Issues >

In the following texts and videos, you will see various situations that you can encounter as campleaders or project leaders. They are to provide you tips and guidance in case you’re wondering how to solve an issue that arose during your projects. The solutions proposed are based on many years of experience of experienced leaders and trainers, who are used of working with multicultural groups of participants. But always remember, that the context of your situation matters.

For some of the proposed solutions, you might also find handy to go through the main principles of non-violent communication and explanation to better understand variety of expectations from participants, campleaders and local partners.

Select one or several of the tags to watch and read about specific possible issues and how to deal with them.

Situation 1: A campleader is overwhelmed

What happened:
The participants want too much from the camp leader, they come to him with every detail or small question. He has a co-leader, but she is very inexperienced, so she is nervous about the whole situation and needs to help herself with tasks, he can't rely on her too much. In addition, one day the project partner also announces that they have decided to organise an informal event, which is not related to the project, but they want the campleader to get the participants to help with the set-up. The campleader is very overwhelmed and stressed all the time because he feels that everyone is relying on him for everything and it's getting to be too much.

Proposed solution:

  • Take a break: It is crucial to take a break from work and give yourself time to recharge. A short nap or an evening spent alone may help you to cope with a burnout or even avoid it at all.
  • Delegate Responsibilities: Consider delegating some of your responsibilities to other participants or co-leaders to ease your workload.
  • Rely on the participants: they can also be responsible for making decisions and performing small tasks on their own.
  • Distribute tasks in the beginning: this may help you to save energy and concentrate on the most important tasks.
  • Set your own boundaries from the beginning: do not take too much tasks and responsibilty on you. Remember: you are not a nanny or a mom for the volunteers!

Some more ideas for similar situations are in the video:

Tags: campleader, stress management, mental health

Situation 2: Your co-leader is not sharing responsibilities

What happened:
You and your co-leader are to prepare a workshop for local people. However, your co-leader is not contributing much to the planning process, leaving the majority of the work to you. Despite your expectations and encouragement for them to take action, they do not seem to be showing much interest in the workshop.

Proposed solutions:

  • Set Clear Expectations: Make sure that your co-leader understands their responsibilities and the expectations for their role.
  • Communicate directly and do not wait till the situation is heated up. The best solution is to talk to your co-leader privately and explain what the problem is.
  • Divide Responsibilities: Work together to divide the responsibilities in a way that is fair and balanced. Ensure that each person understands their specific duties and that they are accountable for completing them.
  • Share tasks based on one’s preferences: Discuss which type of tasks each of you prefer to do and distribute them according to your preferences.
  • If you cannot deal with the situation and your co-leader is reluctant to listen to you, just concentrate on your tasks. Remember: You do not have to be best friends with your co-leader! Focus on the project and not on building relationship with your co-leader.
  • Keep track of your achievements and present the result of your work to the co-leader so that he/she has a clear understanding of what have been done and what he/she is expected to do.
  • Seek help from the project partner if possible

Tags: campleader, communication, teamwork, responsibilities

Situation 3: One of the participants is excluded because of the language barrier

What happened:
During a workcamp in Spain, a participant who does not speak Spanish is being left out of group activities and discussions. Other participants seem to avoid speaking in English and instead switch to Spanish, making it difficult for the non-Spanish speaking participant to participate and engage with the group. This exclusion results in the participant feeling isolated and hinders their ability to fully participate in the workcamp.

Proposed solutions:

  • Encourage the group to speak English: Talk to the participants and explain that someone feels excluded from group activities.
  • Arrange team building exercises: Team-building exercises can help to break down barriers between group members and foster a sense of community. By creating an environment where people feel comfortable and connected, they may be more willing to communicate and speak English with each other.
  • Provide language support, such as a translator or a language tutor if it is possible.
  • Facilitate small group discussions where the non-Spanish speaking participant can be paired with Spanish-speaking participants. This would encourage the participants speak English and communicate more.

Similar situation (couple/two people excluding themselves from the group) is discussed in this video:

Tags: language barrier, communication, exclusion

Situation 4: Participant cannot communicate in English

What happened:
One participant is being excluded from group activities due to a language barrier. This participant is unable to understand English and therefore cannot fully participate in discussions, games, or work instructions. This exclusion may make the participant feel isolated and may hinder their ability to fully engage with the group.

Proposed solutions:

  • Talk slowly and clearly: Explain the work and tasks to them individually, and make sure they understand what is expected of them.
  • Use translation apps: Consider using translation apps to facilitate communication. Translation apps are easy to use and can make communication more fun and interactive.
  • Plan team-building exercises that encourage interaction
  • Use visual aids and gestures to explain tasks and procedures. This can help them to better understand what is expected of them.
  • Respect personal preferences: Be aware that some people may prefer to observe rather than participate. Be respectful of personal preferences and avoid putting anyone under pressure to participate.

Tags: language barrier, communication, exclusion

Situation 5: Participants go partying at night and cannot work properly on the next day

What happened:
Some participants are behaving as though they are on vacation, going out to party every night and prioritizing leisure over work responsibilities. This behavior is having a negative impact on their participation in work activities. They are unable to wake up on time the next day and are missing out on work opportunities. This lack of commitment and responsibility may affect the productivity of the entire team, and can hinder the success of the workcamp.

Proposed solutions:

  • At the beginning of the workcamp, set clear expectations for participants about their work and the purpose of their stay.
  • Schedule work and free time
  • Explain the aim of the project and in particular the work they will be doing.
  • Emphasise that this is a team work and each participant's contribution is important to achieve the common goal. Explain the impact their behavior has on the work of the whole group.
  • Create engaging work activities so that participants are motivated to work and contribute.

Tags: work and leisure balance, expectations

Situation 6: Participants complain about the type, difficulty, or amount of work

What happened:
After several days of outdoor working the participants began to complain about the work because they did not expect this workload.

Proposed solutions:

  • Check the tools: some may not be sharp enough, or different tools may be needed for different jobs. Make sure you've got what you need to get the job done as smoothly as possible.
  • Offer breaks and ensure that participants have access to water and shade especially if the work is outside.
  • Clarify expectations: Before the work begins, clearly communicate the expected amount and type of work to the participants. This can help avoid misunderstandings and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
  • Rotate participants through different tasks. This can help prevent boredom and reduce physical strain from doing the same thing repeatedly. It also gives participants the opportunity to learn new skills and gain experience in different aspects of the project.

Tags: work and leisure balance, expectations

Situation 7: Project partner wants the group to do something different from what was originally agre

What happened:
Volunteers arrived at a work camp to plant vegetables in a community garden, but at the last minute the project manager changed the task to building a fence around the garden without informing the camp leader. The volunteers were disappointed by the change in plans and lost their motivation. A camp leader was faced with a difficult situation where the participants did not want to do a new type of work.

Proposed solutions:

  • Contact the project partner before the workcamp
  • Re-evaluate the goals and expectations of the volunteers and the project partner.
  • As a camp leader, respect the limits of yourself and your group. Maybe some tasks don't need to be completed during the camp.
  • As a camp leader, you can openly express your feelings and disappointments to the group.
  • Contact a workcamp organisation to mediate between the camp leader and the project partner.

Tags: expectations, communication, teamwork, conflict resolution

Situation 8: A participant does not eat at a workcamp

What happened:
After a few days, the camp leader noticed that one girl was not eating her meals with the others. The camp leader asked her what was wrong, but she said everything was fine. The next day the counsellor insisted on going to the doctor, where it was discovered that the girl had a stomach infection. Overall, the girl was shy and did not complain or express any concerns.

Proposed solutions:

  • Eating habits are culturally and personally diverse. Participants may not like the food provided or may eat at different times, e.g. during Ramadan. This can be a sensitive issue, so discuss this with the participant individually.
  • Keep an eye on the participant to see if it's a temporary thing, a personal preference, or more of a health issue.
  • Check in with all participants regularly and individually: Have one-to-one conversations with each participant to see how they're doing. This can help identify problems that may not be immediately apparent in a group setting.
  • Encourage open communication: It's important to create an environment where participants feel comfortable voicing concerns and asking for help.
  • Provide medical attention if needed: If a participant is not feeling well, it's important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Tags: health, introvert, exclusion

Situation 9: You and your co-camp leader have different working styles

What happened:
Two camp leaders had to organize an international evening for the participants. However, they had different approaches to the task at hand. One leader was ambitious and creative, with many ideas for the event, while the other was more pragmatic and preferred to focus on basic activities. As a result, they struggled to collaborate and make decisions about what would be included in the evening's activities.

Proposed solutions:

  • Collaborate with the other camp leader to determine the optimal solution. Effective communication between the leaders is crucial, so ensure that your ideas and suggestions are communicated clearly and directly.
  • Prioritize key activities and focus on those first. Consider alternative options and consult with both the other leader and participants.
  • Seek advice from participants and ask them what they would like to do during the event.

Tags: campleader, teamwork, responsibilities, communication, conflict resolution

Situation 10: Trouble maker

What happened:
One participant struggled to follow the rules and stay on task during the workcamp. She often went out for a smoke or a chat with her friends instead of working, causing delays and frustration for the other volunteers. In her free time, she wanted to be the centre of attention and made other participants feel uncomfortable.

Proposed solutions:

  • Talk to the participant privately and explain how her behaviour is affecting others in the group. Rather than pointing out her fault, try using a non-violent communication formula that states the feelings and the situation with a clear request for action, without judgement or blame. For example: "I feel frustrated when the schedule and rules are not followed. I would appreciate it if you could be more considerate of your group members and take on more tasks.”
  • Clearly communicate expectations: The participant may not be aware of what is expected of them. Make sure the rules and expectations are clearly communicated to them at the beginning of the camp
  • Seek help from her friends: If she has friends in the group, talk to them and explain that her behaviour has a negative impact on the group environment.
  • If there is a problem with people arriving late in the morning, here are a few things you can try: play music in the morning so they associate it with the start of the day, make sure they have coffee :) and don't wait too long for everyone to arrive. There is a set schedule that people are aware of, so the work shouldn't suffer from constant disregard for this time frame.

Tags: group dynamics, conflict resolution, communication

Situation 11: Participants have different food preferences

What happened:
The participants in the work camp had various dietary restrictions, with some preferring a vegetarian diet, some preferring meat, and others having gluten or lactose intolerance. Unfortunately, some participants did not indicate their dietary preferences and restrictions before the work camp, which made it challenging to prepare meals that would suit everyone.

Proposed solutions:

  • Check allergies, preferences, etc. at the start of the workcamp and communicate restrictions to the rest of the group.
  • Ask participants to provide recipes for their dietary needs.
  • Label all food items clearly, indicating any allergens or dietary restrictions, to avoid confusion and to make it easier for participants to identify what they can and cannot eat.
  • Consider having participants take turns cooking meals for the group, which can not only accommodate dietary needs, but also foster teambuilding
  • Make sure you have a budget for some food items, e.g. meat is very expensive in some countries, as are tropical fruits and other delicacies.
  • Follow simple hygiene rules in the kitchen to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses that can cause illness. So make sure that the cooking group:

  • wash their hands before cooking

  • regularly clean and sanitize all kitchen surfaces, utensils, and equipment
  • store food items properly and at the correct temperature

Tags: group dynamics, communication, expectations

Situation 12: Organizing tasks among campleaders

What happened:

  • The campleader is struggling with his/her tasks. It goes very slowly and s/he’s getting upset because it’s still not finished.
  • The campleader or participant is excited and brainstorms tons of ideas for the event you’re co-organizing. Many people should be coming and you’re nervous about how to make it all work.

Proposed solution:

  • Try to divide tasks based on your competences and preferences. Even complicated tasks are done quickly when the responsible person likes doing it or has some experience doing it.

  • Focus on pragmatic solutions of things that HAVE TO be done. After that, give space to ideas that are NICE TO HAVE to have the work done. If the communication is too emotional, try to focus on the pragmatic things first and discuss the emotions later when people are calmer and ready to talk about it.

Tags: campleader, responsibilities, expectations

Situation 13: Having to do something with no planning or preparation

What happened:
Unexpected issue came up (a participant got lost) and one campleader is in panic. S/he doesn’t know what to do.

Proposed solutions:

  • Keep calm, breathe. Calm voice will help ease the emotions your co-campleader is in.
  • Improvise an agreeable pragmatic solution. Take over the coordination (based on your conditions).
  • Ask the participants or local partner for help.

Tags: campleader, responsibilities

Situation 14: Two participants excluding themselves from the group

What happened:
A couple or two friends tend to spend a lot of time together and don’t socialize with the group.

Proposed solution:

  • emphasize group guidelines and encourage teambuilding
  • talk with the two people in private (ideally each of them separately) to explain how their behavior influences the group

Tags: exclusion, expectations, communication, group dynamics

Situation 15: How to work with introvert participant in the group?

What happened:
One participant is sometimes excluding themselves from the group, not participating at a group exercise or division of tasks. Campleaders are not sure if the person is alright.

Proposed solutions:

  • Always check with the participant, if s/he’s fine. S/he might need to talk or support, but s/he might also need few moments on her/his own, which is also perfectly fine and understandable. It helps some people to take care of their own wellbeing during the project.
  • Agree with the group on common feedback tools that might help express if there are any problems, misunderstandings or conflicts. For example, having a feedback box where people can anonymously express their concerns might work well in case the person does not want to open the topic in the whole group.
  • Build trust among the group, emphasize getting to know activities so one’s preferences are known in the group. You can build “group guidelines” together and get back to it regularly to evaluate if they are working or something needs to be adjusted or added. Make sure the guidelines are understood and agreed on in the group.
  • You can build a “buddy” system, always two people who are supporting each other throughout the project. It’s a person they should rely on.
  • Make sure all of the participants know they can ask a campleader for support in case they don’t feel alright.

Tags: exclusion, communication, introvert

This part of the website was prepared in the project Peacebuilding through Workcamps, that is realised in 2022 - 2023 by INEX - Sdružení dobrovolných aktivit and IBG. The content was prepared by experienced trainers, project and workcamp leaders and coordinations from NGOs all over the Europe.
Thank you Ajka, Aleks, Anna, Christina, Csenge, Flemming, Isabel, Jana, Janina, Katerina, Lea, Lenka, Mario, Nina, Puji, Rob, Timur, and Zuzana for your contributions!


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