Our Chalet Staff Challenge – when every point counts!


Every season the vollies at Our Chalet are given a list of tasks, each worth a certain amount of points, and we are challenged to reach eighty points by the end of our season. Many of the tasks are physical and involve hiking, biking, climbing, or exploring. Some involve learning about Swiss culture and language.IMG_0763

A few are cooking related, where you have to share a dish from your home country or prepare a meal for the staff. And several of the tasks involve cleaning and other maintenance jobs, like going to the recycling center, cleaning the staff house, and digging out the compost.

The list includes a few easy tasks to get you started. A few days after I arrived at the Chalet, I earned my first point by learning to tie a friendship knot. (Thanks Alys!)

IMG_1987“Climb the Magic Tree” was next. Two more points!

After a couple more easy challenges, I worked on some harder ones. A few long days of hiking earned me a total of ten points (“Hike three mountains, at least 6000 meters in total” and “Hike to Kandersteg”).

A three-day trip to Magic Wood, in eastern Switzerland, earned me five more (“Camp overnight in a tent somewhere not on Our Chalet grounds”).IMG_2737


Megan and I knocked one more off the list when we spent a morning biking to Frutigen (three points).

We had so much fun we decided to go again a couple weeks later!

Last night, after the first of three days off in a row, I looked over my challenge sheet and realized that I was halfway through my season here and still had A LOT left to complete.

IMG_1200So, when a rainy day cancelled the hike we had planned for today, Ashton and I were quick to plan Challenge Day – an entire day dedicated to completing as many tasks on our Staff Challenge as possible. A challenge marathon, if you will. We drafted a schedule and vowed to complete as much of it as possible.

I overslept a little, but got started as soon as I finished breakfast. I went to the Great Britain Room, where the chalet library is kept, and I picked a historical Guiding or Scouting book to read for three points.

I decided to give myself a bit of an added challenge by selecting a Swiss Guiding manual written in French. It was published in the 1960s and is absolutely fascinating!IMG_2464

Next, Ashton and I got started on our play (“Perform a play in costume for the staff”, three points). We had a script written and props ready by lunchtime, and then we performed it at the tea party in Baby Chalet, which a few other vollies put together for their own staff challenge. We also wrote a song to go along with it (“Write and perform a new version of the Our Chalet song”, two points).

IMG_2466We also found time today to climb around a table (two points). This task is exactly what it sounds like.

You have to start on the beam under the table and climb over and back down without touching the floor. It took me a couple of tries, but I did it! Here is another vollie taking a break halfway around.

I earned eleven points so far today (including “Write a blog for the Our Chalet website”, three points) and the day’s not over yet!

Additionally, the staff challenge has two personal challenges. These can be anything you want, up to five points each. For one of them I have decided to write a blog post about every single day that I am here. Feel free to follow my progress at laurainswitzerland.blogspot.com

The Staff Challenge is full of silly tasks, but they are meant to be a starting point for vollies. A lot of the tasks, like the hikes and the day trips, are things that I would do anyway while I’m here, but there are plenty of other activities that I would have missed out on if not for the little push from the Staff Challenge. It forces us to try all kinds of things and seek out experiences that we would never have considered.

Like my Swiss Guiding book. I’m only twenty pages in and I am already enchanted by it. While reading it I consider my own scouting experiences and realize how much it had in common with the Swiss Guides from the 1960s, and I’m sure with other Guides and Scouts from all over the world.

This is my favorite part so far:IMG_2465

“Voilà un livre qui n’est pas tout à fait comme les autres. Il ne suffit pas de le lire, il faut essayer de le vivre. [...] ce qu’il contient, ce n’est qu’un commencement, qui doit t’aider a découvrir ce que tu es capable de réaliser, seule, ou en équipe avec ta patrouille. Et chaque chose réussie doit t’encourager a faire un pas de plus.”

Here is my rough translation:

“This is a book that is unlike any other. It is not enough to read it, you must try to live it. [...] What it contains is just a beginning that must help you to discover what you are capable of doing alone or together with your troop. And each success must encourage you to go one step further.”

Girl Scouts has always been an important part of my life, but it wasn’t until I came to Our Chalet that I realized the extent of my global sisterhood through Scouts and Guides. Every week I meet new people from all over the world.

We spend a lot of time discussing our differences and sharing the things that make us unique (“how do you say that in your country?”), but more importantly we talk about all the things we have in common. We know the same campfire songs, we have earned similar badges, and we share the same passions for sisterhood and making the world a better place.

In the words of Ida Von Herrenschwand (also known as Falk), the first guider in charge of Our Chalet, “in a different tongue, with different convictions, before different flags, we have all made the same Promise and this Promise is the heart of Guiding; that which is there, that which will last.”

Laura Haenchen (USA)
Our Chalet Assistant – Summer 2014

STAFF: Exploring the memories of Our Chalet – Jess (AUS)


When I arrived at Our Chalet, I was immersed in my ideas of the present and the experiences that we, as the summer volunteers of 2014, would have this year.

I had no idea that the history of this beautiful place would have such a marked impact on my time here. More than this it never even crossed my mind that volunteers and visitors from decades ago could have had exactly the same feelings and experiences as me.

It all started when I was tasked with the challenge of finding records of my Grandma’s Guide Leader’s visit here in the 1950’s. I took on this mission with excitement, because it’s a long way from Australia and I loved the idea of learning about the journeys of other women over the years to get here from across the other side of the world.

photo 1

One of my favourite things as a volunteer is the excitement I can see on people’s faces when they see the Guest Book in the Great Britain Room and sit down to write a message in it. There is something so special about leaving a real hard-copy mark on a place.

The guest books at Our Chalet have been held in the hands of thousands of people since the Chalet’s opening, and each one holds countless stories.

It makes me so excited to think that the stories people leave today will be read carefully by Guides and Scouts of the future as they sit in a rocket ship flying over Adelboden. This is what makes it so special to have the opportunity to dive into the bomb shelter (where we store all the old guest books from the very beginning of Our Chalet) and learn more about the people who came here before us.photo 2

One of my favourite things I found in a guest book from 1948-1955, was a poem called “An Ode to a Bench” . The writer of this poem’s name was Betsy “Tigger” Larsen and I’m fairly certain that she read my future thoughts as she wrote about how ” I breathe one last long gasp and see a welcome sight- a bench where I’ll collapse”.

I have never been to a place as hilly as the Berner Oberland, and at the same time I have never been in a place with as many park benches scattered along the roads.

I loved the way that this guest from so long ago had this exact same thought about such a little thing and it is this that reminds me of just how many people I share this experience with.

photo 3

I have not yet found any record of the guide leaders I initially set out to find.

Rather, what I have got from my time here is the fact that we are all part of the same community.No matter what decade, year, month or day- this thread of Guiding and Girl Scouting is what brings us together.

It is this that that I love so much about volunteering at the Chalet – I am part of a tradition and a very special group of people that has existed since 1932.

It is us who can leave our own memories so that in another 80 years, more volunteers can find records of us and talk about how dated our clothes and hairstyles were.

Jess Naylor (AUS)
Our Chalet Assistant – Summer 2014

STAFF: Living something better than a dream! – Molly (UK)


Guiding has always a big part of my life and continues to be so.
Both my Grandma and my Mum were keen Guides and encouraged me to join the Guiding family at a young age. I can’t thank them enough as my life has been completely enriched by the opportunities I have been given and embraced.


Having decided to take a gap year between completing my A levels (exams in the UK which enable you to go to the University) and going to University I spent a very happy 6 weeks at the Sangam World Centre participating in the Community Programme in Pune, India and then to my great surprise was offered a chance to be part of the  Spring volunteer team at Our Chalet here in Adelboden, Switzerland.
Both opportunities have opened my eyes to such different cultures and made me realize how fascinating the world is and how truly interesting are the people who live in it.

Before arriving here, I could never have imagined what an amazing time I would have. I have made new friends with unique individuals from all over the world, each bringing their own culture and experiences to Our Chalet. Friends I will really cherish for ever.

We really are a true family, always laughing, joking and supporting each other through the more challenging times. It is certainly a special feeling to know that we are living together under one roof, getting to know each other and together creating new memories which will remain with us always.

I am very proud to say I can now set a bed in 2 minutes, clean bathrooms in double quick time and cook food other than boiled eggs!

All my hopes have been exceeded by simply ‘living in the moment’ and taking on a variety of personal challenges from learning how to ski and walking down and up the hill every day!

I am now staying on as a summer volunteer which is extra special and will enable me to make the most of the fun of the summer season. I am certainly looking forward to the exciting activities on offer, such as abseiling, hiking, adventure park and swimming in an Alpine lake. I am planning to go paragliding for my birthday whilst I am here and can’t wait to have a go at the white water rafting.

I have recently enjoyed reading the diary of The Chief Guide, Lady Baden-Powell, who describes Adelboden so perfectly…

‘The sun was just up and I looked out from my bedroom window over the scattered roofs of the little houses of this mountain village to the valley below. The high mountain peaks opposite were aglow with light and wreaths of mist were wafting away across the face of the slopes…it was all so peaceful, so homely and so lovely’. – Lady Baden Powell

Her choice of words couldn’t be more accurate as the picturesque scenery and snow covered mountain tops are just as beautiful today as they were during her visit. Our Chalet is truly an incredible place to spend time, no matter how old or how young you happen to be.

I am so grateful to everybody for giving me such life enriching opportunities and experiences I shall remember forever. Each day I ask myself how can this possibly get any better and it does!

My motto is now ‘Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that made you smile’.

Our Chalet has given me the chance to do all these things and more. Every person I have met here has shown me something new, true friendship and kindness, leaving an impact on me and helping to shape my future life.

Molly Braham – Spring and Summer Volunteer



STAFF: How to… start a fire with 1 match!  (Chalet style) – Catherine (UK)


Using this technique, you can start a roaring campfire using just a piece of wood, a knife and a single match. At Our Chalet we use the Swiss Scout method to make kindling by carving feathering (very thin curls of wood)  and smaller strips of wood.

You will need:

A section of wood (¼ of a log usually works well)

Knife (preferably sharp)

Tree stump/ other suitable cutting surface

Extra piece of wood  (preferably fairly thick but still easy to hold)

1 match

Campfire circle

Plenty of sticks/logs for burning

Bucket of water/snow (because as great as fire is, it’s good to be safe)

First thing’s first, you need to make some feathering

With the blade facing downwards, glide the knife along the corner of the wood (try not to use too much pressure)

slide knife down wood

It should start to look something like this:

beginnings of shavings

Which after bit more feathering (and practice!) should look like this:

lots of shavings

Then, dig the knife in a little to cut off the feathering (you might want to use the extra piece of wood to hit back of the knife)

cut off shavings with help of stick

You should then have a nice piece of feathering

piece of fethering

You will need lots of these pieces, as they are the most helpful in starting the fire.

Next, you will need some thin strips of wood

Place knife at a slight angle on top of the wood. (ensure you use the section of the blade that’s nearest to the handle, as this area is the  easiest to control)

position knife

With the thicker piece of wood, tap the back of the knife several times (you may need some force), to slide the knife through the wood so that the wood splits.

use bigger stick to hit knife

wood will split

You should now have a thinner section of wood.

Use the same technique repeatedly to make many wood strips of different thicknesses.

make sure you have a range of wood sizes

Arranging the kindling

Place many pieces of feathering in the middle of your campfire circle

lots of shavings

Arrange 3 medium sized pieces of wood over the feathering

arraning wood on shavings

Place the thinnest wood strips against the 3 main pieces.

Add the slightly thicker pieces of wood, so that you build a small tepee-like structure

what it should look like

Keep the rest of your wood close to hand so you can add it as the fire grows (it’s helpful if it’s in size order)

Now it’s time to strike your 1 match! (once lit, shelter from the wind)

1 match!

Light the feathering by holding the match underneath the curls of wood, (if you can, light more than one area of the feathering)

With any luck, the feathering should smoulder and the thin pieces of wood should start to catch alight

As the first bits of kindling burn, add thicker pieces to build up the fire

should catch on fairly quickly


Start to add thicker sticks to continue to grow the fire, until it’s large enough for cooking, warmth and of course roasting marshmallows


Putting out the fire

Spread out pieces of wood

Pour water (or snow) over the fire until all flames and embers are extinguished 


Happy campfire making!

Catherine Rose, Spring Volunteer 2014

Our Chalet

STAFF: Conquering the world of food, one spoon at a time – Georgie (UK)


I know where I want this blog post to end up, but I’m not entirely sure how to get there. I guess what I mostly want to say is that being at Our Chalet rather forces me to be a better person.

Like probably a lot of people, I’m quite lazy about a lot of things. I tend to leave things all over the place and if I don’t do things straight after it’s been decided they’re necessary, I procrastinate until I actually forget I was going to do them at all. I’m also a bit rubbish at eating. There are more foods that I won’t eat than ones that I will, and I will often straight up refuse to try things. Or at least, that’s what I’m like at home.

And to some extent, what I’m like in the staff house. Our living room is kind of hopeless, and I have a fair amount to do with that (sorry guys). In the Main Chalet though, if you don’t do the things you’re supposed to do when you’re supposed to do them, either they don’t get done, somebody else will have to do them, or you’ll have to do them tomorrow or the day after. The first option is bad because we all tend to find it quite distressing when, say, the dining room floor needs a good sweep, or the boot room is full of mud. Life is better when the Chalet is clean.


Loook at mee, I’m J Georgie…

The second option is also bad because it’d be so incredibly unfair to leave things unfinished for the others. They wouldn’t do that to me and I’d feel far too guilty to do it to them. So those two options are out. The third is also a no go, because if you’re going to have to do it, you may as well do it now, as opposed to a couple of days later.

Yesterday, there were seven of us working and the others (I was on reception) finished everything really really quickly and then set about seven rooms that we would otherwise have had to sort out today. And as such, we had a lovely relaxed day today because there wasn’t nearly as much to be done.

So I’m a lot better about doing things when they need to be done and picking up after myself. Admittedly, there were two days where my thermal was sat on the table in the Great Britain Room, but there were no guests, so we don’t talk about that.

The other thing that I mentioned is food.

At home, I mostly eat rice and bread, and various kinds of meat. And then pretty much nothing else. Trying new things would generally make me panic quite a lot too. Food was quite a big worry coming here, and I wasn’t sure if I’d end up eating enough to cope with the programme and such.

It was pointed out to me the other day that when I first got here I almost looked like I was about to cry at meals. Spag bol, chicken carbonara, rōsti and alpine macaroni were all foods that I wouldn’t even have considered eating. Now, while I still really dislike alpine macaroni, my favourite meal here is rōsti, which is grated potato with cheese on top, and we usually put bacon in it too. Before coming here, I wouldn’t eat potato or cheese.


All that cheese made me strong to hike a mountain!

My parents were here this past weekend, and one of the nights we had chicken carbonara. I didn’t eat pasta because I thought it was slimy, and I would never have been willing to try the carbonara sauce. I don’t eat the vegetables in it, but I’m happy to eat the pasta and the chicken and sauce. My parents didn’t comment on it at the time because they figured they should probably treat me like an adult about it. They did text my sister though, and got a text back that mostly just said “!!!!!”. Which tells you a fair bit about the situation.

I’m also a lot closer to being happy to try new foods now. I used to completely freak out, but now I’m willing to put things in my mouth and then either eat some more of it or drink lots and lots of water. I can’t speak for anybody else, but I think that being here has done me a great deal of good. Yay.

Georgie Joy
Spring Volunteer (UK)

STAFF: A Vollie’s view of the Helen Storrow Seminar – Catherine (UK)


It’s been a while since the seminar now so I thought I’d share how it was to be a volunteer at the time; it was certainly a week to remember at Our Chalet.

As a vollie, the first day was spent making sure that everything around the Chalet  was as spic, span and shiny as it possibly could be. More and more participants arrived every hour, so that by the time the dinner bell rang, the Chalet was almost bursting!

Then came the tour, which was good despite it being a little tricky to point out buildings in the dark.ImageWe were all up bright and early the next morning for the opening ceremony. Luckily(?) for us, so were the snow clouds…. All through the speeches, songs and handing out of badges, everyone was dusted heavily in cold, cold icing sugar.

Then as the seminar activities ran, us vollies skipped (well maybe not quite skipped) around the Chalet to scrub at anything that wasn’t quite as sparkly as it should be (let’s just say snow is beautiful until it comes inside and creates puddles all over the boot room…)

After cooking, we’d dash out of the kitchen and squeeze in with the participants. Each mealtime had its own personality; as we lapped up various dishes of Swiss cuisine, we’d share stories from our home countries. It was always hard to leave the table but Derek (the dishwasher) would be beckoning, so off we ran to the kitchen to scrub Pollard (the pot) and all her friends; all in perfect time to songs from the resident Disney c.d.

Before International Night, we had to clean everything in the seemingly impossible time of 40 minutes. I’ve never seen anyone run around the kitchen as crazily and efficiently as we did that night… Quite miraculously, well thanks to Catt really, (she definitely wasn’t bribed scones), we finished with 3 minutes to spare!  ImageWe dived straight into the activities; learning all kinds of dance from Arabic to Irish, Salsa to Azunto. It was wonderful. Just as you thought that you were entirely out of breath and absolutely had to collapse on the floor, someone would start teaching another song, dance or game from the other side of the world and before you’d know it, you’d find yourself joining in.

Assisting with running the seminar was fun too. It was fascinating to hear project ideas from all the participants; each one was so different, so unique and yet everyone had the same clear vision for improving the environment in their local area.


The closing ceremony was very appropriately at the same time as Earth Hour, so whilst the Chalet was in darkness, outside we all placed tea lights in the shape of a trefoil. We listened to readings, thank you’s and goodbyes from everybody, until it was time for each participant in sing Taps in their own native language.

Afterwards, some us went to lie in the snow on the front lawn, it was entirely black but for the faint glow of Adelboden through the trees. We lay there for some time, growing colder and colder, just looking up at the stars and listening to the nothingness.Image

Catherine Rose
Spring Volunteer – UK

STAFF: I did not expect… – Natalie (NZ)


Since I found out I was going to be a Spring Vollie at Our Chalet, I seem to have had countless people asking me about my expectations. To be honest, I only had a rough idea of what I’d be getting up to, and it just didn’t seem fair to build too much from that. So while I can’t tell you that life at the Chalet was or wasn’t what I expected, I thought I’d share some of the things I definitely did not see coming!


  • I did not expect to find folding laundry so therapeutic.
  • I did not expect to go hurtling down a mountain on a sledge in the dark.
  • I did not expect to share a room and actually quite like it.
  • I did not expect to meet so many people from the UK… but it’s like one big tea-drinking support group, which is lovely.
  • I did not expect to spend kitchen time belting Disney songs and dancing to ABBA.
  • I did not expect to win a free ski lesson, let alone find it actually quite enjoyable!
  • I did not expect to be so confused when crossing the road…
  • I did not expect to discover a talent for whipping cream into ‘soft peaks’.
  • I did not expect to be asked if I’d like to go paragliding over the mountains – uhhhh yes!
  • I did not expect to make such good friends among the other vollies and staff.
  • I did not expect to spontaneously make chocolate brownie for said friends, just to make them happy =)
  • I did not expect to become so skilled at folding fitted sheets.
  • I did not expect to learn how to cross-country ski with a group of guides, let alone complete a 4km-ish circuit without falling on my bum!
  • I did not expect to succeed in lighting a fire with only one match.
  • I did not expect to feel so proud of my culture and heritage.
  • I did not expect the snow to melt so quickly.
  • I did not expect to become so attached to having cornflakes for breakfast.
  • I did not expect to be acting as translator between US and UK English!
  • I did not expect to feel such a sense of satisfaction after cleaning toilets.
  • I did not expect to like popcorn with salt, cinnamon and maple syrup (although I did expect to like it with salt and chocolate fondue!).
  • I did not expect campfire singing to sound so good!
  • I did not expect to rely so heavily on masking tape.
  • I did not expect to have such fun with a mountain, some dirty snow, and a bin bag.
  • I did not expect to become so attached to Derek the Dishwasher.
  • I did not expect to find myself retrieving a sewing machine from the bomb shelter.
  • I did not expect to teach the Cotton Eyed Joe dance to a group of young leaders from around the world.
  • I did not expect time to fly by so quickly!

spring vollie group

We’re about halfway through our season already, with some big weeks ahead of us. I look forward to the many experiences yet to come that I did not expect to happen, and I hope you will take a moment to think about the awesome unexpected experiences you’ve had so far!

Natalie Watkin Ward (NZ)
Our Chalet Assistant – Spring 2014