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---Note: Due to a cancellation, we can now host a WorkAway up to the end of October 2019 xx------
Old house on a stunning rock beach on a northern Orkney island with ca. 600 inhabitants, single mum with 2 boys and a shop to run needs help with general cleaning, entertaining the young ones and some DIY jobs. You're welcome to use our home as a base to explore the island(s), get some time out or do some studying/writing etc.
Daily ferries and flights into town on the main island, sandy beaches, wildlife (seals, whales, puffins) and sometimes Northern Lights. Usually windy and some big storms in winter but also amazingly powerful, big skies and waves. The summer months (May - August) can be glorious and feel like paradise, but there's never any guarantee with the weather.
We own a shop which is connected to the house and open every day. The kids' dad lives a few minutes away and helps with childcare and shop. Both children go to school which has over 70 pupils, and there are 3 shops (including ours), 2 pubs, a cafe, a swimming pool and small gym, a doctor's surgery, some galleries and a heritage centre. There is a second hand shop which is always looking for volunteers which is a good way to meet people, and there are several churches, craft activities (spinning, beading, sailing, knitting) and fundraising events. Languages spoken in the home are English (mainly) and German (mum) and the boys (12 and 6) love playing computer games. We have reasonable broadband internet, FreeSat TV, and a Post Office on site. (Note: NO mobile signal! Calls and messages thru internet only!) The shop has a small coffee corner with an awesome coffee machine and lots of homebakes. While accommodation, coffee and meals are free when you volunteer, you can also get all your snacks, treats, alcohol and tobacco, souvenirs, toiletries, housewares and toys at a special WorkAway discount in our shop.
We have an electric car which you are welcome to use when it's free as long as you have insurance - please check if you can get insurance in your home country for driving here because it can be complicated and costly to insure you on our car.
We love living here, even if it is sometimes difficult because the shop is so busy with little free time. Our shop is way off the beaten track, half way between the ferry port and the village, and a true outpost of the supply chain - with all its challenges.
We have a cat, and she lives inside the house but not the bedrooms.
IMPORTANT: We've had a lot of WorkAwayers cancel at short notice after we held their slot free - mainly because they didn't realise how complicated and costly it can be to get to us. We are on the island of Westray in Orkney, so from the mainland it's 2 ferries or 2 flights. PLEASE have a look at travel FIRST before you write to us, to save us both time, and to avoid leaving me without help. We will not hold a visiting slot free unless you have told us when and how you will arrive, and preferrably your travel is booked. Thank you for understanding!
Babysitting / child care
Cooking / shopping
Help in the house
Island life is in many ways very different from other places - we live by the weather and ferry connections. The community is tight-knit because you work with the same people you socialise with who teach your kids, bake your bread, take care of your health... it's all interconnected. It is an adventure, but tourists don't tend to experience it as much as when you live with a family and get to know the workings of this culture.
We can help you with learning English and/or German, and you can try wool spinning, knitting, beading, sailing (only in summer) or volunteering at charity events. You will get plenty of time here to write a book or study, and you're certainly "getting away from it all" out here :-)
Our house is on a rock beach where you can go crabbing or watch the waves, and there are many other good walks (beaches, the 3 hills, the lighthouse) if the weather is ok. Even just experiencing the force of the wind during a storm and how people get on with life despite it is an experience - hold on to small kids, park the car into the wind to protect the doors, weigh down the kids' climbing fame or the hen house.... or just stay indoors and wait for the storm to pass while watching the waves.
Our neighbours are avid bird-watchers with lots and lots of information on local wildlife.
Orkney has exciting history with standing stones and stone circles, very early civilisations and amazing archeological finds - lots of info to be found at the Heritage Centre. Some of the most stunning tourist attractions can be found on the main island and it's not difficult to get there from here.
I work in excess of 60 hours a week to keep the shop alive, and I do my best to spend some time with the children in the afternoons, evenings and during holidays. This leaves little time for household tasks (mop floors, hoover, burn the cardboard boxes, hang up the washing, empty the dishwasher etc.) or DIY jobs around the house (painting, tiling, sanding, filling gaps etc.).
There are some jobs that can be done by just anyone who can hold a paint brush, and others that need more experience (tiling). There are professional builders on the island who can help us with the tricky bits.
The summer months are easiest on the island (May to August are usually mild with temperatures reaching up to 20 degrees Celcius), but if you want to experience the force of nature when we have storms, wild seas, looooong nights and occasional Northern Lights, then you're welcome to experience indoor life at close quarters with us over the winter months. The ferries and travel in general will be less reliable in winter.
We had an Au pair last summer for 5 months which worked out brilliantly, and we have had three WorkAway volunteers so far which were all exceptionally positive experiences. The kids love the company and will certainly try to involve you in games, movies and outings. I'm mostly stuck in the shop, so it would really help me if you could take them out. There are also other families near us who need regular childcare help, so there are options
Volunteer hours are very flexible, and there is no stop watch or counting the minutes. We need someone who can fit in and join in, who isn't afraid to cook a meal for themselves when I don't have time, who is happy in their own company when we're busy and who enjoys a board game with the kids and a chat in the evening. We welcome couples and friends because it's more fun, but they need to share the guest room.
The guest room in our house is on the first floor and has a single bed (space for a second mattress on the floor), a small desk and plenty of light. There are several boxes and cupboards with toys in the room which take up some of the room, but there's still plenty of space to spread out. The shared bathroom and toilet are downstairs, and the stairs are very steep.
The bathroom has a bath, separate shower cubicle, toilet and wash basin. Everything works well, but some of the final building work (wood treatment, walls) is unfinished. This is where your help could come in.
The kitchen has a dishwasher, microwave, hob, oven, fridge and freezer, sink and washer/dryer. We hope to convert it so there can be some seating/eating space, but for now, the dining table is in the relatively small lounge. This means that most of our life (eating, working, TV, games, etc.) takes place in the lounge, and a volunteer would need to retreat to their own room for peace and quiet!
There is also a basic spare room which is ok to use for guests in summer, after some serious tidying. It has a midsleeper (high) bed in it but also a lot of the kids toys, tools and just stuff. There's a private toilet and wash basin attached to the spare room, which has recently been repaired, but it is not luxury.
The whole house is a very old stone building which needs lots of work, so the overall impression is of a building site... but we have good hot water, decent heating. unlimited (slow-ish) WiFi, FreeSat TV, dishwasher, washer dryer, XBox and desktop gaming station... so lots of mod cons. (Note: NO mobile phone signal, so calls and texts via internet only!)
In winter, it can be a challenge to live indoors all the time, because the weather is often really awful. There's non-stop wind and storms, mostly rain or damp fog, and the sun isn't actually above the horizon for long. Around Christmas we have the longest nights with the least sunlight, and it is important to keep our spirits up with plenty of festive lighting and social, indoor activities.
I often cook for everyone, but I don't always have time. This means that you might need to fix lunch or dinner for yourself and we don't always eat at the same time. Volunteers can usually have the lounge and TV to themselves after 11 pm, and there is rarely a need to get up early in the morning.
Warning: We have no direct mobile phone signal at the house as we're "in a dip" - most mobiles work somewhere around the island, and you can connect through WiFi.
There will be plenty of time off - I'm happy with any help you can offer. 20 hours help a week would make such a difference to the quality of our lives and give me a bit of a break. You'll be welcome to join in with any family outings or to explore by yourself, go off for a few days to do some sight-seeing or volunteering / working other jobs. We're very flexible, as long as we can discuss it and agree things in advance. I'm happy to help you with travel plans, how to get here and how to get around, as well as what clothes you'll need.
You need to be aware: In winter, the ferries and flights are less reliable than in summer, and sightseeing is very limited during that time. We can help you where we can, but the winter experience is mainly an indoor survival exercise.
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
20 hours a week - very flexible