European Volunteers Blog

European Volunteers sharing their experiences in a new fortnightly blog


23 September 2021

What about the blog? I would say not this time

But the things I do for Julia (I will miss).


Alfiia is stood in the middle of the foreground wearing blue jeans, a pale pink jumper, a light grey jacket and a bag worn across her front. Leaning on black railings in front of a lawn with a red flower arrangement behind and Buckingham Palace in the background.

Alfiia outside Buckingham Palace on her recent visit to London.

I’ve been here for six months. Half a year. Half of the project.

Here are the main skills I learned in 6 months.

  1. Sweep (I’m just Cinderella, with hair like a mermaid, Thumbelina’s height and love of sleep, like a sleeping beauty. (So, by the way, there are princesses in Russian fairy tales too, I like them more, but Andersen is love))
  2. Asking questions. (Stuart [bossy], another 5 months and no more questions from me.)
  3. Hear the question, understand half of the question, think it over, answer. (If I often answered your questions in a wrong way, that’s the reason)
  4. Just weakness leaves your body.
  5. Are you happy with that?


What I haven’t learned in 6 months is climbing the stairs. Well, it’s not mine.

I will never learn to pretend that I am even a little interested when I am not interested. (I know who does it well, but keep it a secret)


What else?

I began to forget that my name is Al’fiIA, not AlfIia.

I evicted the spider out, my stuffed toys didn’t like it.

I bought myself sunflowers and garlands. (Beauty! When is it already possible to decorate the Christmas tree? I am not a big fun of autumn, I am not Pushkin.)

I miss the stars. (Where is the nearest observatory?)

You have obvious problems with tasty strawberry, you do not have it. (Poor man`s)


Traveled to London. (My brother is happier than anyone else, but he still can’t believe that I didn’t like London.)


Probably, for most people in Russia who studied English, Great Britain is associated with the phrase:

«London is the capital of Great Britain».

If you know this phrase, then you know English.


Alfiia is standing and pushing a luggage trolley into the wall at The Harry Potter Platform 9 three quarters at Kings Cross in London. She has red hair past her shoulders and is wearing blue jeans, white trainers and a grey jacket

Alfiia visiting The Harry Potter Platform 9 three quarters at Kings Cross, London

Questions about London. (Proof of point 2)


Why is everything so grey?

Why is it so cold?

Where is the sun?

The water in the Thames is as grey as everything around. (My friend suggested me to use photoshop and add clear sky on all my London’s photos. I think that’s what they do in English textbooks).

What’s with Big Ben, why is he under restoration since 2017? (Didn’t see Big Ben, consider that you haven’t been in England)

And what about a kilometre-long queue?


The subway is a real horror.

Conclusion, if you are an introvert, this is not your city.

Well, not everything is so bad, especially if you are not on the street.


The National Gallery is beautiful!

Firstly, Van Gogh is a miracle.

Secondly, there Davinci is a genius.

Thirdly, you walk through the gallery and see a picture and think: Monet! And then you wonder, maybe Manet. (I wonder one day I’ll remember who is who)

Those 5 hours were worth it.


Outside the Sherlock Holmes museum

Parks. Not bad, but too many people and it is cold. And the squirrels, I can’t understand are they brave or perky? The ice cream is delicious. And my scheme «How to take a photo if you are travelling alone» is working.


Sherlock Holmes Museum. Details. (found a Singer sewing machine there)

Did you know that children in China love him very much?


Harry Potter!

I would stay to live there. (I LOVE MAGIC!!!)

I’m done.


9 September 2021

Oleg is standing sign on in a navy blue boiler suit with mas, visor and blue gloves at a tool sharpening machine at the Netley Marsh workshop

Oleg in the Netley Marsh workshop

Hello people! It’s Oleg again, and here’s my new blog post 🙂
Since I work a lot with sharpening different tools, I always wondered how I could use them, so I decided to do some woodcarving, and thanks to all of the volunteers in our workshop it was really easy to do, cheers everyone for the help! I carved my first spoon a few days ago and although it looks awful I really enjoyed the process, really meditative and calming. And easy (which is good).

At the end of August I spent 4 days in London. I think it’s a really unique and diverse city. Quite expensive though, but beautiful! Also I had an opportunity to see a bit of Wales (Cardiff) a few days ago, which was nice. Such an interesting country! I love the Welsh language, it sounds like it has nothing in common with English 🙂

Anyway, thanks for reading! My new favourite thing about the UK is the Welsh accent 🙂


1 September 2021

Alfiia is sat on the railing infront of the The Ross Fountain, an ornate fountain in the city of Edinburgh. In the background is Edinburgh Castle. She is wearing a light grey jacket and blue jeans.

Alfiia at The Ross Fountain in EdinburghWhat to do if you have taken a vacation and do not know where to go? What to do if you are in a panic? What to do if you can’t sleep because it’s too light outside at night? What to do if you want and don’t want to eat at the same time? What to do if you are tired, but cannot understand how much? What to do if you have a lots of unanswered messages and you don’t have the energy to respond to them? What to do if you have so many thoughts in your head? What to do if you need to write a blog but you can’t write it? (no pressure)


I think the best answer is «Let it go, let it go»(but I’m not Elsa, I’m rather Olaf, I think that when I grow up I will understand everything)


So by the way, I’ve been here for five months. Five! No blue police box, no Knight Bus, no wonderland with a rabbit, no hedgehog in the end. (But there is progress with the hedgehog.)


Warning! Further text does not carry any semantic meaning. There is no logic in it. These are just random thoughts in my head during my weekend (Yes, I chose where to go, the day before departure.) or in general during these 5 months. (Don’t try to understand it, I don’t understand it myself.)


In general, the summer is over, why not take stock.

  1. Surprisingly, I was not hit by a car this summer, and I seem a little used to your roads. (Although why do you need traffic lights and why do you ignore them, I do not know, most likely you are immortals.)
  2. I think I need to celebrate this summer. Since this is the first summer in my life when mosquitoes didn’t bite me and I didn’t wake up from a mosquito squeak over my ear in the middle of the night and then didn’t watch him for the next hour to kill him. (Harsh Russia, evil me.)


If you are hoping that this blog will have answers to the questions that were at the beginning, then I do not have the answers to them. You will figure it out along the way. (I have no strength to respond to them, as well as to messages, and I repeat, I have not grown up yet.)


Although I can advise you to find someone smart around you and address the question to him, he is smart, let him answer. (Or whatever I call it, let it suffer.)

(“To all stupid – happiness from madness,

All clever – woe from wits. “) I’m not sure if the translation is correct.


I would also recommend reading Russian classics, not my blog. There is more logic. (But it is not exactly)

  1. «Eugene Onegin» Alexander Pushkin.
  2. «A Hero of Our Time» Mikhail Lermontov.
  3. «The Master and Margarita» Mikhail Bulgakov.
  4. «War and Peace» Leo Tolstoy.
  5. «Crime and Punishment» Fyodor Dostoevsky.

This is what I re-read. And the phrase is an epigraph to «Woe from Wit» Alexander Griboyedov.


I can also advise on how to take a photo if you are traveling alone. (Of course I don’t need it, but my relatives and friends are afraid to forget how I look. Their memory is bad, and I suffer because of it.)


  1. Find a place to take a photo. (It’s simple, you see a crowd of people who are photographed against one background, this is exactly what you need.)
  2. You find two girls who have been taking pictures for 10 minutes already. (If you, like me, do not like to be photographed, then take a closer look and choose a pose for yourself.)
  3. You approach them and ask them to photograph you. (There is a risk that you will be stuck there for 10 minutes, because they will approach this matter very responsibly.) And that’s all, now you have a photo. (Now for sure no one will forget how you look.)


I used a train here (a lot, almost 18 hours) and one day, one nice man sat down with me, after 5 minutes he put on a mask, and after that, he scared me the rest of the way. (Have you noticed how a mask changes a person? You are in a mask, and you are without it two different people. One will obviously be more pleasant. (And what kind of mask I mean, think yourself.)

Speaking of trains, the availability of outlets is impressive. I really liked it. (But at the same time, it’s scary, addiction is a terrible thing.)


And this phrase, which is constantly played everywhere and always,

– See it, say it, sorted.

If you spend a lot of time at railway stations, you can learn the full phrase. But I only liked this part. (Security.)

Why don’t we have the same phrase in TFSR? Something like … (Maybe someone has options? A question for the smart ones, it’s definitely not me.)


Speaking of phrases, I also liked:

– Sometimes it’s alright not to be alright. (Wisdom from street “artists”) We can assume that this is a sign from above, especially after the panic station.

(Thanks to those who replied to my not very funny messages when I was a little in a panic. (I remind you they must be smart and forgot to say not very impressionable)


You know, I love trains, or rather, I like to go somewhere and look at the landscapes flashing by (I would say that I do this the best in my life, but no, sometimes it makes me sick.)


If someone does not want to read Russian classics, you can read Allan Poe (Before going to bed, that’s it)

«By a route obscure and lonely,

Haunted by ill angels only»

This is what is in my head when I walk through your narrow and deserted streets. I really like them, but the feeling that someone in the back will hit me on the head for some reason does not leave me.


Talking about trains. Where you sit on the train decides a lot (and it works not only on trains). All that you see and how you see depends on the place where you sit. Whether with your back to the traffic or against the traffic, by or beside the window, on the right side or on the left. And everyone who travels on the train will observe essentially the same picture, but no. (Sounds like an explanation of different points of view. The train is the same, but the places are different and the view is also different.)


So if you have read this far and do not understand anything, then remember that you are on the train and look out of my window from your seat, not from mine (and I warned you at the very beginning there is no logic here).


Let’s continue. Have you ever had an argument with seagulls?

I had, I can say with confidence that they do not understand Russian and Tatar. English too. (But maybe it’s all about my terrible English.) Or maybe you explained to the squirrel that it was paper and should not be eaten? (I tried, but she was distrustful and didn’t believe me until she tried it sheselfs). Or maybe you waited five minutes for the snail to cross the road (that was fast one).

In general, you have a bunch of spiders, I have one in my room, his name is Gosha. But there is a rule, if a spider becomes larger than a 5p coin, then it will be moved out on the same day and minute.

You know, in the beginning, I did not understand anything about your coins. Why is it impossible to write numbers on all, why write in words? And what about their size, why 10 pence is more than 20, and 2 pence and 1 is more than 5.

I bought a new umbrella with a painting by Van Gogh. I like his work. (But why do I need two umbrellas?)

I also like to ignore strangers with the phrase: Sorry, but I don’t speak English.

I bought myself an umbrella, but I could not buy sunflowers. I had to convince myself that I didn’t need it, I had to return home for about 7 hours, they would die. So I was left without sunflowers. (one logic place in this text)

In general, so much has happened lately. That I almost do not remember anything, or I remember everything, but everything was confused.

I think it’s enough, I close my window. It’s time to pay attention to your window.


19 August 2021

Oleg is standing up and facing forward to the camera wearing his black Tools for Self Reliance t-shirt, black trousers and sunglasses in front of the workshop back door. There is a also a plastic orange barrier behind him.

Oleg at the Netley Marsh workshop Tea for Tools event

Hello, it’s Oleg! So the last few weeks were really interesting! I’ve participated in our tea for tools event. It was interesting to see what charity events here are like. I think it’s quite different from what I’m used to in Russia.

I’m still exploring new skills to develop, I’ve been refurbishing a couple of axes recently, which is not as easy as I thought! Oh, and I’ve continued working on blow lamps, it takes some dedication to refurbish them, but I think I’ve grasped the most important things 🙂

Also, I’ve been doing some traveling! I’ve been to Bournemouth a couple of times to visit my friends, it’s a lovely city. I’ve been in Lepe which is a really nice hamlet, I quite liked it, it has a lot of history and astonishing nature. Well, thank you for your time!

My favourite thing about the UK is marmite!



29 July 2021

I’ve been here for a long time, already a quarter British. (Or maybe not so long ago, everything is subjective.) But there are several things that I do not understand or still learning to perceive adequately. (Work in progress)


First. Who does not know, but in Russia, right-hand road traffic. And when I first time crossed the road I got confused. (Where to look? Where are you going?) Roundabout is a nightmare. (If I’m gonna get hit by a car, then here. (Joke, but it’s not certain)). And when I get into the car, first I go the wrong way, and then in the end I find a place for the passenger.



I express my deep gratitude to the inscriptions on the roads, that say which way to look.


Second. Buses. Do you even have them on Saturdays and Sundays? And in general, someone can tell them that the schedule is not for beauty. (Of course I like walking, but not so much, and I’m not getting younger)


Trains. Can you please stop canceling trains? (I am certainly strong and independent, but not so much) Thank you.


Third. Shops on weekends. Okay, clothing stores, but grocery Et tu, Brute? And if I want ice cream at 9pm. Where should I go? (How do you survive?)


Fourth. Unexpectedly, Pub, where is the ice cream?


Fifth. I don’t like cutting beautiful flowers.  And I like getting answers to my questions right away, especially if it’s a question «Where are biscuits? ».


Let’s add some positives.


The sun. (Surprisingly). Sea. Beach. (I didn’t get sunburned. Don’t forget sunscreen.)

Visit other volunteers in Bournmouth and have a great time. (All because breakfast was prepared for you in the morning).

Made new green friends. (Cacti, not a hedgehog of course, but also thorny).

Stonehenge and strawberries (It’s like drawbridges in St. Petersburg, it’s enough to see once, I’m not talking about strawberries)


P.s Of course I can come to terms with all of the above. (But it is not exactly).






15 July 2021

Hey there! It’s Oleg. Hope you’re doing well! Recently I’ve done the impossible – I’ve sorted out all of the chisels in the racks, which took me a few days to finish (It was a mess, I wish I took a photo of it). I feel complete now. It was a good experience – now I know a bit more about this tool and steel in general which is useful. I also had an English breakfast for the first time! It was really good, I liked it!

My new favourite thing about the UK is the people!






1 July 2021

Sometimes a wonderful day can be described in words which have nothing to do with each other. For example, in my case it is: breakfast, cup, grave, stranger and kidnapping in Romsey. (Nature comes a priori.)

Off course there are lots of options for the development of events with these words. But I will be brief, as they say, brevity is the soul of wit.

Breakfast. My first typical British breakfast was at a cafe called The Big Blue Cafes. (Hopefully one day I will find a blue police box, rumored that it’s bigger on the inside) I ordered Half House Breakfast. Jim and I decided that I become half British at that moment. (Let’s be honest, I didn’t finish my meal, too much, but delicious, let’s just say that now I’m a quarter British.)

Cup. Now I have this cafe’s signature cup. The water in it is tastier. (Thanks Jim!)

The grave. I understand perfectly that this word does not fit at all with a well-spent day. But if half of your childhood you were reading Sherlock Holmes, then everything will fall into place if I say that this was the grave of Arthur Conan Doyle. (Elementary, my dear Watson).

Stranger. You walk, enjoy the nature and views, for some reason you go to the store to talk to a stranger and accidentally find out that this person went to some peninsula (well, I have problems with geography, sorry) for fishing in Russia! For fishing! Crazy British.

Front of Romsey Abbey

Romsey Abbey

Kidnapping in Romsey. I will tell you right that there is nothing criminal. I just got a little carried away by studying the church and my companions lost me a little, suggesting that someone kidnapped me. But in fact, I had already been kidnapped, or rather my heart was stolen by homemade chocolate cake, which I ate before going to inspect the church. (Maybe someone knows where Willy Wonka lives here?)

Bottom line. Sometimes you can find unexpected things in places where you don’t expect to see them. Meet people who are so passionate about their work that they can leave for it to the other side of the world. A small thing, such as a simple cup, can make you incredibly happy, because it doesn’t matter what they give to you, but it is important with what feeling they do it. And your heart could be stolen by a piece of chocolate cake in Romsey. And nature never ceases to admire. (The fish in Stockbridge are great, of course, but I’m still waiting for you, hedgehog).



21 June 2021

Oleg is stood in the workshop facing the camera holding a large saw he has recently refurbished.

Oleg with a saw he recently refurbished

Hello again! It’s Oleg. Today I’d like to share with you what I’ve done for the last couple of weeks or so. I try to do as many different activities here as I can, while I’m here. Around a week ago I’ve had the opportunity to learn how to refurbish saws, which is, as it turns out, quite a difficult craft! It’s mind blowing how many things we don’t know about the tools that always seemed common to us. For example, experienced carpenter would use different saws depending on whether he/she would cut along the grain or across. After refurbishing around 4 saws I’m starting to understand how it’s done. Big thanks to Malcolm, Graham, Cliff, Richard and Roy for helping me out with this job!

Last month we finally had decent weather! We traveled around a little bit. Jim took us to visit his hometown Hythe, a really lovely small seaside town. From there we took the ferry to Southampton where we walked around a bit and looked at old monuments. That was really nice, thanks Jim! Well, thank you for your time everyone, see you next month!

My favourite thing about the UK is the architecture.

4 June 2021

Hi! My name is Alfiia. I’m country girl from middle of Russia coming here by ESC program. I’ve been here for three months already.

Time goes fast but I still don’t believe that I am here in England. And finally it’s summer and sunny (sometimes)! I hope that the sun is not so rare thing here. But never mind, I bought the umbrella.

I’m big fan of nature. I really love it. Rabbits, squirrels, birds (They are very fast, maybe one day I could take a good picture. But not today. And yes, hedgehog, I’m waiting for you ) . And birds songs are everywhere. It is perfect, isn’t it?

All is green. It’s amazing! Trees are different here if you compare it with Russia. But not all of them. And I found birch, it’s Russian symbol. I think if you want you can read the one of Sergey Esenin’ poem, The Birch.

Minute of un-useful information. (Take a rest) All my life I thought that in UK there are only red double-decker buses. Surprise, it’s not true. All my life was lie.

The view of the bright blue ocean and the sky along a Dorset beach

Alfiia and Oleg have been enjoying visiting beaches in Dorset

Ocean, beach. I live in the middle of Russia, and there not so match water. That’s why I always look for place where I can find water. And now I have lots of ocean and beach photos.

I just want to say that you live in very beautiful place. I know if you live in one place for long time, you get used to everything. Just don’t forget that it’s really amazing place even if it’s rainy.

The whole summer is ahead, and please don’t forget about sun cream, when you go to the beach.(Do not repeat my mistakes.) It’s very important thing.

And thanks all of you for such a warm welcoming.


21 May 2021

Hello there! My name is Oleg Filatov. I am 19 years old and I came to Netley Marsh from Russia on April 16th to volunteer in this great project.

Oleg is holding up two vinyl records whilst stood in his kitchen

Oleg with his two new vinyl records

My first month here was really nice. I had an opportunity to work with all sorts of stuff: kit packing, tool and sewing machine refurbishment, receiving donated tools.

One time we went to drop some items to our “Robin’s Nest” (An antique shop) stand and Stuart suggested us to walk around a bit and look at some stuff that we might want to buy there. Little did he know that I’ll go record digging for the next half an hour 🙂 Anyway, despite all of Сovid regulations I’ve really enjoyed living and working here, thanks everyone for the warm welcome!


I’ve really liked the idea of working alongside retired volunteers and that’s something that I would like to see in my country. I’m looking forward to diving more into the local culture, visiting other fellow volunteers all around the country and learning more practical skills!


My favourite thing about the UK is… tea breaks. They are really good.




January 2021

19 year old Max Welzenbach from Austria joined the team at Netley Marsh in March last year to start his six month European Solidarity Corps volunteering project. He sadly was just with the team for ten days before he had to return home due to the pandemic. Max also visited us for a week in 2018 during his school holidays so he could experience the work and meet the volunteers.

Here, in his own words he explains how his time with Tools for Self Reliance “might have changed my life in just ten days” Max Welzenbach

The odds to stay in Netley Marsh for a longer time never were in my favour. Nevertheless, I tried to make the best out of the Covid pandemic. The mission of Tools for Self Reliance is such a great one to me. Seeing how two generations work alongside and benefit from each other got me thinking. With lots of impressions my adventure ended very unfortunate in a lock down in Linz, just 10 days after I left the military service in Austria. I still miss all the great people, the workshop, teatime and many more things. However, looking with regret in the past isn’t a thing I would want to waste my time on. Instead, I talked to one of my best friends who still served in the alternative service as a paramedic. He told me that he had patients who didn’t leave the house for 6 years, because they neither had family nor friends and loads of patients who just wanted to talk to young people.


European volunteers Ana, Max and Johnannes enjoying a meal in the volunteer house

European volunteers Ana, Max and Johnannes enjoying a meal in the volunteer house

This impression really got us thinking and I talked about my experience at Tools for Self Reliance that elderly benefit from the young volunteers, while they can pass along the knowledge they have. The idea to match retired people with students (like a dating platform for intergenerational learning and support) was born. While many elderly people need for instance help in their garden, nearly no one of the younger generation knows how to prepare fresh and healthy meals. Together with two friends we presented the idea at a local incubator program to see if the idea was worth to be continued. Soon we got accepted to the program. We got mentors, a small funding, a place to work and we founded our very own company. Since this day, we are working hard to fight loneliness and applied for further governmental funding, which we received in December.


Tools for Self Reliance, has not only changed my life, but also helped me to see, how easy a solution can be, for a very complex issue. One day hopefully, I will be able to bring this service also to the UK and might finally be able to return to the UK for a longer time and catch up on all the teatimes I missed this year.


30 March 2020

Hi there and welcome to my very last Blog. I am Anna Winkler and I am from Austria I spent the last six months in Netley Marsh. But before I want to tell you why I left two weeks earlier, I am going to tell you about my trip to Liverpool.

At the end of February, I spent a weekend in Liverpool. I organised a weekend full of sightseeing and fun with some friends from London. One of the highlights was definitely the Anfield Football Stadium, we did a stadium tour and learned a lot about the history of Liverpool FC.  We also went to a radio tower where we had a fantastic view over Liverpool. We had a very nice time and were lucky with the weather.

I am back in Austria for two weeks now and I am really sorry that I could not say goodbye to most of our daily volunteers and office staff. I decided to fly back to Austria because of coronairus. It was not the end I have expected, but I think it was the right decision to leave earlier.


It was nice to meet you and I hope I see you soon in the future.

Stay heathy.


6 March 2020

Hello everyone welcome my new blog entry. My name is Johannes and I‘m a volunteer at Tools for Self Reliance as a part of the EU exchange program European Solidarity Corps.

It is now almost half a year since I came to Tools for Self Reliance. Which not just means that my time in the UK is sadly almost halfway over but also that the time goes very fast. But that luckily also means that spring is slowly arriving, the days are getting longer, the first early bloomers are growing and maybe the weather decides to get better as well soon.

Since it was quite warm last Sunday and mostly sunny, I decided to go to the Motor Museum in Beaulieu. As there is neither a train nor bus connection going directly to Beaulieu, cycling was the only option. The route there was actually quite nice and did not take to long either.


26 February 2020

Hi there and welcome back to my blog.

Anna visited Cornwall with her family

It´s me again, Anna, the girl from Austria. I can´t believe I am only here for one more month volunteering for Tools for Self Reliance and living in the UK. But now I want to tell you about what has been going on in the last month.

Anna with the recent Banksy in Bristol

Since the beginning of the year, I have been volunteering for another charity organization called Waterside Scrapstore Totton. The Scrapstore takes clean waste material donated by local people. We sort them in our store and sell them at minimal cost for use of art, craft and play activities.

Last week my family was in the UK to see where I live and work. I took a few days off to take them on trips. We went to Cornwall by car, this was a wish of my mother because she wanted to see the locations of the Rosamunde Pilcher films. We saw beautiful cliffs, beaches, and castles that gave us the Rosamunde Pilcher feeling. The next stop was Bristol. There we saw many of the city’s sights, one of them was the Cabot Tower, where we had a wonderful view of all of Bristol despite the bad weather. We also looked at the new graffiti by the anonymous artist Banksy. Unfortunately, a part of the artwork was destroyed, and we could only see one part. We had a really good time although it rained a lot.

My favourite thing about the UK is travelling around the country and see how different each region is.


10 February 2020

Hello everyone it‘s me Johannes. This week we have been busy at the workshop packing boxes for the next shipment, on Saturday two of the volunteers took us on a trip to Buckler‘s Hard.

Leaving in April, our next shipment will contain more than 300 tool kits for our partners in Malawi. That means a lot of packing, collecting tools from the warehouse and box making. Since there are about 30 different varieties of kits and every partner has individual requirements the process of packing is very divers and alternating.

Jenny and Roy are two of the longest serving volunteers at Tools for Self Reliance. This Saturday, they took Anna and me on a day trip to the historical village of Buckler‘s Hard near Beaulieu. It used to be a shipbuilding yard, as it was close to the New Forest for wood and because the Beaulieu River was passable for larger ships. The museum was quite interesting, giving a lot of information about the ships that were built there, an insight in the houses and how the people used to live there. All in all, we enjoyed a very nice day there having a good time and good weather.

My favourite thing about the UK is that the weather does get better!


24 January 2020

Hi there and welcome to my blog: I am Anna from Austria. It is my 4th month here in Netley Marsh and I have travelled and learnt a lot since my last blog post. Today I want to tell you more about a new skill I gained at Tools for Self Reliance and about my trip to Stonehenge.

Gavin (a volunteer from our workshop) has taught me how to refurbish sewing machines. First, we disassemble the machine, then we remove the dirt, clean everything and then we oil the moving parts of the machine so that they run smoothly. Although it sounds easy, the sewing machines have a really complex but clever system. The first sewing machines were a challenge but with every machine, I learned something new and became better.

Last weekend, I took a journey to Stonehenge with a friend called Sonia who I met at the On-Arrival-Training last November in London. Sonia is from Spain and currently works in Cheltenham. We met in Salisbury and took the bus to Stonehenge. Before we saw the stones, we went to the museum to learn more about the history of Stonehenge, which was just as impressing as the stones. It was a really great trip and was definitely worth going.


My favourite thing about the UK is that I have the opportunity to learn new skills every day. One day I could be doing sewing machine repairs and the next doing tool repairs.


9 January 2020

Hello everyone, it`s me Johannes and welcome to the new blog. I hope you all had a good Christmas and I also wish you a happy new year!
Since I was not going home to Germany over Christmas, my mum and my sister came to the UK to visit me and to see where I have been living and working for the past three months.

Brighton pier at sunset

They arrived on the 23. of December and we celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve as it is typical in Germany. On Christmas Day and Boxing Day I showed them around Southampton and the local parts of the New Forest. They were quite surprised seeing ponies walking around on the streets without any fear of people or cars.

After that we went to London to stay there for a few days and visited some popular attractions like the Tate Modern and Borough Market. We also did a tour around the House of Parliament, which I found very interesting as it is just amazing how much history took place at that location. The tour also helped to understand the way the British governmental system and the House of Parliament is build up in the way it is today.

Thenceforth we went to Brighton and spend some time there at the sea, enjoying the good weather we had as it was mostly sunny during our stay there. Taking a bus to the Seven Sisters was quite a journey to get there, but it was definitely worth it at the end with a stunning view on the rock formation.

My favourite thing about the UK is that the New Forest is right at our doorstep.


11 December 2019

Hi! I am Anna from Austria. I have been a volunteer at Tools for Self Reliance for two and a half months; I can´t believe that I am already halfway through my time in England, time goes by so fast. This last month was very busy and I would like to tell you about the group visit to Southwell and Downham market and about my trip to London.

On the 2nd and 3rd of December Ben and I visited a partner group of Tools for Self Reliance. Do you know that Tools for Self Reliance has over 30 partner groups around the UK, which refurbish tools and pack kits?

The first stop was Southwell, where we met all the members at their “workshop” (a room in the basement of a church). Ben updated the group about the progress in Africa and the work in the UK. After that, we had a cup of tea and loaded the van with tools that the group had refurbished over the year.

Another day, another group! The next stop was Downham market. We drove to an old farm where 5 men work on tools for Africa. It was wonderful to see how interested they were when they saw the development in Africa and how delighted they are to be part of the progress.

Last weekend I went to London to see my childhood friend Magda, who is currently an Au Pair. The highlight of this weekend was going to a restaurant called Kipferl. It is an Austrian restaurant; we really enjoyed the typical Austrian food they had like Frittatensuppe or Käsespätzle.


My favourite thing about the UK is that I have been in the Christmas mood since the beginning of November!

Merry Christmas everyone!


2 December 2019

Hello it’s Johannes, welcome to my new Blog, last week Anna and I were busy at the workshop refurbishing and flat packing some treadle sewing machines for our next shipment. On Thursday we went to the Tools for Self Reliance Christmas Quiz.

For our next shipment to Sierra Leone we need 23 treadle sewing machines (aka: treadles). Since the shipment leaves in January and the workshop won’t operate over Christmas and New year, Anna and I also got involved in refurbishing treadles. Those do not just comparably take more time to refurbish but also a lot of space once packed, which would make it impossible to fit all of them into one container. Eventually the idea came up to flat pack them. This now reduces the space needed to pack them to a minimum. All in all a busy week at the workshop supporting our sewing machine specialists as they also have to handle the demand of regular sewing machines for the shipment.

On Thursday the 28th of November Tools for Self Reliance held a Christmas Quiz at Copythorne Parish Hall. Our team of Gavin, Pete, their wives, Anna and myself had a lot of fun quizzing for the win against eleven other teams. Despite our stunning performance, we only managed to take the 8th place. Nevertheless we all had a lot of fun and a great time, raising money to support people in Africa developing sustainable livelihoods.

My favourite thing about the UK is developing my skills at Tools for Self Reliance.


18 November 2019

Meeting volunteers at on-arrival-training in London

Hi there! My name is Anna, I am 19 years old and I am from Austria.   Since the end of September I have been living in Netley Marsh and volunteer for Tools for Self reliance. During that time, I have learned a lot, saw a lot of new places and met many different people. Today I want to point out two events (Curry Night and On-Arrival training) in more detail.

Trying food from the UK!

On a Friday night, Johannes and I have been invited to “Curry Night” with the Wednesday Group (volunteers that work on a Wednesday in our workshop). So, we went to Ashurst and enjoyed the time at an Indian restaurant. I really appreciate spending time with them beyond the workshop.

After six weeks in the UK, we went to our On-Arrival-Training in London. We learned a lot about British culture and got useful tips for living in Great Britain. But the main intention about the training was to meet other volunteers around the UK. Soon I built up relationships with some of them and we try to stay in touch and meet each other soon.

The favourite thing about the UK is meeting new people from different cultures and to get better acquainted with our volunteers and hear the story of their life’s.

5 November 2019

Anna and Johannes with the Uganda tool shipment

Hello everyone, my name is Johannes Baur and I am one of the two new European volunteers here at Tools for Self Reliance. I am from a smaller city called Aalen in the south of Germany. Arriving in Netley Marsh four weeks ago, I had an exciting time meeting all the people that volunteers at Tools for Self Reliance and learning about the workshop and the organisation.

The past month has been based on an induction programme not just about all the different parts of the workshop but also about the staffs tasks. Starting with the Africa Programs on to Fundraising and Volunteer- and Group-Coordination. In the workshop we learned about box making, the refurbishing of hammers, chisels, planes, vices, treadle sewing machines as well as the checking of those mentioned and more. So yeah, a very interesting time with a lot of things learned and I am still looking forward to learn more.

My favourite thing about the UK are the tea brakes at Tools for Self Reliance.



1 October 2019

We warmly welcome Anna from Austria, and Johannes from Germany as our two newest European Volunteers who will be supporting tool refurbishment, kit packing and day to day activities in the workshop over the coming months.


9 October 2019

Our new European volunteer Anna is getting stuck into saw refurbishing in the workshop today!



Erik’s 1000 mile cycle home

Scroll down for the latest update from Erik!

On Sunday 1 September 2019, Erik will leave Tools for Self Reliance on the back of his bicycle, with a tent, camping stove and a few more essentials, as he prepares for his greatest challenge yet – cycling for over 30 days, 1000 miles and across six countries to his home town of Linz, Austria – to support young people in Africa look forward to bright futures.

Sponsor Erik 1p for each mile he pedals at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/eriksjourney

He will be sharing regular updates on his Instagram profile @eriksjourneyyy, these will be shared on Tools for Self Reliance’s Facebook page and  here on the blog!

1 September 2019 – Day one

And… he’s off!

Erik left Tools for Self Reliance at 8am on Sunday to begin the first 30 mile leg to Portsmouth on Sunday 1 September. He arrived to blue skies by the seaside!

Day two – Portsmouth to Brighton!

Day four – Erik is on his way to Hastings!




5 September 2019

Erik has reached Dover! From Portsmouth he travelled to Brighton and spent the evening with Rotaract friends sharing a meal and playing Jenga. Before he cycled to Hastings and onto Dover!

He has encountered sheep, cows and soaked up the coastline as he made his way East before he catches the ferry this weekend to France.




9 September 2019

On Saturday morning Erik waved goodbye to the UK and caught the ferry from Dover to Calais to conclude the first week of his 1000 miles cycle home.









17 September 2019   

Erik has just said goodbye Brussels – he found it to be a diverse and welcoming city ! His next stop is Amsterdam(by train). At the end of the week he will be making his way to Oberhausen, Germany.

18th September 2019

Erik has arrived in Amsterdam!

20th September 2019

Erik has left Amsterdam and had a great time exploring the city by bike, including a visit to the Van Gogh museum.

26 September 2019

Erik has arrived in Germany! On Monday he gave a talk to Rotary Club of Oberhausen.

On Instagram he shared “I have a plan and a few impressions from the previous days  arrived in cologne today”







30 September 2019

30 days in to his cycling adventure home and he is in Cologne, Germany

“Spent a few days in cologne ! 🚴🏻‍♂️ now on the way to Karlsruhe not enough internet to show you more.”

Thank you to everyone who has sponsored Erik on his epic journey home – if you keep meaning to and haven’t already there is still time to cheer him on 👉http://bit.ly/Eriks_Journey




5 October 2019

Erik will soon be in Austria! He has shared some photos from last week.



1 August 2019

Hello! Here’s Yvonne for the last time, our projects are going to an end now. Lilian already started her journey back home, Erik stays a bit longer and tomorrow is my final day at Tools for Self Reliance. But I think we all made the best out of the previous weeks.

I had the chance to visit Ilfracombe with my diving club. After a concert from a Swedish rock band, swimming in Woolacombe and hiking in Lynton we went diving with seals. We had luck to see quite a few and they were also playing with our fins. It was a very varying weekend and it was great fun.

A week later Lilian and I made our last trip together to Manchester where we watched the final tour of Kiss. It was an incredible concert and overall an amazing trip with much food, tea, shopping and walking through the city.

So I had a great ending of my time in the UK. I spent my last working day at the New Forest Show where I got shown how to be a blacksmith by making a leaf by myself and next weekend I finish the year with a festival off. The months just passed too fast and I’m glad about every moment I got to enjoy.

My favourite thing about the UK is that so many people have a great passion for steam engines and old vehicles.


18th July 2019

Hey guys! This week I (Erik) was off from work and enjoyed a little roadtrip through wales and the UK.

My friends came from Vienna with their van to visit me and explore a bit of the UK. We started our journey in Wales nearby Newport on the coast of north wales. Then we went on, heading north to have a hike on mount Snowden which was amazing although I haven’t witnessed so many people walking on a mountain so far. Afterwards we drove to a campside in the Lake district which was a really relaxing place for swimming, reading, cycling and things like that. From there we crossed Yorkshire for staying two nights in an amazing campside nearby Whitby, where we saw a blood moon on Thursday while having a lovely bonfire.

Another thing was the cooking with this never-ending wind gusts. Last but not least we ended our trip with two days of sightseeing and partying in London. Besides I discovered the camping life and its pleasures for me. The independence you have with a campervan is just amazing and I hope I will be able to afford one soon.

My favourite thing in the UK is that the people drive much more respectful and give way a thousand times more than in any other European country I have driven so far.

4 July 2019

Hello, my name is Lilian Steinmetz and since October I have volunteered at Tools for Self Reliance in Netley Marsh. My project ends on the 30th of July so I sadly only have a couple of weeks left. The last few weeks have been very busy but also extraordinary. I went all by myself to the Isle of Wight Festival to volunteer there and except of some rainy hours I had one of the best times so far.

After that my friend Yvonne and I went to a Bon Jovi concert in London in the Wembley Stadium which was totally filled up. I think I’ve never seen so many people waiting for the tube ever. My special highlight was my friend Sophie visiting me from Germany and I really loved showing her Tools for Self Reliance in real live after telling her everything on the phone. We even got to show her an original Cream Tea organised by our mentor Jim. I was sad that she left so early but we were all quite busy with preparing for the New Forest Folk Festival which was great fun. Together with Jenny, Roy, David and Stuart we had lovely sunny days and enjoyed selling the tools while listening to Irish folk music.

Now I’m very looking forward to Tea for Tools on Wednesday 10 July. Time is flying by and I’m really sad to leave on the 30th.

My favourite thing about the UK is that even with bad weather you can have the greatest time.



20 June 2019

Hi everyone!

The weather didn’t mean it really well with us last week but that was no reason for me to not go to the Download Festival in Leicestershire.

I spent my time there working as a volunteer where my job was to be on top of a fire tower and have a look that everything’s alright and also to help other people where it was possible. It was quite interesting to watch the people wrestling in mud from up there throughout the day.

Next to work I also had a great time with the new people I met. Not only was it possible for us to see our favourite bands but we also had our own big marquee and hot showers which were the light on the horizon of the cold and rainy days. So we had great fun sitting together in the marquee playing cards against humanity and talking with each other. If we were looking for more action we headed off to the bands and did headbanging the whole night. It was just a stunning week I got to experience and I’m glad I got the opportunity to volunteer there.

My favourite thing about the UK is the different dialects people are speaking.


6 June 2019

Hey guys!

For the new ones, I am Erik one of the European Volunteers at Tools For Self Reliance. Since my last blog update our garden proliferated. The sun is showing up more and more although we are still waiting for the  30 degrees my Austrian fellows currently enjoy.

I cant believe its that I am already 8 months at Tools For Self Reliance. Times running. Nevertheless, I enjoy every day at Tools and become constantly more confident. Stuart, the workshop manager gives me a lot of freedom for my tasks which makes motivates me even more. Last week Kevin and I started to set up a PAT database when we test appliances in line with current legislation. Getting involved in this is really cool.

We have set up a station where every electrical-tool that leaves the building will be recorded. Next Step will be the shelf for the spare-parts which I am looking forward to build.My favourite thing about the UK is Brighton.


23 May 2019

Hi, my name is Lilian Steinmetz and I’m 19 years old. Since October 2018 I work as a volunteer at the charity organisation Tools for Self Reliance.

At the beginning of May my colleague and good friend Yvonne and I went off to explore a little bit of beautiful Scotland. The journey itself was quite an adventure because we travelled by coach which took us almost 12 hours. We were very excited and so happy when we finally arrived in Glasgow, our first destination. Because of the arrival so very early in the morning we searched for a nice place to have breakfast and a good cup of coffee or hot chocolate. This nice place we found, called Kamber & Jones, became I our favourite spot in the next 4 days between all the sightseeing and shopping. Glasgow offers a wide range of cultural activities and really impressed us in its own special way. We’ve been to various museums and to the University campus. Our next destination was Inverness where we spend three days in a very extraordinary and lovely Air bnb. It was set up and equipped like a Japanese Tea house build by a dedicated elderly man who told us a lot about his interesting life story. While our stay at Inverness we went hiking. We walked so much that our feet could do nothing more than just rest in the evening and we wished we had brought some blistering plasters with us. Although it was very cold during the days, we had mostly sunshine and we simply fell in love with the beautiful landscape around us. Our last Scottish destination was beautiful and historic Edinburgh. We enjoyed the  sight and atmosphere of the amazing buildings and the Harry Potter flair of the capital. We hiked to Arthur’s seat and visited lovely spots like the Grass market and the meadows. We were so happy in Scotland that we tried to miss the coach back home which sadly failed…

My favourite thing about the UK is the changing landscape.




9 May 2019


The last weeks were really exciting because my parents, two aunts and an uncle were visiting me over Easter. 

We did a lot of things in this time. It began with hiking on the Jurassic Coast from Abbotsbury to West Bay. I would say this was my favourite day. We just had a great time talking with each other and enjoying the sea and landscape. Afterwards we relaxed at home with nice weather and BBQ.
The next days were getting more busy. We visited Bristol and Bath shortly where we went to flea markets, visited the roman baths and cathedrals, and just walked around the cities.
We also had a look around the stone circle in Avebury, made a trip to Stonehenge and went hiking on the Seven Sisters. The last two days we visited London, because my aunts and my uncle have never been there. For me the best part of this was the Van Gogh exhibition. But I think we can all say that we liked the rest of the UK more.

All in all we had a really great time. It was interesting, we learned and saw new things, and it was just fun. We did many different things but we still had time to just sit together, talk and laugh. I’m glad they all visited me!


My favourite thing about the UK is the difference in landscapes, architecture and also in the atmosphere you can see from place to place. 


25 April 2019

Hallo everybody!

The last month I was working on several project apart from preparing the Zambia shipment like building a shelf for the workshop and also for Robins Nest which was great fun.

Surprisingly the weather was not April-like so we were able to enjoy some of the breaks outside which has definitely a noticeable effect on my and other peoples mood. Not only we benefit, also the plants start thriving which I never witnessed like that before. The reason for that is that I planted a garden for the very first time rather than just enjoying the efforts of my mum and dad back in Austria. It is just amazing to see all sorts of vegetables and herbs growing day by day. I have planted three types of potatoes including; Arran pilot, Foremost, Red Duke of York, onions, lettuce, coriander, chives, thyme, tomatoes, peppers, radish, strawberries, asparagus and marigolds.

Luckily, some of our volunteers gave me tips on how to do it and what to care about. It surprised me how much effort it is to maintain a garden and also the knowledge behind it. I read a few things about companion planting which I will try and hopefully I get rewarded in a few months.


My favourite thing about the UK is our house at Tools for self-reliance.


17 April 2019

Hello, for everyone who hasn’t read my first Blog, my name is Lilian Steinmetz, I’m 19 years old and primary I come from southwestern Germany.

Since October 2018 I live here in Netley Marsh and I ́m very happy to be a volunteer at Tools for Self Reliance.

Last weekend my friend Erik and I went to Aberystwyth in Wales to join a Rotaract event. It was great! Not only because we had great weather and visited our friends, but it was amazing to see a bit of wales. While we were sitting seven hours on the train, we watched the landscape passing by. At almost every meadow there were flocks. Particularly the baby sheep melted our heart and we wanted to take them home with us.

In Aberystwyth itself we walked with our friends and Rotaract members along the seaside and the view was stunning! It looked a little bit like in a farytail. We heard a very interesting lecture about dementia by our friends father Dr. Voller who is like Eric and Yvonne also from Austria. At the end of the day we joined a very funny wine tasting which got even more fun the more wine the guests had.

My other friend Yvonne showed me, when we were back at work how to refurbish a treadle machine. This was great because she was taught by one of the volunteers and this was an opportunity for her to show someone else her knowledge about it. We had a lot of fun sitting in the woodwork shop and I learned so many new things!


28 March 2019

Hello! Here’s Yvonne again. In the last few weeks many things happened. We had a Haberdashery and Tool Sale, got a new shipment to prepare, had a presentation skills training and a volunteer took us out for afternoon tea. But my highlight was that I finished my first table as part of my personal project.

I made a new table out of a treadle machine which dates back to the Victorian era. The base got cleaned and oiled but stayed basically the same. I made the table top out of three different original tops. I cut them all in different pieces, prepared them and glued them together so that a pattern was visible. Afterwards I sandpapered it, waxed the surface, and screwed it on the base. After over two weeks of work it got a place at Robin’s Nest Emporium in Southampton and will hopefully find a new owner soon.

It was a nice opportunity for me to give the treadle a new life before it gets thrown away and I just hope someone will have such a big joy as the former owners had.

My favourite thing about the UK is the happy faces of the people when spring is coming.

14 March 2019

Hallo Everyone! For those who are new, my name is Erik and I am from Austria.

This month was rather relaxed for us Volunteers because we still have a few days left before we can start preparing the Zambia shipment. Apart from our daily routine tasks which include the PPE & LTE checks on Monday, receiving donations and emptying bins we are free to choose on refurbishing whatever we want to. Therefore, I addressed myself to electrical tools which became my favourite type of work at Tools for Self Reliance. Slowly but steadily I get a routine on some issues like replacing the plugs or faults that are likely to occur on particular tools. Although it is still sometimes overwhelming how much you have to know to see through these devices even though most of the tools are a bit older. Luckily, I can always ask the other volunteers.
The work also includes not only refurbishing the power-tools, but also testing them before we decide whether they go to the Africa stock or for one of our tools sales. Sometimes I get really surprised by the tools that come in. Here’s an example. By the way make hoovers not war!

My favourite thing about the UK are bourbon biscuits.


5 March 2019

My name is Lilian Steinmetz, I´m 19 years old and primary I come from southwestern Germany. Since October 2018 I live here in Netley Marsh and I’m very happy to be a volunteer at Tools for Self Reliance.

The last two weeks have been very busy, because we finished our second big shipment to Ghana. On Monday we loaded all the ten pallets full of tool kits and sewing machines into a big container, which was really hard work. But in the end we were really proud that we finally made it!It is a great experience to be part of such a good and friendly team. I really appreciate this. I think it´s wonderful that our work supports others and at the same time it gives me such personal benefit. I must admit that the British winter weather is a challenge for me from warm southwestern Germany. The more I enjoyed the beautiful weather which surprised us this weekend. Daffodils and crocuses are starting to show their beauty and I’m very happy
that it gives me the opportunity to spend time with gardening, which is one of my favourite hobbies.

Last Saturday when I walked through Winchester it was so warm, that I saw young people wearing only T-shirts and hot pants. I love this time of the year, when spring seams to come and the world shows itself in such colourful and blooming way.

My favourite thing about the UK is the great team spirit and good and obliging attitude one can feel in places like Tools for Self Reliance.

14 February 2019


My name’s Yvonne Hoffmann, I’m 20 years old and I’m from Austria. Normally I’m used to heavy winters but I came with the expectation to the UK that I won’t see any snow this year. But on the 31st of January it happened right in front of our eyes. It was snowing.  

It began to snow in the evening and it continued the next few hours. Surprisingly the snow stayed lying on the ground for the next days, where I experienced a perfect day. I went out for a walk in the New Forest and just enjoyed nature with the trees, the sun and the snow. Suddenly a deer was standing in front of me and looking at me. After some seconds he ran away and I saw that he was in a group of 7 deer. I was totally flashed when I saw that one of them was white. He looked totally majestic with his big horns when he jumped over a fence.

I couldn’t get enough of this view, it was just perfect.

My favourite thing about the UK is that you can always get surprised by nature.



1 February 2019


My name is Erik Schmidt and I am from Austria (Linz). I am 22 years old and I moved recently to Totton to volunteer for Tools for Self Reliance. In the last two weeks we were preparing toolkits for the next shipment to Ghana. Apart from that I was able to gain some experience in repairing and assessing power tools. 

This week we ran out of angle-grinders which we desperately need for the welding kits which go to Ghana . Hence, Kevin, one of the volunteers showed me how to refurbish angle-grinders. On the following picture you can see me adjusting the spindle of an angle-grinder. It was to first time I was not only replacing parts, but also fixing existing parts of a power-tool. Although it took me hours to fix it, eventually I made it work again. That was a great achievement for myself. Now I am even more eager to know, on how electrical tools work. Earlier I might have resigned sooner after detecting flaws but now I can proudly say that I slowly but steadily learn how to approach problems with more patience and overview.

My favourite thing about the UK is that the people are really open.

Where we work