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Volunteers' Stories

From IVS, the International Voluntary Service

Founded in 1931, IVS is a non-profit organisation that promotes peace and social justice through volunteering.

This new article series will bring you stories from their volunteers about their inspirational experiences helping local communities n the UK and around the world

My volunteering experience at Tara Kadampa

by Euan Mackie a 'senior volunteer'

Tara Kadampa is an International Meditation Centre set in 38 acres of grounds near woodlands in Etwall, Derbyshire. IVS have run successful work camps there for the last few years.

Recently I had an interest to look up International Voluntary Service on the internet, as I recalled the sense of freedom, and service I had when I was a student, 40 years ago, when I took part in international work camps.

I discovered the organisation was still going strong and the international network of work camps had increased to all continents. I felt a resurgence of that spirit of internationalism and co-operation in me, but I wondered about my age (64) and whether I would be merely returning to my youth. I was encouraged by the age tag 18-90.

Many different opportunities seemed to call out to me, but the camp in Derby at Tara Kadampa, a meditation centre, seemed just right as it fitted with an interest in my internal spirit. I completed the online documentation, received the go ahead, and made my travel plans.

A few weeks later, I arrived at Etwall, a pleasant English village a few miles outside of Derby and walked through the lanes and countryside, to arrive in the grounds of the Centre. I wondered if I had done the right thing. The notices below the mature trees of the woodlands, warning of the existence of rabbit holes, flagged up the gentleness and care for all life which pervades the centre. Arriving, I was greeted by the Buddhist nuns, shown my accommodation and after a refreshing cuppa, joined a small group of volunteers already at work in the gardens. Quickly I felt at home and fell into conversation as we set about weeding the flower beds.

Throughout the day, other volunteers arrived, until we were a team of nine from Russia, Germany, Spain, Italy, Slovenia, Italy, the Czech Republic and UK. The work was gardening, and preparing the wooden doors and windows for repainting as part of preparation of creating a larger 'Peace Cafe'.

We moved around tasks, finding our particular interests and talent e.g. for weeding a rose bed, or for sanding a particular door, or using particular tools or ladders. The work was made sweeter by the volunteer worker supervisors at the centre, Ian and Colin who gave lightness and motivation to the hard work.

While the work was physically demanding, it was, no doubt, also made easier by the surroundings, the peace and beauty of the place, the vegetarian meals which were delicious, the spiritual focus of the centre, including optional meditations and prayers, and the company of the volunteer group.

In the evenings we gathered together and did various activities, in lighthearted ways, including singing, talking, games, and a quiz, all gently and skill-fully led by our coordinator Mike. The group also spent an evening in the pub in the village to take part in an excellent karaoke evening. Then there was a nature walk and visit to a local castle, on our free day.

The week flew past and we felt we had done a good job, as the gardens were prepared for the return of the school at the centre and the woodwork was prepared and painted ready for the next stage of the building work. We enjoyed the laughter and giggles of our companionship, the philosophy of life, and being together sipping tea and coffee with biscuits at our breaks in the sun.

It was a week well done and we had made great friendships and international bonds irrespective of age, or nationality.


Visit the Laterlife Interest Index for more Volunteer Stories

If you are over 50 and want to volunteer with IVS please contact

Our projects in 60 countries worldwide are open to volunteers of all ages and can be accessed at

We have a project specifically for the over 50s in Belgium in July for 3 weeks supporting refugee families. You would be with 3 people from the UK and 4 from Belgium.  If you want to find out more contact

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