Property in France: British expatriate shares how she used volunteers to renovate a gite for free


Enasha de Zoysa, 51, lives in the rural countryside of southwestern France where she owns two rustic French barn conversion gites that she has renovated herself. The British expatriate, born in Sri Lanka and raised in both London and Maidstone, Kent, began her journey in France more than 10 years ago. Initially, Enasha started renovating the barn with her former partner and her son’s father, but after their separation she took care of the renovation on her own.

She said, “I was watching this episode of Grand Designs and I remember Kevin McCloud asking the owner of one of the homes that all of these people were helping him.

“And he said they’re volunteers and they want to learn more about green building.

“They basically brought their own tents and slept in the woods.

“I was like ‘this could be really helpful.”

Enasha and her ex-partner got their first volunteer in 2015.

After their separation, Enasha called in volunteers to help her finish renovating her barn.

She continued, “I have a long barn that had a log store and a bread oven attached to it and our house was 90% complete.

“But I had to finish the lodges, but the seashells were there.


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“I had enough money to pay the electricians and plumbers, but there’s a lot of rock work and cement and paint mixing and all kinds of stuff.

“I also have five acres of land, so cutting the grass and tending the garden was too much for me on my own.

“Xavier was only about six at the time, too.”

Enasha used volunteers for six years to help her with all aspects of her project.

But how did she manage to find the volunteers? Enasha said she went online.

She said, “There is a site called Workaway. I didn’t know where to look at first, so I was just googling.

“It started with something called HelpX which was specifically for farms and to help with farm work.

“Then the site I found was Workaway. Basically if you are a host you create your profile and then you can sign up for free. “

Workaway is a platform that allows members to organize home stays and cultural exchanges.

Volunteers at the site are expected to contribute a pre-agreed time per day in exchange for accommodation or food provided by their host.

“I have pictures of my house there and you just say what your project is and what you need help with,” Enasha added.

Enasha said she had hosted a plethora of people, including skilled workers and novices.

She continued, “I get from really qualified people. You get a mixture.

“You have young people who are taking a sabbatical or who have just left university.

“Or old people who are taking a break in their career or who have skills or who perhaps want to move to France and get a feel for it. “

Enasha said she has welcomed people from all over, including South America, Japan and Germany.

It took him 10 years to completely renovate the magnificent Enasha gîte.

The property is a city dweller’s paradise looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for fresh air and lush scenery.

Located just 10 minutes from Sarlat-la-Canéda, the property is a country getaway close to local amenities.

Enasha will appear in the new series Allo! Hi ! British in France.

The new series will follow the lives of British expatriates who have decided to settle in France.

An episode of the program will follow Enasha on her dating trip from the French countryside to Paris.

If you want to stay in Enasha’s gîte, Gîte Les Fontanelles, visit its website here.


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