One very interesting, perhaps unexpected development of the workaway scheme is how helpful it is proving to be to single or working parents. At 11 and 14, my kids were quite capable of fending for themselves for short periods of time… but when a particularly heavy work schedule loomed, which meant being out for when the kids arrived back from school 3 days a week and not returning home until after supper-time, I decided to put the word out on workaway and see what response I got.
Almost immediately I had several people enquiring, and then it was just a case of confirming who would be available for that time period. Anita fitted the bill and I arranged to meet her at the train station the following week. It made such a difference to me knowing that I didn´t have the stress of leaving the kids instructions and meals-to-go. In fact Anita was an excellent cook, although her home was in Australia her family originated from Lebanon and the Lebanese cuisine is truly exquisite. It was far nicer for the kids to come home from school to a warm welcome, have company whilst they did their homework and help prepare supper. One evening I came home later than expected, to see all three of them curled up on the sofa.
Another workaway host living in Berlin and working as a midwife, previously found it almost impossible to find a sitter to accompany her 10 year old daughter when she was called out for a birth, sometimes late at night or in the small hours of the morning. Having a resident workawayer for the times that she was on call solved that problem; she was often workawaying whilst she slept! Her first helper, Charlotte, was interested in learning German as well as midwifery, so it worked well all round. An added bonus was the daughter´s English improved dramatically too.
There are many times when parents feel that they can’t physically be in so many places at once. Having an extra back-up to cover these eventualities is a god send. A workaway host based in same who is also a single father told me “We live in an isolated part of rural Spain, it is fantastic to have the extra help. The added bonus is the cultural diversity that arrives on our doorstep. What a wonderful way for the kids to learn about the rest of the world. It´s the next best thing to travelling. We have had a Japanese helper who taught us some typical dishes and origami skills which my daughter loved, whilst my son was over the moon with the zip-wire put up by the tree surgeons from the States. Another workawayer from Canada gave us the opportunity to practice our French, whilst an Australian singer had us all performing our favourite hits. This programme is a real success on so many levels.”
Carolyn from Ireland, worked long hours away from her beautiful rural retreat. What she didn´t always have the time for was the maintenance of her orchard and garden, chopping firewood, and some of the heavier manual jobs. Having someone to take care of these things in her absence took away a great deal of the strain and enabled her to enjoy her cosy cottage at the end of a long day.
Rita from Paraguay had a fall and needed a bit of extra help around the home for a few weeks, lifting, shopping, gardening, taking the dog for a walk etc. Her family approached workaway to register as a host. Similarly new mothers have also benefitted from an extra pair of hands to get them through the first few months, and beyond. Of course workawayers are not to be seen as replacements for care-workers, but more as a much appreciated extra pair of helping hands.
People who have the responsibility of round-the-clock caring for others, are often the ones that appreciate support as much as those being cared for.
I signed up as a workaway host a year ago. As a single parent to three young children there simply weren’t enough hours in the day. Since then I have had a stream of workawayers to stay, and it has quite literally changed my life. Depending a bit upon the skills of the people who have volunteered they have either worked on the house, allowing me to spend more time with my children, or entertained the children leaving me free to get on with other things. It dramatically reduced the pressure I was under, and has been hugely beneficial to the kids too, who have learnt all kinds of things from our visitors – cats cradles, origami and most impressively – how to build a skate ramp… During the three month school summer holidays I don’t know how I would have managed without them. We have been extremely lucky and had some lovely couples who both the children and I have thoroughly enjoyed.