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My Way of Learning


The Boss From Hell

Lenka Marvanova / IKS
March 2007

After finishing my university studies, I decided to spend six months as a voluntary worker in Milton Bay Centre, about 40 miles south of Bristol, England. The organization I was to work for was a charity providing services to vacationing families, mostly members of various protestant churches in Britain and even abroad.

I joined the hotel staff. My tasks included making beds, cleaning, serving the meals in the dining room, etc. We were working about four days a week, with three days a week off, getting around twenty pounds sterling weekly. About six other young people were working as volunteers with me at that period. They came from different countries (Germany, Argentina and Hungary, for instance).

The work was quite hard, but I did not have any problem with that. What I had a problem with was my boss. At the beginning of my stay he took my passport and put it on the shelf in his office. I did not understand the reason for that.

My room-mates were a German girl and an Argentinian girl. We shared a small kitchen and a fridge. This fridge was empty almost all the time. Except for the meals we got for breakfast, lunch and dinner (very often the same food day after day), we did not get anything else to eat. We were often hungry and had to buy some food and sweets from our small amount of pocket money.

Our boss did not communicate with us except in situations when it was his duty. It seemed to me that he had been taking advantage of us, giving us nothing more than the basic things required for living. Whenever we wanted to speak with him, he refused to meet us and had a lot of justifications for that. His usual answer was: "If you are not happy here, I can send you home." But we all knew that sending us home meant getting very bad reputation which could affect our chances of coming back to Britain again.

I was absolutely unhappy there and started looking for some clever way of getting out. Although the visa in my passport was valid for six months, I wanted to leave this place earlier than had been formerly planned. Luckily I had some old friends in Scotland. I had spent three months working for them as an au-pair during my university studies and this family now helped me a lot. They sent a letter to my boss asking for my release. They wrote they wanted me to come to Scotland, stay with them, and spend the rest of the time on my visa with them. My boss had to let me go. He was not afraid I would cause him any trouble with the government because my friends took over all the responsibilities for me.

What I want to add is that there was a very big difference in the information about this charity organization printed in the prospectus and in what was advertised on the internet, and the reality. The volunteers had no rights. They were dependent on the boss and did not have any free will in making decisions. I do not like remembering this part of my life. I felt the volunteers had no value in his eyes. I can find only two advantages in this experience: first, I could make some new international friends - the hardship we went through led us closer to one another. And second, I could realize that the friends in Scotland were for real and I can always depend on them.



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