, which made it a challenge for the chief cook (and planner of all the work weeks) to feed us all. 

She is a local pastor's wife, originally from Sweden, and she often manages to round up other Swedes to come down and help out.  This year was no exception.

General 10
Will the kids appreciate a clean room?
General 11
There must be a story here

The past president's wife and a friend washed down all the cabinets and beds, something I've had to do in the past when nobody else was available.  That freed me up to do more of what I wanted to do.

General 13
Taking a break from cleaning to sew
Another job needed every fall is unsewing the pillow covers so they can be washed, then sewing them back up.  That falls in the mending category, something else I hate, but this lovely Swedish woman had no problem dealing with it.

The first two years we were involved, another Swedish woman came down every year to wash all the bedding.  I didn't know her much the first year as I was working outside, but I got rather close to her the year I ended up cleaning out the hillside near the clothesline, and she could see the river for the first time.

Laundry 01
A camp full of comfy comforters

Christina couldn't come the third year for medical reasons, so I took over her job until she came back.  Unfortunately, she died before the following year, which really touched me that I'd been able to please her so much in what turned out to be her final year.  We all miss her so much.

Laundry 02
Just a few of many piles of laundry
In her honor, I have now taken over that job, which takes all week long!  All of the provided comforters have to be washed, two at a time, as well as all the mattress and pillow covers.  Not to mention all the cleaning rags and whatever else is around.

Laundry 03
A very useful tool
Apparently Christina's last year the organization bought a new and bigger washing machine, which must make this big job a whole lot easier.  I remember her jumping up from meals to start a new load, washing at night, every waking moment.  I now appreciate that as that's what I find myself doing.  Constantly!

There is a clothesline that happens to be mostly in the shade this time of year, but at least now there is a pretty view of the rushing river over the rocks!  I have named this area Place Christina, both in her honor and because I never can remember how to say clothesline area in French.

Laundry 04
Catching the sun when possible
Laundry 05
Fixing up Place Christina

For most of the week, I had to wade through the wet overgrown grass until it got mowed.  But it couldn't be mowed because for the first three days, it rained every afternoon before the morning dew burned off!  Also, where the line itself is located is in a real dip.  Notice how you can't see most of the yellow laundry basket.  By the time the week was over, the grass finally got mowed, and this year I took dirt from somewhere else and filled it in quite a bit (actually, I got the men to wheelbarrow it all over).  You can see the little area where the laundry basket had gotten lost.  Next year should be a bit nicer.  Too bad you can't see the river view to the left.

Laundry 06

We knew it was supposed to be bad weather in the middle of the week, so I washed all the little stuff early so I could use the lines.  I'd already learned in the past I could dry the comforters fairly easily over chairs.  However, we got a massive storm the first day right after lunch, and it rained every afternoon for several more days by the time the sun came over the mountains, so I had to be really creative this year getting everything dry.  Just things you don't tend to think about when you see the work all done!

Laundry 07
Laundry laundry laundry in various stages
Laundry 08
More improvising
Here's another look at the work in progress.  More mattress covers spread all over, while the comforters wait their turn to be washed.  Then they also had to be spread all over the chairs.  Fortunately, it was a big room with a lot of chairs, as well as lots of bedrooms with railings.  You can see the first batch of comforters and mattress covers finally all washed and dried!

Laundry 09
Finished pillows and more improvising
Laundry 10
Trying to be coordinating
Little by little, the pillow covers got put back on, the comforters and mattress covers got dried, and then I had fun putting all the various colors together to make the rooms as coordinated as possible.  (I understand Christina did the same thing, but I didn't know that until I was already doing it, too.)

Laundry 11
The finished task
I don't have a picture of all the comforters at one time, as many had been put back on the beds by someone else, but this isn't a bad collection of the week's work!

But I do have a picture of the first group of volunteers.  Some left early and others came later, but this is the crowd that whirled through a whole lot work that first day. 

General 14
What a fantastic crew working together
We had officers of the organization (there would have been two others, but one broke his wrist and the other broke his back just before the work week -- what  crummy excuses to get out of work), visitors from other countries who took vacation time to come help, and helpers like us who just go up for the fellowship because we can.  We do actually have a good time, and it's really rewarding when it's all over and we can see everything on the list accomplished.

This post was all about the general work that needs to be done yearly.  However, there was a specific project planned for this year, which deserves a story all on its own.  Come back by for Part 2.


  1. As I was posting this, the news came on about the beheading of the French mountain guide, Hervé Gourdel. It turns out he comes from Saint-Martin-Vésubie, the village where our camp is located. It was very strange to see the familiar sights of the village in the news. We feel like we were his neighbors.

    Our pastor is organizing a floral arrangement representing the camp for the local vigil and march tomorrow night. We feel like we should be there personally, but we don't really know anybody. This really touches close to home. So sad.

    1. I read in the news he came from "a small village near Nice" and was going to ask what you had heard. I guess you definitely know where small village is. It is definitely sad, especially since this guy was just on a vacation and was no where near areas previously thought risky. It's nice for you and CC to participate.

  2. What a sad postscript to your lovely entry. You guys do amazing work to make that place clean and lovely. It's a beautiful spot!

  3. I couldn't believe it had been a whole year since the last one, and I started wondering if there were two different camps since it did not seem possible so much time had elapsed. I checked emails to see when the boys had fun smashing up the old furniture, and that was only in March. Is it a different camp, or do you end up going twice a year?

    1. They try to schedule a spring one, too, but we haven't always been available. It's usually for a shorter time. This year, they got new furniture, so that was the main thrust. But they needed some cleaning, and nobody else could stay, so we were there all alone for a day or two. Not too super cool!


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