History of the Iona Community and Camas
Camas is run by the Iona Community, an ecumenical Christian community committed to seeking peace and justice. The Camas Centre contributes to this vision by enhancing the lives of young people experiencing challenging and often disadvantaged lives, with a particular focus on the personal development of young people and on work with vulnerable groups.
As well as Camas, the Iona Community maintains two other residential centres: Iona Abbey and the MacLeod Centre, both on Iona. The Abbey is re-opening in 2021 after a fabulous renovation. The MacLeod Centre is currently closed. The Iona Community’s administrative headquarters are in Glasgow, and the mainland work and interests of the Community include work with young people, the Wild Goose Resource Group, a regular magazine (Coracle) and a publishing house (Wild Goose Publications)
Introduction to Camas
The Camas centre is situated on Mull about 3 miles from Bunessan village and about 30 minutes walk across beautiful (and boggy!) moorland from the road end. This lends itself to a sense of isolation, adventure and an appreciation of the simpler things in life.
Originally the row of granite cottages was used as accommodation for quarry workers supplying pink granite for local lighthouses, then used by salmon fishermen. The cottages then became an adventure centre for the Iona Community in the 1960s, to help young men from borstals (Young Offender Institutions) take a different perspective on their lives. In the 21st century Camas retains a focus on working with groups of young people and providing a safe place for youth groups (particularly from urban and inner-city areas), schools, social work organisations and people with learning disabilities.
The main season at Camas now runs from mid April to October, with guests generally arriving on a Monday afternoon and leaving the following Saturday morning. Camas can typically accommodate up to 28 guests at any one time. In 2021 this number will be restricted because of Covid-19. During a typical week the programmed activities on offer could include: kayaking, hill walking, coasteering, abseiling, swimming, art and crafts, raft building, gardening, games, a ‘beach clean’ in the local area and an overnight camping trip. Camas is registered with the Adventure Activities Licensing Service (AALS) as an outdoor centre; staff lead and assist with these activities according to their experience, qualifications and training. All Camas staff also take part in the domestic and maintenance tasks necessary to keep the centre running.
Work at Camas is all-embracing. Daily chores, outdoor activities, art, music, games, times of reflection and meals are all shared with our guests. It can be very demanding and deeply satisfying. A routine day might include cooking scones and porridge for breakfast, weeding in the garden, delivering a kayak session, listening to a young person’s story with empathy and compassion and singing songs with the group until late evening. In addition, the resident staff day might include organising work loads for volunteers, liaising with guest leaders or updating health and safety documents.
Team members have 1½ days off from Saturday afternoon to Monday morning, plus a half day during the week. We regularly visit Iona to share time with resident staff and volunteers there. Volunteers at Camas usually stay for the whole of the summer season, this starts around late April and finishes early September, though dates of stay are flexible. Resident staff normally stay at the centre for either 9 months or year-round depending on their role.
The Camas team (of up to 11 people) is made up of Resident Staff, employed for between one season and 3 years, and Volunteers, usually here for between 4 to 6 months.
All members of the team must embrace the nature of shared living in community. Inevitably, personal issues and difficulties will arise and being able to approach these difficulties in oneself and with others in a way that supports the community is essential. Support is offered through line management, regular team meetings and external professional support if needed.
Camas offers a simple and healthy lifestyle including fun, joyful, tearful and enormously supportive experiences through close team relationships. Accommodation is in single rooms within the cottages. All electricity is generated by a wind turbine and so, if there is no wind there is no hot water. Food is mostly vegetarian and, where possible, harvested from our garden. There is minimal 4G coverage.
Camas has an environmental ethos which is integral to all that we do. The John Muir Award is offered as part of some programmes. One particular focus for this is the organic garden and tree nursery and both staff and guests are encouraged to participate in environmental projects and gardening tasks.
Although very much a resource of the Iona Community, formal Christian worship is not regularly pursued at the centre. Instead, staff facilitate morning and evening “reflections” designed to engage staff and guests in contemplation about events of the day, themselves, the environment, past and futures. Camas takes heart from the beauty of creation, revealed in the wildlife, cliffs, crags and white sandy beaches near to the centre.
Perhaps the most important aspect of our task here at Camas, and in some ways, the most difficult to define is that of providing welcome, hospitality and an experience of community living to the many different people who wander down the track to Camas. It is perhaps this, more than anything that makes working at Camas more than just a job; this task is not confined to programmed activities but starts as soon as someone arrives at the top of the track and continues throughout their time at Camas. In practice, this can mean very long working days – starting with breakfast and finishing up by singing songs or telling stories around the fire in the evening. It is also what makes working at Camas so hugely rewarding and, often, great fun.
Terms & Conditions
- Travel expenses are paid for from whatever point you set off from the UK mainland. We ask that you travel as economically as you can.
- Volunteers are provided with free board and lodging (inclusive of all facilities such as electricity, heating and broadband).
- Volunteers receive an allowance of £30 a week.
- Accommodation is provided in single rooms in the cottages.
IF YOU DECIDE TO APPLY
Please note that you must be over 18 years old by the time you would like to start your volunteering at Camas. We require a commitment of a minimum of one month, and preferably several months. Preference will usually be given to applicants who can stay for the full summer or at least three months.
If you live outside the UK: following the UK leaving the European Union in January 2021, if you are not a UK national and do not have the right to work in the UK, in most cases, it will be necessary for you to apply for a work visa. The Iona Community is an ‘A-level’ sponsor. This enables the organisation to attain Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) under the Points Based System (PBS) you will need whilst applying for the work visa.
We will help you do this but the application costs at your end (around £250 at the moment) will need to be met by you. It also requires form-filling and a trip to the nearest British consulate registered for visa processing. Please also note that there is no guarantee that a visa will be granted once you apply (and have paid the money). It is unfortunately entirely out of our hands.
How to apply
Please complete the Camas Volunteer Application Form by email to [email protected]
Please return your form by Friday 15 January for your application to be considered for the first intake.
For questions or queries call us: +44(0)1681 700367 or email [email protected]
Take a look at what we got up to in the 2019 season:
The Camas Diary – http://thecamasdiary.blogspot.co.uk/
The Camas film – Camas film 2018
All Camas Staff will need to be or become Members of Scotland’s Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme or provide an equivalent proof prior to taking up their post at Camas.