Chalet’s First Ethiopian Volunteer

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Hey! you can call me Si-yon! But my name is Tsion. Si-yon has been my name since I got here. I am from Ethiopia, I am the first Ethiopian to visit and work in Our Chalet. I can’t wait to share my experience with my Girl Guide team. But let me share some here first.

Living in Our Chalet was an amazing experience and I worked with wonderful people and have learnt so much. Here are a few things I learnt:

  1. Hiking Bunderspitz (2,546m high)

I am a kind of person that says everything is possible!  And besides that I love trying new things.

I decided to hike Bunderspitz because I am a “I can do everything person”. Before Bunderspitz I had only done one mountain hike and it was not easy for me. But who cares! I wanted to know what all the fuss was about Bunderspitz. We had to do it on a day time instead of the sun rise or sun set so we had to leave Our Chalet early in the morning. I was very excited and enthusiastic but couldn’t stay like that much longer! I felt like quitting many times and at the same time kept saying “it is possible” and told myself” Tsion there are actually things you can do”.  I kept going and pushed myself  and  also the people I hiked with were my motivation and, guess what? I made  it to the peak!

Sometimes things might look kind of hard and impossible; just push yourself and use your potential to the fullest – truly everything is possible.

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  1. Morning Meetings

What do you think when you hear the word meeting, especially if you have work experience? Long, boring right? It’s totally different in Our Chalet, it’s where our day starts (if you are not either on breakfast or AM reception). Morning meetings are my favourite meetings because they allow us to be aware of what will happen that day and share interesting things. It’s important, on point, and fun! See, I told you everything is possible, even making meetings fun!

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  1. A Place of Opportunities

Our Chalet has given me a chance to exercise my leadership skills as I was the Guest Service Intern. My position mainly focused on checking if the volunteer’s work on Guest Service was completed to the highest standard. So my job required me to be a mini boss at Our Chalet. My job didn’t leave me locked me inside the office, I got to do evening programmes and it that was fun! I got to lead a hike and see the beautiful Bonderfalle more often. And on my days off I explored the beautiful town Adelboden and some cities in Switzerland, which I loved so much.

I love taking pictures because Switzerland is beautiful, it didn’t test my photography skills!  Everything comes out beautiful. Every morning I woke up and was never tired of the view, it’s incredibly beautiful.

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  1. International Friendship

Working at Our Chalet has allowed me to meet people from around the world and to work with an international team. I made a lot of friends who accompanied me on my days off and made me feel at home. I have learnt a lot from every little conversation.  And guess what? They bring international food to your table without you going anywhere! I had the chance to eat Empanadas and Gorditas without going to Mexico or Argentina, and so much more. I also introduced injera, a sourdough-risen flatbread with a slightly spongy texture, originating from Ethiopia. Traditionally made out of teff flour, it is the national dish of Ethiopia with some spicy sauce called Wot.

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I am ready to go now, I feel empowered and skilled, so on to the next one! I don’t know how life will surprise me but I’m excited to see what’s next.

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Willy the Elephant

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This is Willy the Elephant, my adventure companion this summer. I wasn’t originally planning on bringing a stuffed friend with me, but on my way here, I met a good friend of mine in Edinburgh, Scotland. My friend had also applied to Our Chalet, and we’d both been accepted, but at the last minute, she had to say no. She had been teaching English in France for nine months, so on her way back to California, and on my way to Switzerland for Our Chalet, we met up to go to museums and explore together. When we parted, she loaned me, Willy, to take on adventures in her stead. I take at least one picture of Willy’s adventures every day to send to her. I call it the Willy Newsletter.

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Willy has been with me for almost all of my adventures so far, including training, waterfalls, travel to other countries, hanging out in the staff house, hiking, and laundry. We’ve hiked up to an alp at 4am to follow hundreds of cows, flown to Bath, the UK for my study abroad program’s reunion, run campfire and Swiss night and onsite day activities, gone rock climbing, visited KISC, the Scout Center in Kandersteg, and walked to town for groceries. The only times I don’t have Willy with me are when I’m cleaning (don’t want to get them dirty!) and when I’m in the kitchen (he’s polyester, and flammable! And also hard to sanitise). Willy usually rides with me in a drawstring pouch that I can clip to my belt or backpack, but sometimes he just rides in my pocket. For fancy occasions or ones where I’d wear my national uniform, Willy has the US Girl Scout Adult necker and slide to wear.

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One of my favourite adventures with Willy was travelling to Bath, UK. The study abroad program I participated in Autumn 2016 was celebrating its 30th anniversary with a reunion and party. Willy and I took the train to Basel and flew from there to Bristol, then took another train to Bath. The day of celebrations was lovely- a boat tour of the Avon, a tour of Bath by one of our favourite tutors, a costume party dinner with trivia games about the staff- but the travel to and from was much more complicated than it had to be, from arriving late to check in to my hotel without a working phone to missing a connection on the way home and getting back at 11pm rather than before dinner like I’d planned. It was calming to have a small friend with me during all the stress of travel, and Willy got to take a lot of cool pictures with lovely Georgian Bath architecture.

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One unexpected side effect of documenting Willy’s Swiss adventures is that I have many more pictures of MY adventures than I would have taken otherwise. It’s already been useful for both practical and sentimental reasons to have so many pictures. It’s also been helpful to have a journal with daily entries; I rarely have the patience to journal, but I’ve written a Willy Newsletter for every day I’ve been at Chalet. The memories I make this trip will last a lifetime because I have written records of all of them to back them up!

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Overall, it’s been a great experience to have Willy along to adventure with me. Not only do I remember my friend every time I clip Willy to my belt, but I have more reason to document all of our adventures, and I think future me will be grateful for the records. It’ll be a bittersweet moment to return Willy to my friend, but I’m grateful for the time we’ve had together.

Pythe Courter, U.S.A – Our Chalet Summer Assistant

Toowoomba Olave Program

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I have never been one who went in for formal goal setting. At school and work it always seemed artificial and more around what they wanted you to do rather than your personal aspirations. My life has basically fallen into place most of my life, I worked hard academically and got what I wanted through that. It was never a thought to actually plot to achieve something. I have no doubt that subconsciously I was goal setting, working towards them and achieving goals but it was never a focus. Friends told me how they sat down with their families and discussed life ambitions such as become a CPA, travel to Canada or get married and steps they would take to get there but to me it always seemed foreign, forced and somehow false.

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As life progressed, I became less satisfied with the routine my life had fallen into. I would go to work, go to Guides, go to Olave (18-30 Girl Guide age group in Australia), hang out with friends and do my needlework. While I was fairly content and happy, I was ready for adventure. I travelled interstate and internationally a few times on my holidays but that was almost unplanned as I was going to events or meeting up with family members who were also travelling.

At an Olave meeting when I was unable to attend someone introduced the concept of “3 before your 30” the idea being that you set  3 goals that you would want to achieve before your 30th Birthday which fitted in nicely with our age bracket. While others shared their goals on the group’s Facebook page it got me thinking as to what I want my life to look like and what did I actually want to achieve. I considered it further over the next weeks and came up with tentative ideas:

  1. To live and work overseas for a period of time
  2. To Achieve my OBP (Olave Baden Powell Award, the highest award within the Olave Section)
  3. To volunteer at a World Centre

As time went on these ideas solidified and became things I wanted to do and work towards to ensure they happened. I had been working on my OBP but needed to get a move on if I was to meet the time deadline which I started to do. I need to apply to take leave from work and fill out applications for Visas, Jobs and Volunteer positions. Without really realizing it my view towards goal setting was changing. This was goal setting but not was I knew it. This was something I was driving rather than having it forced on me by people who had different aims or foci than me.

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I am part way through achieving my goals.

I have worked in the UK for 3 months which while an enjoyable and interesting experience made me appreciate the truly fantastic working conditions I have in Australia and appreciate the hard work my union does to ensure they continue.

I am very close to completing my OBP and will continue to work to ensure I meet the requirements.

I am currently working at Our Chalet an experience that is allowing me to learn new skills such as working in an industrial kitchen and communicating in a multicultural team but has also opened my eyes to other potential opportunities within Guiding. As a World Centre Volunteers and I participate in the Rainbow Buddy Scheme. It is a supportive goal and growth mentoring process but the first one I experienced was focused on what the individual wants and needs to achieve and how they want and need to grow. It is making me reconsider my views on whether all structured goal setting is necessarily artificial and somewhat torturous. At Our Chalet I am having a fantastic experience. Some days are tough, and the kitchen can be a stressful place for me as it is a completely different situation to what I have ever been in but the benefits are wonderful. I am making connections, memories and friendships that I hope will last a lifetime while giving back to WAGGGS, an organization that has given me so much.

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Esther Wearmouth, Australia – Our Chalet Summer Assistant

 

Why Volunteer at a World Centre?

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Our Chalet is the second world centre that I’ve volunteered at. Last summer I volunteered at Our Cabaña during the summer season.

The number one question I get asked by family, friends and the Guiding community is why? Why should I give up my time to volunteer at a World Centre? This is what I tell them.

Life Experiences: At Our Cabaña, I learned how to create and facilitate programmes. One example was the Mexican Traditions Rally where participants would learn about Mexican Traditions through a game, so participants were learning without even realising it.

 

Even though I’ve only been at the Chalet for just over a week now, I’ve had a completely different experience at this World Centre. At Our Chalet, my favourite programme so far is the Twilight hike. It’s an easy hike which is done in the evening after dinner and it is even nice to do after a long day of being on your feet.

Our Chalet facilitates participation in outdoor programmes where Our Cabaña you lead more cultural programmes. Both are WAGGGS world centres, yet each one is different and unique.

Travelling: My favourite perk about volunteering at a world centre is seeing the world as I travel to different places.  This time I was fortunate enough to travel to neighbouring countries before starting my volunteer position at Our Chalet I went to Italy and stayed in hostels and experienced the Italian culture and ate a lot of gelato!

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At the World centres, I can travel to the local towns or the major cities during my days off!

Sisters in Guiding: When you volunteer at a World Centre you get to live with other people. Although sometimes challenging, you get to really know your fellow 5 or 13 other volunteers and you create bonds with them. You also meet participants from all over the world that share their life experiences and sometimes you pick up a new song or game to share with your Guiding community back home. You feel the power of the Guiding bond and how large and powerful WAGGGS is.

Speaking of Guiding bonds, after my time at Our Chalet I’ll be travelling to Scotland to meet up with a friend who was a volunteer with me at Our Cabaña.

Resume Building:  All my experiences and opportunities through my volunteer work is on my resume. Last year when I was at job interviews everyone was amazed at how much time I put into volunteering for Girl Guides and the skills I gained from this organisation. Volunteering for Girl Guides helped me get these jobs as my application stood out against others.

In addition to applying for a job, when I apply for other Girl Guide opportunities, my time at the World centres speak to my passion for Guiding and helps me obtain other opportunities. Networking with other WAGGGS members connect you with a network of opportunities such as the WAGGGS volunteer pool. A resource I found out about through Our Cabaña.

There are many reasons I decided to volunteer at a World Centre. Travelling, meeting new people, and collecting badges. Sometimes volunteering at a world centre can be tough especially being away from your family for a long time but the friends you meet and the moments that take your breath away make it worth it. Moments where everyone is singing taps in multiple different languages at the same time, the view of the mountains from Our Chalet, and getting on that plane to go to a world centre.

Samantha Yarmiy, Canada – Our Chalet Summer short term Asssistant

An Our Chalet Sabbatical

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When I realised nearly two years ago that I would be eligible for long service leave from my employer, I came up with the perfect plan. I decided I would take a few months off from my career as a town planner, and come to Switzerland as an Our Chalet Assistant. I would swap stunning beach sunsets for snowy mountain peaks. Departure Day could not come soon enough!

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Let me take a step back. My name is Ally, and I’m from Darwin, in the Top End of Australia’s Northern Territory. It’s a tropical climate, with the temperature rarely dropping below 27 degrees in the coolest month. More often than not we’re sweltering through 32 degrees with high humidity. Every. Single. Day. I’m more used to trying to remember to put up the sun shade in the car and not burning myself with the seat belt buckle than having to scrape ice and snow off the top or to worry about snow chains on the tyres.

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My Guiding journey began when I was seven years old, and it has taken me all around the world. Guiding has given me many wonderful opportunities, such as participating in the Juliette Low Seminar and being a WAGGGS Youth Delegate to UN conferences on climate change and sustainable development. I’ve met some amazing and inspirational people from all walks of life. And yet the right timing just hadn’t come up to undertake one of the experiences I yearned for most – to be a World Centre volunteer. To be able to spend three months meeting people from all over the world, and working in an international team – business coaches wish they could replicate this learning environment!

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For lack of not knowing what else to call my career break, a fellow volunteer suggested ‘sabbatical’. In considering this, I found that a sabbatical is no longer just an extended time off work to go on holiday and/or relax. There’s an expectation that you’ll use the time to upskill and to actively undertake some professional and personal development.

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So during my time as an Our Chalet Assistant, what skills have I been developing? What personal and professional development have I been undertaking? What from this working holiday can I take back to Australia and implement into my (currently forgotten) paid employment? Somehow, I don’t think my boss will see the value or usefulness in my newly-found snow-shovelling skills, so here are some skills that might be considered worthwhile:

Communication skills: I’m part of an international volunteer team, and we all come from different backgrounds with different expectations and ideas on how to get things done. It can take patience and lots of explaining and clarification to make sure everyone has the same understanding. This can be through talking, demonstrating, writing, drawing, and even mime or interpretative dance.

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Working as part of a team and working independently: There are lots of daily tasks to do at Our Chalet to keep it operational and the guests happy – mostly housekeeping and preparing meals. Facilitating the distribution of these daily tasks, ensuring everyone knows what they are doing and can do so independently and that tasks are completed in a timely manner and to a high standard, can only be achieved by everyone working together and supporting each other. When someone is finished their assigned task, they check in with everyone else to see how they can help and share the workload.

Public Speaking: From participating in daily staff meetings, sharing information with guests at dinner, running Our Chalet tours, and giving programme briefings to large groups, I’m constantly in situations where I need to speak up and speak out in front of groups from 5 people to 50 people (and potentially more!). You learn to speak clearly, to speak loudly, and to be concise in your message.

Leadership: leadership means something different to everyone, whether it be taking charge of a group, being able to make quick, important decisions, or simply setting an example for others to follow – these are all attributes I am further developing on a daily basis. I’ve been learning about WAGGGS’ Leadership Mindsets, and am working on how I might be able to better balance my strengths and weaknesses and work better with those around me, both at Our Chalet and when I return to work.

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Although it’s common for many World Centre volunteers to be on a gap year after completing either high school or university, volunteering once you’ve been working for a few years can be a valuable experience too. Being a volunteer at Our Chalet has reminded me that you should always be open to trying new things, and to be challenged to think differently, as you only grow when you move from your comfort zone into your learning zone.

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Allison Hooper, Australia – Our Chalet Spring Volunteer

 

 

7 Things for 7 Weeks

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Since I’m seven weeks into my three-month stay at Our Chalet, I thought I would tell you about seven things that have impacted my experience here.

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The hills

When a friend of mine came back from a week’s stay at Our Chalet, she told me how everything is uphill and that “Swiss flat” is a phrase used often to describe what we would consider steep, but those who live in the area think is pretty standard. After a few days here, I could confirm everything she said was true. The walk up the hill to Our Chalet definitely wore me out the first few times I walked up it, but I’ve noticed as the weeks pass the time it takes me is decreasing and I’m not quite so out of breath. Progress!

 

The views

You may get used to the walking, but something you won’t get used to is the surroundings. Seeing snow-capped mountains, covered in lines of trees and dotted with chalets is something I’m yet to accept as the norm. It’s nice to be wowed every time you step outside.

 

Snacks are paramount

Chocolate must be bought every time you go to the supermarket. It’s just a fact.

 

living with 10 people can be interesting

Us volunteers live in Stöckli, the onsite staff house. With that many people together it’s loud, a bit messy, and it can be hard to find time alone, but it’s always a laugh. At first, I thought I might struggle to have to be around people constantly, but actually, it’s great coming in at the end of a day whether it’s from dinner clean-up, evening programme, or a day off, to catch up on everything with the rest of the volunteers. We spend our evenings together playing games (the rules of Uno are always hotly debated) and watching movies (should you be allowed to talk during the film or hold all questions and comments until the end?), and it’s nice to have someone to chat to whenever you want a bit of company.

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Cleaning

Before I began volunteering here, I probably wouldn’t have noticed if a sink had been recently wiped or if the floor had been vacuumed – don’t get me wrong, I like things to be clean, I just didn’t know how much the little details make all the difference. Now though, after many a toilet cleaned and a mirror polished, I notice these details when I’m out and about. I am more than ever appreciate the time and effort it takes to keep a space looking spotless, so I’m not going to start being picky and complaining or anything, but when I notice a smudge on a mirror, if I could just have a cloth, maybe some window cleaner…

 

The Snow

When I first arrived here it was white. Now, as I’m writing this, it’s still white. Back home, we don’t get much snow, maybe just enough to close schools and make travelling a challenge, but never really enough for the fun stuff. Here though, I’ve been able to go skiing, snow tubing and sledding. I’ve built snowmen, thrown a few snowballs – but I’ve found it’s possible to get tired of the snow. It’s still really pretty and there’s plenty to do, but when the snow has nearly melted away, the flowers are starting to peek through, the grass is slowly turning green, the sun has been out and you’ve even been able to have a couple of ice creams out on the benches, you begin to think spring is nearly here…. until it snows again and everything is back to the one colour. We’ve had this happen a couple of times and I think I’m just about ready for the snow to go and the bright colours of spring to stay for good.

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Skippy

I’m a cat person (I like dogs too!). Too arrogant, I thought I could get all cats to like me if given enough time. Turns out that might not be true. In case you didn’t know, Our Chalet has a cat called Skippy. I’m yet to be taken into her good graces, but this morning she did let me have a long stroke and a chat, so maybe we are making progress, just very slowly.

Jenny Mcleod, Northern Ireland, UK – Our Chalet Spring Volunteer

WHY SPRING IN THE SWISS ALPS IS AMAZING!

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Spring is definitely the best time to volunteer at Our Chalet and I would like to tell you why!

 
When I arrived at Our Chalet a month and a half ago I was awestruck by the beautiful Adelboden valley covered in snow. I could not have asked for a more amazing view from my bedroom window. However, within a few weeks, the snow disappeared to reveal an equally stunning view down the valley of green and yellow pastures and snow covered mountain peaks. Since then this view has swapped back and forth between these two extremes which has been a magical experience. I am so happy that I have had the chance to experience both the wintery and the summery landscapes.

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One of the best parts about volunteering during the spring season is that you get to try out both the winter and the summer activities here in Adelboden. In the last month and a half, I have had the chance to experience the highlights of the winter season. I have had my first skiing lesson with the Guest Services Intern, Catherine, on the baby slopes of Engstligenalp. At first, I flew down the slope until I learnt how to snow plough, and then I could go down at the leisurely pace that I desired. On another trip to Engstligenalp, I discovered the amazing activity that is snow tubing! You fly down a dugout snow course in a giant rubber ring. Despite enjoying life in the slow lane, I attempted all of the runs including a run with a ramp to launch yourself down. I have sledded the course at Tschentenalp in a traditional wooden Swiss sled and unfortunately made all the others, including KISC staff, wait for me and Laura halfway down the course due to our snail-like pace. I even tried snowboarding down the slopes of Our Chalet with Sophie but fell over every 2 seconds. One of my favourite activities is snowshoeing, as it makes me feel like an Arctic explorer. I snowshoed for 2 hours with Ye Won and Laura to see some frozen waterfalls on a beautiful sunny day. I didn’t expect to be able to try out all these winter activities in the spring season and I have been amazed by how much I have enjoyed them. Now that the snow has cleared and some of the winter activities have closed (sledding, gondolas etc.), our thoughts have turned to the possibility of summer activities. I have lots of ideas of hikes to go on and am looking forward to exploring the local area further.

 

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March is a quiet month at Our Chalet, with only a few guests to occupy the volunteers. Therefore we have a lot of time to spend on our staff challenge and personal development. To complete the staff challenge you must earn 80 points from challenges worth from 1 to 5 points including hiking to town and back at midnight, playing Edelweiss on the piano and learning 2 facts about each of the volunteers. I have really enjoyed trying to complete the staff challenge as it has encouraged me to challenge myself and try lots of new things. I challenged myself by running a swing dance class with 1930s Charleston moves for the other staff members as part of the staff challenge and it was a huge success with only limited shin kicking. It also gave me the chance to develop my leadership skills, which is a strong focus for the volunteers during their season at Our Chalet.

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Matilda Pimlott, UK – Our Chalet Spring Volunteer