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Have any of you ever felt like they are taken advantage of while work camping? I'm on my first assignment so maybe this is just the way it is.. I agreed to not more than 20 hrs per week in exchange for FHU , mostly grounds maintenance. Ive not worked less than 30 hrs per week and most weeks  its 7 days . I get satisfaction on the grounds looking good and repairing equipment in the shop. It seems all work eat and sleep.   To you experienced work campers, is this the normal? should I just "suck it up" Im here and will make the best of it and finish out my agreement until Labor day. I'm asking  so I know what to expect moving foreword with future assignments 

G the G

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I usually volunteer in State Parks and National Parks. When I started out several years ago I did 3 days a week for a FHU camp site. Then everyone wanted 4 days. Now many want 5 days. That’s full time! I even had one State Park that wanted 7 days a week. I turned that job down. I workcamped at one private park for pay. I was working 8 to 10 days in a row. I left after 6 weeks. I’m retired and don’t want to do more than 3 days a week so now I just pay for the camp site and sit back and enjoy my retirement. 

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We have been volunteers (not work campers) for ten years, and one thing that we've learned is that you have to be clear with your managers regarding work hours, work load, and expectations.  We have worked more than the expected minimum at most of our jobs because we find it interesting and rewarding. But several places we've had requests to add more and more things and our standard response has become "We would be happy to take that on, but we'll need to eliminate some other tasks.  Which would you like us to eliminate?"  Same with hours.  We were at a National Wildlife Refuge and were asked to add a couple of extra bird walks to our schedule.  We said that we would, but would need to reduce our time maintaining the gardens as a trade-off. 

With regards to Twotoes experience, we have had some state park volunteer jobs that involved four or five days, but those were typically half-days.  We've never been asked for five, or even four full 8-hour days.  

If you feel like you are being taken advantage of, speak up!  The only way to resolve the situation is to discuss it. 

Edited by mptjelgin

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If you are at a "for profit" park, then I would let them know that any significant hours beyond the normal 20  I will be paid or unavailable. If two people are working, there is no way that I would do those hours. 

In volunteer positions, we just do not accept anything more than 4 days per week if the days are more than 6 hours. Even if you enjoy the work that you are doing, that is excessive for a retired person who is not paid. We did work 5 days per week in an Oregon state park but our shifts were only 4 hours long. Another factor for us in a volunteer position is the kind of work they ask for. We enjoy public contact positions and so will work more hours in that sort of thing than we will if the position is maintenance or similar work. If the job is cleaning, we do very limited amounts of that and with public restrooms we only do emergency spot cleaning when nobody else is available. I retired more than 20 years ago and even then my hourly pay was nearly $30/hour so I consider my time to be worth something. 

Edited by Kirk W

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Over the years, we have seen the hour requirements go up at most places.   I think this is a two part issue here.  

One, the parks are seeing more and more retirees going full time in the RV and looking for a less expensive way to see the country and a place to park, they see the opportunity to ask for more from the volunteers.

Two is the fact that the public parks are getting less funding and cutting staff.  They are expecting the volunteers to make up for the shortage of staffing.

We enjoy some of the public work with hosting and I still like to do maintenance work.  We decided that the volunteering positions were not going to include cleaning of bathrooms.  Some of the campers have filthy bathroom habits.   Some paid person can clean up after the pigs.

Two places we volunteered, we did not feel appreciated and have found several other with the same experience.  We usually put in more than the required hours as we enjoy being out and meeting people.  When we volunteer, we take pride in our duties and want the place to look good and the people enjoy their time at the park.  But when short staffed, we feel a responsibility to see that things are still maintained or staffed.  One place we were expected to keep two sets of restrooms clean, check camp sire occupancy for two camping looks, sell ice and fire wood in both loops.  They were short two sets of host and there was no attempt to get more host or have the employees pick up the extra duties.  We were basically on call 8 am to 8 PM, 7 days a week.  We had to check out when we went to town to get groceries,  We were told we had not help the campers when we would not sell them ice at 10 PM and would not be invited back again because we were rude to a camper.

So you usually have a great experience hosting, but be prepared to get a bad experience as well.  There are several RV Host or Volunteer sites where yo can ask about experiences at various sites.  If some ask about a park with a bad reputation, I will answer them with a private message, but not on the public forum.

Enjoy life and volunteer where you want to and if treated badly, move on.

Ken

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Yes, I think you're being taken advantage of your work camping gig.  Is this a private park?  It's great of you to stay there until Labor Day but I would still remind them of the agreed hours and from now on you want to lower your hours in order to have time for yourself.  I doubt during this busy time that they would just let you go because of stating this.  They'd probably have a difficult time finding someone else at this late date.  If they don't agree I certainly wouldn't feel bad just leaving.  It's on them.

We've always volunteered for public parks - national and state parks and fish hatchery.  We always stated we only wanted 24 hr./week at the most and they all adhered to it.  However, we picked the places because we really wanted to be in the area and therefore enjoyed the parks so much that many times we'd do more time (not much) just by walking the campground and maybe picking up trash or helping a camper with an issue,  or filling in for someone occasionally, etc. but extra time was never required.  Even at Rocky Mtn. Nat'l Park we really wanted to be there but they wanted just below full-time which is way too much for a volunteer.  We suggested if it would be possible to split the position with someone if we could find the person.  They agreed and we did.  We let it be known that we were doing  exactly the same job as the ranger we worked side-by-side with and volunteering for almost full-time work was expecting too much.  They agreed but that was a policy.  

I hope you find that this was a fluke for you.  Don't give up in the future!  Best of luck.

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Clear communication about what is expected at the start is imperitive in most situations. From both you and the entitiy you are volunteering with.  There are many reasons why they are asking for more but most boil down to budget and staffing.  What makes the situation worse is the change in recent years of personnel that are assigned to deal with volunteers.  Often newer ones have no experience and automatically  expect more if someone doesn't  explain to them what is more the normal requirements.   And lets face it if we will do it they will let us and come to expect it. 

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20 hours ago, TXiceman said:

Over the years, we have seen the hour requirements go up at most places.   I think this is a two part issue here.  

One, the parks are seeing more and more retirees going full time in the RV and looking for a less expensive way to see the country and a place to park, they see the opportunity to ask for more from the volunteers.

Two is the fact that the public parks are getting less funding and cutting staff.  They are expecting the volunteers to make up for the shortage of staffing.

We enjoy some of the public work with hosting and I still like to do maintenance work.  We decided that the volunteering positions were not going to include cleaning of bathrooms.  Some of the campers have filthy bathroom habits.   Some paid person can clean up after the pigs.

Two places we volunteered, we did not feel appreciated and have found several other with the same experience.  We usually put in more than the required hours as we enjoy being out and meeting people.  When we volunteer, we take pride in our duties and want the place to look good and the people enjoy their time at the park.  But when short staffed, we feel a responsibility to see that things are still maintained or staffed.  One place we were expected to keep two sets of restrooms clean, check camp sire occupancy for two camping looks, sell ice and fire wood in both loops.  They were short two sets of host and there was no attempt to get more host or have the employees pick up the extra duties.  We were basically on call 8 am to 8 PM, 7 days a week.  We had to check out when we went to town to get groceries,  We were told we had not help the campers when we would not sell them ice at 10 PM and would not be invited back again because we were rude to a camper.

So you usually have a great experience hosting, but be prepared to get a bad experience as well.  There are several RV Host or Volunteer sites where yo can ask about experiences at various sites.  If some ask about a park with a bad reputation, I will answer them with a private message, but not on the public forum.

Enjoy life and volunteer where you want to and if treated badly, move on.

Ken

 

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1 hour ago, George the greek said:

So you usually have a great experience hosting, but be prepared to get a bad experience as well.  There are several RV Host or Volunteer sites where yo can ask about experiences at various sites.  If some ask about a park with a bad reputation, I will answer them with a private message, but not on the public forum.

In our unpaid volunteer experiences, we have had more than 30 different positions and have only left early two times and one of those was from too little to do. The other was a case where we were told we would be working with visitors and when we arrived we found that we were mostly being unpaid janitors. We have never had a bad experience with a national wildlife refuge, and we have been to nine different ones, two of those twice. 

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On 7/12/2020 at 10:00 AM, George the greek said:

Have any of you ever felt like they are taken advantage of while work camping? I'm on my first assignment so maybe this is just the way it is.. I agreed to not more than 20 hrs per week in exchange for FHU , mostly grounds maintenance. Ive not worked less than 30 hrs per week and most weeks  its 7 days . I get satisfaction on the grounds looking good and repairing equipment in the shop. It seems all work eat and sleep.   To you experienced work campers, is this the normal? should I just "suck it up" Im here and will make the best of it and finish out my agreement until Labor day. I'm asking  so I know what to expect moving foreword with future assignments 

G the G

My wife and I have been volunteer work kampers for six years.  We went through what you are experiencing too.  Even though we are volunteer work kampers, we still get a signed contract that details the hours, the type site we are placed in, job description, start and end date, and a few other things.  This has helped out.  A few campgrounds still have tried to take advantage of us still.  When we interview for a volunteer work kamper position now, we ask the campground to provide references of current and former work kampers.  We then contact those references and ask about how their experience work kamping at that campground.  If the campground refuses to provide references, then the interview is over and we move on. 

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11 minutes ago, StraitRVing said:

Even though we are volunteer work kampers, we still get a signed contract that details the hours, the type site we are placed in, job description, start and end date, and a few other things.

You get this from state and federal parks as a campground host? Or from a national wildlife refuge for their wide range of positions? I always exchange written agreements about the hours and required duties with any location we plan to volunteer but to date have never had an actual contract. 

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Along with Kirk, our best work experiences have been with National Wildlife Refuges.  There you have no campers to deal with.  We work in the visitors center, pick up trash mow some grass and do some light maintenance work.  We get to pretty much set our work schedule except for the visitor center.  You also get to help with the educational groups.

They try to get the local Friends group to handle most of the visitor center hours.  One thing that is really enjoyable is the Fall Celebration at the NWRs.   It is a bit of work, but it is a lot of fun with all the people.  We have never had an actual contract with the NWRs.

We have had great host experiences at the Colorado State Parks.

With the COVID19, volunteering has some big changes as places restrict access and activities. 

Ken

Edited by TXiceman

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On 7/12/2020 at 8:00 AM, George the greek said:

I agreed to not more than 20 hrs per week in exchange for FHU , 

Then that is what you should be working.  As others have said, get it straightened out with your boss now.  Or leave.  Your home has wheels.

When I look at w/k jobs, I only want FHU, unless it is in a state with no income tax.  Even then, I do not want a FT job.  To determine what "I" believe is a fair exchange of hours, I take the MONTHLY rate, + $100 for electric IF it is not included in the monthly price.  Then I divide by the LOCAL minimum wage.  That give me the MAXIMUM # of hours PER MONTH I will work.  Divide that by 4 and it gives the hours per week.  For example, monthly lot rent is $500, electricity is $100 per month, local minimum wage is $10 an hr.  ($500+$100)/$10=60.  So I will work a maximum of 60 hrs per month or 15 hrs per week.  

I use minimum wage unless some specialized skills are needed, but usually they are not.  And, if there is a "seasonal rate", I use that instead of monthly rent.  

I look at several different w/k pages.  There are A LOT of parks that want A LOT of hours for only FHU.  There are also parks that pay for all hours worked, but they usually want a lot of hours.  I have seen some parks in AZ that give enough hours to cover site rent.  They pay a wage, then you pay the site rent.  When tax time comes, you pay tax on the wage that covered the rent.  Good deal for the park, bad deal for the worker, IMO.  So you have to know what you're signing up for.

As always, your home is on wheels.  If you're getting the shaft, load up and leave.

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OP:  Are you at a private or public park?  It sounds like private parks are the ones you need to get it in writing.  Public parks tend to really appreciate volunteers.  We've been told over and over how much our volunteering helps them.  The rangers included us in group activities such as potlucks with all park personnel and even taking us out to dinner.  If an area restaurant or attraction such as rafting trips gave the pack a free coupon many times it was passed on to the volunteers.  They seem to bend over backwards to make your stay pleasant.  Of course, it may not be that way for every park but it sure was for us.

I hope your next experience is much better and I'm sure it will be.

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thank you all for taking time to respond to me. This was my first time out. I now understand there is good and bad W K situations I just got the bad one first time out.  This is a very privet place like a club members only. I take pride and get satisfaction in a job well done, always enjoy working in the shop[ fixing what others could not. and  willing to go the extra mile.  Ive had a talk with owner when first getting the position. then again a few weeks in as i realized I was working many extra  hours and  7 days a week. I told him I was not looking for full time job  and not interested in a few hours  every day of the week.  

I was going to try to finish this season and forget about this volunteer work camp life. After reading some of your comments I think Ill try again but next time I will be better prepared. thanks again 

George the Greek

 

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11 hours ago, George the greek said:

After reading some of your comments I think Ill try again but next time I will be better prepared. thanks again 

For an experience that you will be appreciated and not likely to be overworked, let me suggest that you go to the places that are public agencies and not a business. Many of us with Escapees have found that one of the agencies that most appreciate the RV volunteers and who treat us the best is the US Fish & Wildlife Service and they have their own volunteer page. Another thought is to look into the state parks and their campground host positions. We found Oregon, Idaho, and South Dakota state parks to have been memorable with very high levels of volunteer appreciation and numerous other states not that far behind. Any state that you may wish to visit will have a state park website to start looking for positions. Texas is another state that uses a large number of volunteers and treats us well. In addition, the National Park Service has volunteer positions but some of them are long hours. A good resource if you just wish to do some window shopping is Volunteer.gov to just get ideas of places that you may find enjoyable. 

One other thing that we found to be very helpful is to develop a good resume and make it very clear what skills you have, the sort of work that you enjoy doing, and especially clear what you are not willing to do. A clear understanding between you and the volunteer coordinator is key to a good experience. 

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23 hours ago, Kirk W said:

You get this from state and federal parks as a campground host? Or from a national wildlife refuge for their wide range of positions? I always exchange written agreements about the hours and required duties with any location we plan to volunteer but to date have never had an actual contract. 

We get it for all the campgrounds whether federal, state, public, or private.  

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1 hour ago, StraitRVing said:

We get it for all the campgrounds whether federal, state, public, or private.  

So do you create your own contract and ask them to sign it? I have always asked for them to list specifics by email but recall only one or two places that had anything like a contract, out of about 30 different locations we have volunteered. 

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On 7/13/2020 at 10:02 AM, Kirk W said:

 I always exchange written agreements about the hours and required duties with any location we plan to volunteer but to date have never had an actual contract. 

I thought that a "written agreement" was the very definition of a contract.

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Virtually every state or federal agency that we've volunteered for has a Volunteer Agreement or something similar.  Some are a little more lax than others, but most have you sign something at the beginning that outlines hours, responsibilities, liabilities, etc. 

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11 hours ago, Kirk W said:

For an experience that you will be appreciated and not likely to be overworked, let me suggest that you go to the places that are public agencies and not a business. Many of us with Escapees have found that one of the agencies that most appreciate the RV volunteers and who treat us the best is the US Fish & Wildlife Service and they have their own volunteer page. Another thought is to look into the state parks and their campground host positions. We found Oregon, Idaho, and South Dakota state parks to have been memorable with very high levels of volunteer appreciation and numerous other states not that far behind. Any state that you may wish to visit will have a state park website to start looking for positions. Texas is another state that uses a large number of volunteers and treats us well. In addition, the National Park Service has volunteer positions but some of them are long hours. A good resource if you just wish to do some window shopping is Volunteer.gov to just get ideas of places that you may find enjoyable. 

One other thing that we found to be very helpful is to develop a good resume and make it very clear what skills you have, the sort of work that you enjoy doing, and especially clear what you are not willing to do. A clear understanding between you and the volunteer coordinator is key to a good experience. 

thanks for the info I did apply at some state and national parks but I was late and most positions were filled and being a single limited me some too. I did not have any previous camp volunteer experience and jumped on this first job to take me. Funny I traveled halfway across the county to get here which is OK i like to travel. Made stops for fishing  in some great places. i was just about here and two of the parks that didn't hire me called, one in Idaho and one in Utah wanted to know if I could still be interested. i told them Id already committed to this place and my word is my bond. 

 

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George, keep checking back with some of the places as you may find a cancellation.  People gte sick or family members get sick.  We have picked up a couple of good places last minute due to a cancellation.

Ken

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19 hours ago, durangodon said:

I thought that a "written agreement" was the very definition of a contract.

It wold appear to be a difference in terms. I consider an email to be written and am satisfied, while in my mind a contract would be a document that is actually signed by both parties. While I have signed numerous volunteer agreements, few if any spelled out the volunteer duties in much detail. In any case, it really doesn't matter as long as there is an understanding since as a volunteer you can leave if unhappy and on two occasions, I did just that. Not bad though to have two unsatisfactory experiences out of more than 30 volunteer positions over about 15 years. 

Edited by Kirk W

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