Join our Sami Reindeer Herding Family in Varangerbotn, Northern Norway

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Norway

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  2020 

 Min stay requested: at least 1 month

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  • Description

    Description

    PLEASE READ OUR ENTIRE PROFILE BEFORE APPLYING. THERE ARE MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS AND INSTRUCTIONS FOR SENDING US AN APPLICATION IN OUR PROFILE BELOW.

    Unfortunately, because we receive so many applications, if you don't send an application according to our instructions below, we can't accept it. Thanks for understanding ☺️

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    Hello! Thank you for your interest in our profile! We are a family of Sami reindeer herders living in Varangerbotn, northern Norway.

    Our family consists of:
    Myself (Ellen, the mom)
    Jon Andreas (dad)
    2 kids (2 and 9 year old)
    2 Dogs
    10,000+ Wild Reindeer in 2 different districts ☺️

    We live in a naturally beautiful area, with many outdoor activities available all throughout the year. Between our two districts we have over 10,000 reindeer. Because our work is with wild animals, our work depends on what the herd is doing over a vast amount of dramatic landscape, which changes at different times of the year or different times of the day. As the wind does. We cannot guarantee your full stay will be helping directly with the reindeer, because it is not up to us ;) We can guarantee that your stay will be full of constantly changing plans! Being a flexible volunteer is a must.

    If you are planning your trip to north of the Arctic Circle, please be smart about the outdoor gear that you bring. We have some back up of certain sizes but you should guarantee your warmth with wool layers, A HAT to protect your head from the warble fly, rain gear, footwear that will survive getting run over by wild animals and outer wear that won't get shredded.

    We usually have one or two volunteer cars around, so you can go to some places around here on your free days. We will always supply you with food. It's a lot of physical work around here so it's important that you eat well.

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    So, we have developed this list to show you what the next year will entail and what a volunteer’s work will look like. The monthly list shows the big things, while the “General List” that follows are things we need help with all year long.

    Please note, our family works like a team, so in all of these tasks you will almost always be with someone ☺️
    WE ALWAYS HAVE ROOM FOR CARPENDERS! ;-)

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    NOVEMBER & DECEMBER 2019:
    We will be in both districts, Ellen§s and Jon Andreas', depending on the waether, the movement of the reindeer and the work that needs to be done.

    Help with reindeer and mechanics

    We need help preparing our snowmobiles and ATVs for winter. To do this, we need people comfortable with hauling a trailer. Also, mechanics and aspiring mechanics are very welcome at this time to help Jon Andreas with the snowmobiles and ATVs.

    We will be going to the reindeer fence again to separate the reindeer herds. and move them from the summer to the winter districts. The days are long and cold, down to -25 degrees Celcius. We are usually at the fence for about two weeks.

    IMPORTANT: Please note that we will also be slaughtering some reindeer. You will NOT be asked to kill any reindeer, but you will see them die via a knife to the base of the skull (which paralyzes them) and then a cut to the throat to drain the blood. We will then skin and butcher the reindeer, and may ask for some help with this. After taking the meat back home, we will need to cut it down into smaller chunks that we can easily pull out of the freezer to eat. You will be expected to help cut down the meat. We want to give people a heads up on this so you know what you’re getting into!


    Now, we start to get complete darkness! BRING THE HIGHEST VITAMIN D SUPPLEMENTS YOU CAN FIND.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________

    JANUARY 2020: This month I am looking for a couple. We will be in Ellen's district in Kautokeino.

    It will be a great time of year to see the northern lights and if you want to experience the arctic winter, this is the month :-)

    We need someone to help with the inside of the apppartment we are renovating. If you have very good carpender skills then you will be most welcome! :-)

    We sometimes drive snowmobiles out to check on the reindeer herds. It's really nice to be in the mountain.

    We have no sun in January, just a little bit of twilight around noon, so: BRING THE HIGHEST VITAMIN D SUPPLEMENTS YOU CAN FIND.

    Reindeer Help
    In January we still have complete darkness. We will be working outside with the reindeer in a fenced area, separating the herds. The days will be long and it can reach -35 degrees Celcius. We physically handle the reindeer, so the work is very physically demanding. Because of the time of year, this work can be very difficult.


    IMPORTANT: Please note that we will also be slaughtering some reindeer. You will NOT be asked to kill any reindeer, but you will see them die via a knife to the base of the skull (which paralyzes them) and then a cut to the throat to drain the blood. We will then skin and butcher the reindeer, and may ask for some help with this. After taking the meat back home, we will need to cut it down into smaller chunks that we can easily pull out of the freezer to eat. You will be expected to help cut down the meat. We want to give people a heads up on this so you know what you’re getting into!

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    FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020
    We will be in Jon Andreas' district at the Varangerfjord.

    There is no physical reindeer work in these months. But you might get to go up to the mountain to feed the reindeer, because it's very hard for them to find enough food through winter.
    We don't necessarily need a volunteer for these months, but if you are an easy going person (maybe even with some carpentry or mechanic skills) you are very welcome!

    It's still very dark, so: BRING THE HIGHEST VITAMIN D SUPPLEMENTS YOU CAN FIND.

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    APRIL 2020:
    We will be mostly in Ellen's district close to Kautokeino.

    We need a carpenter, and it's the best time to be in the mountain!
    In April we need someone with previous work in carpentry whether professionally or with a natural gift. We have a cabin 40km away by snowmobile in the mountains that’s built, but just needs the finishing touches.

    Knowledge of power tools, measuring, and building is a must. Our family will live in the cabin during this time and we’ll probably all be there for about two weeks. We think this work will take about one week to complete.

    This is a fantastic time of year for ice fishing, skiing, and snowmobiling! We spend a lot of time in the mountain overnight as a holiday. At the end of April, the reindeer start to give birth to calves!

    It would be great to have a couple for this month!

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    MAY/JUNE/JULY 2020:

    No reindeer work in these moths they are all happy, safe and sound up in the mountains by themselves :)

    But you still get to live with a reindeer herding family and lots of reindeer stuff around! And there is always some carpentry work that needs to be done! These months are perfect for hiking in the mountains (as soon as the snow melted). We have the midnight sun around this time of the year, so there is no darkness at all!

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    AUGUST 2020:
    During August we will stay and work in Ellen's district with her reindeer (halfway between Alta and Tromsø at the coast)

    Carpenter needed (and sought after) and helping with the reindeer
    We will start to build a small prefabricated grillhouse, which is a really small outdoor house where you can have a fire and cook food.
    We want to put an extension onto our small 1 room cabin on the mountain.
    We want to build another similar prefabricated cabin for grandma and grandpa.
    We need beds to be built and a slaughter room to be built in our Vadso cabin and garage.
    We need someone with previous experience in carpentry to help us with this.

    Before we go to the reindeer fence, we bake a lot of bread and cakes to last us the entire stay. This way, we don’t have to think about basic food needs and we have lots of homemade goodies for the long days ☺️

    During the middle of August, we will start our work earmarking Ellen’s reindeer. This is a lot of fun, but the days are long and are physically demanding because we are physically handling wild reindeer. You will definitely feel the work every day after, and maybe get some more muscles! The earmarking period is usually about three weeks long. Coming in August does not necessarily mean you will be working on the mountain. An 8 hour drive away is the another district Ellen has to dive to immediately after the mountain and there is A LOT of preparation to be done there.

    What does a day look like on the mountain with Ellen's reindeer? Well... The weather is different every moment. Sometimes we are in the clouds with very little visibility, sometimes its warm and sunny and we have to WEAR A HAT TO PROTECT OUR HEADS from the Warble Fly, sometimes it's pouring down rain and we are covered in mud and reindeer, and sometimes it's so cold that you really don't want to get moving in the morning.
    The reindeer district is part of the Reisa Nasjonalpark. Ellen's family has been working with the summer reindeer in this area for hundreds of years.
    You will be very much off the grid for your stay. You can climb to the top of the mountain or climb down to the valley for signal on your Sunday off. We may or may not have electricity at that particular time.
    You will be woken up at 5am to the sound of ATV's going up into the mountains to find the wild reindeer and herd them down into the large fenced in area. Depending on how long that takes, your first look at the reindeer will be coming down over the hill by the hundreds and sometimes thousands. This is the window of time you have for your breakfast and coffee.
    The reindeer are slowly divided into groups. The males and non'milking mothers set back out to the hills. The calved are given numbers around their neck and put into another corral with the milking mothers. Around lunch time is when the 1st full round is *usually done. You can choose to eat lunch and take a long break or you can come into the corral to learn about earmarking. The adult reindeer all have their ears marked in various ways to show who they belong to. When the milking mothers are in the large corral with the calves the calves will follow the mother, showing us which calf number belongs to which family.
    After lunch the large group is then again divided into smaller groups for the calf ear marking, now that we know who the calves belong to. Then they are all set back out to the mountains with their mothers.
    At the beginning of the earmarking the calves are small and manageable with delicate antlers, we should always be careful of. Every day you will notice how quickly the calves grow. By the end of the ear marking those babies are teenagers and a lot harder to catch.
    Being strong and having a little weight to you helps A LOT.

    IMPORTANT: Please note that we will also be slaughtering some reindeer. You will NOT be asked to kill any reindeer, but you will see them die via a knife to the base of the skull (which paralyzes them) and then a cut to the throat to drain the blood. We will then skin and butcher the reindeer, and may ask for some help with this. After taking the meat back home, we will need to cut it down into smaller chunks that we can easily pull out of the freezer to eat. You will be expected to help cut down the meat. We want to give people a heads up on this so you know what you’re getting into!

    August is a great time of year to pick arctic cloud berries, which are DELICIOUS! We pick lots of them and make jam for the year. Beware, August still has a lot of mosquitos!
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    GENERAL HELP: All Year Long
    We will need help with the following on a regular basis:
    • Cooking and Baking
    • Cleaning and Organizing (We've just moved houses)
    • Childcare, language and conversation
    • Driving
    • Walking the dogs
    • Carpentry
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    MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS
    • Minimum age of 25
    •. **You did at least one Workaway stay before
    • One month stay unless otherwise discussed
    • **Driver’s License
    • You like children
    • Fun and outgoing attitude
    • Sense of humor a BIG plus ☺️
    • In good physical shape
    • Great communication skills
    • Hardworking, responsible, and flexible with work
    • Ability to eat reindeer meat (most of our meals)
    • You MUST be a self-starter. If there’s not something going on, it’s really nice to have someone that just starts cleaning or doing small tasks to help out. No one will ever be upset coming home to a clean house! Keeping the kitchen clean is always an easy goto if you are wanting to do something in the moment.
    • Good memory to help Ellen remember things that need to be done!
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    TO APPLY:
    Please send us a message with the following information:
    • THAT YOU READ OUR ENTIRE PROFILE AND MEET OUR MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS. Please include this first. We get so many messages on a daily basis that aren’t personalized, so unfortunately if you don’t include this, we can’t accept your application.
    • A few sentences about yourself and where you’re coming from
    • Why you want to volunteer with us
    • How long you intend to stay (usually we accept people staying for one month, the wen can see how it's going and if you wan to stay maybe a few weeks longer) and dates
    • Previous Workaways and past work experiences
    • Language Skills
    • Allergies or dietary restrictions
    • If you are available for a video chat interview (messenger/whatsapp) before being accepted
    • Anything else you want us to know!
    ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Thank you so much!

    We hope to hear from you soon,

    Ellen, the family, and all the reindeer ☺️

  • Type of help

    Type of help

    Gardening
    Building
    Babysitting / child care
    General Maintenance
    Cooking / shopping
    Help in the house
    Animal care
    Language practice

  • Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    You will be living with a Sami family (the Indigenous people living in northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia). You will learn about Sami culture, history, and language. We hope that you will take away new knowledge of what it's like to be part of traditions that are thousands of years old. Reindeer herding is such a complex job. You always have to pay attention to the weather. Many people forget that we aren't herding domesticated animals. These are wild reindeer which can make our job very difficult at times. We love our culture and traditions and are excited to teach more people about what life is like for us ☺️

  • Help

    Help

    You can see all of the help we need in the monthly breakdown on our profile above. Here is a quick summary of what we need:

    JANUARY 2020: Reindeer help, Carpender
    FEBRUARY 2020: General housework, feeding reindeer in the mountains.
    MARCH 2020: General housework
    APRIL 2020: We need a carpenter
    MAY 2020: We need a painter
    JUNE & JULY 2020: Painting and clearing trees, repairing the reindeer fence
    AUGUST 2020: Carpenter needed and helping with the reindeer
    SEPTEMBER & OCTOBER 2020: Help with reindeer
    NOVEMBER & DECEMBER 2020: Help with reindeer and mechanics

    GENERAL WORK: All Year Long
    We will need help with the following on a regular basis:
    • Cooking and Baking
    • Cleaning and Organizing
    • Childcare, language and conversation
    • Driving
    • Walking our two dogs

  • Languages spoken

    Languages spoken

    Norwegian, English, Sami

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation

    We are Sami and reindeer herders, so we follow the reindeer around. And also we travel between different districts. So we have different houses and cabins. Depending on what time of the year you come where you end up, you will either stay in one of our cabins or the main house. In the months when we are not in the mountains but in our main house, you will be likely to have your own room. During August and September and start of October, when we are up in the mountains, you will probably have to share a room, because we live in smaller cabins then.
    We move houses quite a lot, so be prepared for that :)

    We also have a car for volunteers to drive, and you can borrow that on your two days off per week if you'd like to go somewhere. And we have a free appartment where you can stay when you have some days off. (30 km away from our main house)

  • What else ...

    What else ...

    We live near the sea, and there are many opportunities for hiking and exploring the mountains in the area. It’s possible to see wild moose, reindeer, and arctic fox. In the winter, you can also see the northern lights quite often. During winter we get a lot of snow and are always using our snowmobiles. Throughout the year we visit many cabins, which is a great opportunity to get closer to nature. There’s also a small Sami museum nearby in Varangerbotn, which is very informative. Finally, on a clear day, you can look across the sea and see Russia.

    We mostly live in Jon Andreas' district at the Varangerfjord. We are very remote, with only 900 inhabitants in the entire municipality. There is a village 2km away with a restaurant and a bar. Tana Bru is 15 km away, Vadsø 50 km and Kirkenes 125 km. These places have amenities like cinemas, pubs, shopping centres etc.
    The nearest airports are Kirkenes (2 hours drive) and Vadsø (30 minutes drive), although it is probably cheaper and more convenient to fly to Kirkenes.

    When we are staying in Ellen's district, the closest airports are in Alta or Tromsø. The winter place for Ellen's reindeer is close to Kautokeino, that's the Sami centrum in the north. The summer place is between Tromsø and Alta at the coast.

  • A little more information

    A little more information

    • Internet access

    • Limited internet access

      Limited internet access

    • We have pets

    • We are smokers

  • How many Workawayers can stay?

    How many Workawayers can stay?

    Two

  • ...

    Hours expected

    5 days a week. Very Flexible.

The northern lights, here by the sea where we live!
One of our volunteers (left), and me, Ellen (right) in the fence.
Two of our volunteers helping with earmarking the reindeer calves in September/October.
Our reindeer at the fence!
Cutting up the reindeer bodies with one of our volunteers
Me, Ellen, after shooting one of our white reindeer
Some of our volunteers helping us at the reindeer fence :)
Cutting the reindeer meat into smaller chunks for dinners
At the reindeer fence in the winter
Repairing the reindeer fence
Our son and our dogs :)

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