Van Aid 2024 - What Is Van Aid?

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Well-known member
Jul 24, 2020
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Maine USA
What Is Van Aid? I wrote this bit below on the Nomadity FB page to help folks understand what Van Aid is all about ... and thought I should post it here as well... the 5 Cs is important - Clear Concise Candid and Complete Communication! In that spirit, many people do not do FB, so it is presented here as well.

There will be follow-up posts over the next month that will target the questions and responsibilities of those is need and those wishing to help.

Van Aid is an unorganized event where in people with skills to give, meet up with people that need people with skills, to work out on their own, who pairs up best.

Needers are encouraged to bring materials, like roof vents, lumber, fabrics etc... whatever they think they need to install a vent, build a bed, wire some solar, fix a leak.... helpers are under no obligation and needers need to have realistic expectations... people pair up on their own at "skill tables" where people list their needs and skills and meet up in the mornings to pair off... it is totally organic.

Everyone is responsible for helping everyone else find what they need. There is a bulletin board for people to list needs or opportunities, like a ride to town or a haircut, some with a lot of solar was allowing people to charge devices. There *might* be funds to help people, but there is no guarantee and it should not be expected, as it depends on donations. This is an open event and as such everyone should make sure they are dealing with people they can trust. There have been situations and incidents that spoiled a few peoples days in a few ways, so keep up your guard a bit.... 98% of people were awesome, a few made it tougher for others.

There is no fee, there is no pay, there is no management... there is no domain name or board of directors, but there are some basic rules/guidelines... no selling, no vending.... if someone has a part you need and can offer money, please do.... dogs on leashes.... shut it all down by 10pm as the focus is working hard, people need sleep... and the desert is huge.. if you want to howl at the moon, please do not do it in camp...
pick up you garbage.... drive slow through camp...

It is important that as we spread the word of Van Aid that people seeking help understand it is not a given. The only way this works is with committed and talented volunteers and it is important that they do not feel taken advantage of... there are no filters to attend. but being humble goes a long way to attracting willing helpers....

Van Aid dates will be determined in the Oct/Nov window. The location will not be the same as last year, will be announced in January, and will be between mid Jan and mid Feb.

The community did well in '23 considering Tyll's departure. It was important to me that Van Aid could stand on its own without a manager hovering over everything, and it did just that. It was impressive so see so many people helping and being helped.

It is critical that this non-event, informal gathering stays under the radar... there is no logo, no signs, no website, no board of directors, and no money... as soon as any of that creeps in it raises the return signal on the radar.... over the last year a nonprofit that was helping with vehicle build outs had to stop because they couldn't get insurance coverage, ... there is a two edged sword to this kind of effort, and it is critical that everyone understands the Van Aid mission and how they can help protect it for the future.

Please, if you are not coming to help or be helped, consider not attending... OK, I know this sounds.. well it sounds rude... see, if Van Aid becomes a gigantic party, it will faces challenges none of us want, and "powers that be" getting involved. If you follow the community at large you will have noted what happens when gatherings get too popular.

..and yeah.. .there is a pied piper, but you would be surprised how little I had to do with 99% of what happened at Van Aid, because it is all about no one being in charge, it is, as is nomad life, a situation where you are on your own in your own way.... so spread he word but keep the message that Van Aid isn't a stop on the winter party circuit, but a gathering of nomads there to help other nomads get a bit better quality of life..... that said, people will still celebrate, and there will be a friendly fire.... and a few other surprises.... Thank you for reading all this and being a part of the spirit of Van Aid.
Getting The Help You Need at Van-Aid

Please - Share this text! It is critical that those seeking help read this doc, so they can be best prepared to get help they need.

If you are planning on coming to Van Aid with your home on wheels, you need to know that you have the responsibility to arrive as prepared as you can be. The following bullet points will help you figure out how to go about it all.
  • Be Informed – Read all of this and take it to heart, pass this information on to other Nomads not on the internet.
  • Know what you want – Research on YouTube, Facebook and Nomad forums.
  • Have a plan. Draw it out, sketch it out. Take measurements.
  • Bring materials - You must do what you can to find materials for your project.
  • S.M.A.R.T. – Your goals must be, Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic with a Timetable.
Be Informed: One of the challenges faced in ’23 was that many attendees just showed thinking that “Van Aid was a place that they would build out your rig, for free!”. Van-Aid is an opportunity to get help and help others in the nomadic community. Hopefully this text will reach everyone that wants to attend, so they can plan, be prepared and have realistic expectations. If a nomad you know is aiming for Van Aid it is important, to their own needs, to be informed by getting this text to them. The more prepared those in need are, the easier it is on the volunteers and the more work that will get done overall.

Know what you want: Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? There is often a lot more to a vehicle build than meets the eye. Attaching anything to a vehicle has to be done correctly for your safety and others. Designing a bed platform has been done hundreds of times, go find those plans and talk to people that have your same vehicle, to find out how they made it work for them. Start a thread on the Van Aid Facebook page and state the year, make, model of your vehicle and what your goal is during Van Aid. Write it down, be specific, so that the people that offer to help you, can do so easily, which will save precious time.
Have a plan: Draw it out, sketch it out. Measure spaces. Understand materials and weights of them… ¼” plywood is just as good as ½” for many applications.

Bring materials: There is no guarantee that any manner of materials will be on site, we are hoping for donations, but don’t expect it. Per the above, you will be arriving with a good idea of what your project needs for labor and materials, because you have talked it out.

S.M.A.R.T. This is important. You are not going to get a full van build at Van Aid. You will get one maybe two things done. You need to be realistic on how much time and possibly materials it will take to complete your project and understand you will be one of many. Frankly, the helpers were a bit burnt out by the end of the ’23 event, as they were spread very thin due to various situations. Your obligation is to be as prepared as you can, to make the helpers tasks efficient.
Specific need - One or two things you want to get accomplished.
Measurable - When is it done.. What is your end goal?
Attainable - You can’t get a transmission, an oil change, or a hot tub.
Realistic - You shouldn’t expect a full build out.
Timetable - It shouldn’t be any longer than a 2 or 3 day job, so others can also get help.

All of the above starts with a discussion thread that you need to start, be it on Facebook in the Van Aid group or at . In that thread, introduce yourself, talk about (in brief) how you got where you are. Tell us the big picture of what you want to get accomplished, then try to get into as much detail as you can. This will lead into a discussion on how to design it, sourcing parts for it, and figuring out the installation of it. By the time you get to Van Aid, it should be, verify and get to work, vs starting from scratch on the planning. Some things *will* have to wait for your vehicle to be on site, that’s understandable.

We are stewards of the lands we live on and must do all that we can to protect the flora and fauna of the desert. Many of the “rules” for Van Aid are just reemphasizing BLM land use rules, such as the leashes on dogs and auto fluids. Absolutely No vehicle work that involves fluids of any kind. No oil changes, radiator work, engine swaps, transmissions work, differential work… if it involves a fluid, it can’t happen at Van Aid.
You may not be able to live in your rig during the build, so be prepared with alternative accommodation, a tent or you may have to drag your mattress in and out daily, so perhaps bring a tarp.

Please do not arrive early or stay late. We will be in a 14 day BLM area and we must abide by BLM rules.

Shut down the party at 10pm, or go out in the desert for late night fun. Many folks working will want and need their sleep after volunteering all day, so please respect their need to get some rest.

Bring what you need to live… your rig may be incapacitated for a few days, so make sure you have water, food, meds, and whatever else you need.

Supply runs will be organized (by someone) to get materials and make a trash run. Please separate your trash and recycling.

You can volunteer and get help. You could cook for your work crew, or help someone else with a paint brush, or make a garbage run in your pickup. Just because you are getting some help, doesn’t mean you can’t do something to help, even if it is just holding a flashlight. It all adds up.

Weather. It could be cold, it could be screeching hot. This gathering is in the desert where there are snakes, scorpions, coyotes and all manner of nasty animals and sharp plants. It may be below freezing at night and 90° during the day. So be prepared either way. Shade or wind blocks can be indispensable.

There will be many people, and many dogs… please for the love of Pete, keep your dog on a leash and pick up their poop. Know that coyotes love to lure a domestic dog out away from a camp, and then the pack descends on them.
Trust - It is important that you and your helpers are on the same page. Be sure to interact with the people that could help you to make sure you “click” and get along. You and they need to establish a trust between each other. Either side can back out if they feel uncomfortable, even if it is a minor personality clash. While we accept all others as fellow humans, we won’t all get along, because we are all unique.

Thank you from the Van-Aid community!
How Does This Van Aid Thing Function??

First, make sure you have read those two important docs. I will post links below, read those first then come back to this post.

Arrive on Tuesday the 6th – Setup your camp, meet your neighbors, if you get there early in the day, help build the center fire ring. Enjoy music and general announcements on camp radio 90.1fm.

Wednesday morning the 7th - check camp radio at 9am for weather and camp news. Meet at Center Camp (fire ring/ table area) at 9:30 for Welcome and orientation. 10am meet at Skill Tables.

There will be four tables spread out in the center camp area. They will be labeled:

..and a Sewing Tent

Meet at the tables at 10am each morning to seek help, or a project to work on. It is extremely likely that those in need will outnumber those volunteering to help. Patience will be needed by all. It may take days to find a person to work on a project. Those with sewing needs, please attend the tent as you can.

Repeat for the next 12 days. You must be your own advocate. No one is there to guide anyone or control who works with who. It is up to each individual to work it out with others.

Over the course of the gathering, there will be a few potlucks and several music evenings of electric, acoustic & karaoke. A schedule will be available. Remember that it all shuts down at 10pm so people can get their rest and be ready for another day of work. Please remember that this gathering is about the good work to be done. Party it up, but at 10pm, let it go…. Hopefully those that needed to party all night long are getting that out of their systems at other gatherings…