Volunteering is one of the most rewarding ways to experience another country. It brings you to the heart of the most important issues in the places that matter with the local people who care.
In Iceland a long history of land degradation caused by natural and human factors has led to a growing movement for ecological restoration of the most affected areas. Land degradation is a major environmental challenge in Iceland and human activities – particularly unsustainable land use but recently also tourism – contribute to the continued existence of the problem.
Being part of the solution is a meaningful way to raise awareness and give back to nature in Iceland. Indeed, over 80% of respondents in yearly surveys among foreign tourists in the country mention nature as the main reason for visiting the country. This indicates that there are great opportunities for conservation groups to engage foreign visitors in unique volunteering experiences – giving back to nature while at the same time building cultural understanding through activities such as hands-on land restoration.
CARE aims at creating a successful volunteering program in soil and land restoration in Iceland for tourists and study groups from abroad, and Icelanders alike. The project will give participants the change to give back to nature and strengthen cultural ties between Icelanders and their foreign visitors.
We will visit four areas in Iceland for scouting of potential restoration sites for the future. These four areas are:
CARE is currently in a pilot phase and we will start working in Mount Hekla region.
Our goals with CARE are manyfold but center around restoring denuded land and giving tourists, students and Icelanders alike an opportunity to give back to nature and strenghten environmental volunteering in Iceland.
In particular we aim at:
Our participants are both organized tourist groups and student groups (schools and others) as well as Icelanders.
In the pilot, we focus particularily on Americans and strengthing cultural ties between Iceland and the United States. In the future, we want to expand that to other nationalities. Please contact the project manager for more information
Although the size of the group and the exact location may vary, each trip will be built around the following core plan for the pilot phase of the project:
Morning: Meet in Reykjavík and travel together to the restoration site. On the way, a team leader explains about the ecology, history and development of land degradation in Iceland. Upon arrival, the land restoration process and methods are briefly explained. Specific methods to be used that day are demonstrated, and equipment distributed. Team leaders ensure everyone is well-dressed and prepared, and the group gets to work! Work includes stabilizing the soil surface using e.g. fertilizers and old hay, seeding or planting seedlings, or collecting seeds – all depending on the season.
Midday: Over lunch, an educator presents land restoration issues in depth and leads discussion with the group. When possible, the group takes a short visit to a nearby site of natural or cultural interest.
Afternoon: At the conclusion of the day’s volunteer activities, each group places a sign at their site dedicating their work to Icelandic nature. A photo is taken of the group with their sign at the site, copies of which will be given to the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavík, Landvernd, to the volunteer group, and will also be used for outreach in the social media campaign for the program. The group travels back to Reykjavík together.
The project is generously supported by the American Embassy in Iceland and the Icelandic Ministry for the Environment. Also, Landvernd uses it's own resources for the development of the project, in particular from contributions by passengers of the airline WOW air.
Caitlin Wilson is the project manager of CARE, the ecological restoration project and a specialist in education for sustainability, in the Eco-schools project. caitlin (at) landvernd.is
You can make a difference!