Thinking Day at Our Chalet – Selina (UK)


“”We have to make this world a better and happier place and each of you can do that. Your Law and Promise is to help other people at all times. This world needs you,” Olave Baden-Powell.  This quote opened our  2016 Thinking Day opening ceremony at Our Chalet.

As a winter volunteer at Our Chalet, during our time here we get three traditionally big holidays; Christmas, New Year and World Thinking Day.  World Thinking Day, for those not familiar, is a day of international friendship, speaking out on issues that affect girls and young women, and fundraising for 10 million Girl Guides and Girl Scouts around the world. The date, 22nd February, was picked as it is Lord and Lady Baden Powell’s birthday. (In Scouting the day is referred to as founders day).

IMG_0021So as a WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) World Centre, Thinking Day is pretty important here at Our Chalet. We are normally a centre for experiencing the international sisterhood of Guiding, demonstrated by our guests and staff coming from all corners of the world, but on Thinking Day we make an extra effort.

Planning for Thinking Day started in January, with a team of vollies, Euge (Argentina), Amy (UK) and me (Selina, UK). We had two nights to organise, one night during the British school half term break when all the World Centres had evening programme in celebration of Thinking Day and a programme for the actual Thinking Day itself.

IMG_0115The theme of World Thinking Day 2016 was ‘Connect’ explained by the WAGGGS World Board as:

“The theme this year is ‘Connect’, and we hope that you will take this opportunity to really explore the connections in your life; connecting with yourself; your friends; WAGGGS and the world. It is a time to remember that we are all connected not only as friends, Girl Guides or Girl Scouts, but as human beings; that we are all global citizens.”

Our evening programme saw about 30 Guides and their leaders complete challenges in order to win puzzle pieces. This started off with a race in the snow testing out WAGGGS, World Thinking Day and Swiss trivia, offering a chance to connect with the culture of Our Chalet and with girls worldwide who are part of the same organisation. This was followed by sampling activities from WAGGGS initiatives ‘Surf Smart’ and ‘Free Being Me’. When the guests finished the activities they won puzzle pieces. The night finished up with the guests coming together and connecting their puzzles and thinking about how they can better connect with their world and encourage others to connect. These were written on hands which connected all around the dining hall.

IMG_0014On Thinking Day itself, we started the day with an opening ceremony where everyone renewed their promised in their home language and then we sang both the World Song and the Our Chalet Song.

The day continued with Thinking Day crafts with a focus on connecting with the other World Centres and activities unique to Our Chalet; igloo building, a trip to the woodcarvers and magic tree hike allowing our guests to connect with each other and the Our Chalet lifestyle.

IMG_0083It was fantastic to be able to celebrate World Thinking Day in such an international setting where Guiding principles underpinned everything we do, meeting new people and sharing the Guiding spirit with our guests.

Selina Armitt – Our Chalet Assistant Winter 2015/16

STAFF : A Year living and working in the Alps – Mara (Finland)


For me, a few years ago, the WAGGGS World Centres were not a big thing. kelkkailuOur Chalet was a place that my sister loved and kept gushing about, a place that sounded cool and exciting but was still just a place abroad among so many others. In Finland the World Centres are not advertised very widely, for some reason, they are not every scout and guide’s life-long dream destination – in fact, I would bet the majority of the young Scouts and Guides of Finland have not even heard about Our Chalet, and that’s a shame. I, a scout since I was 6 years old, certainly had not heard about them until I was a teenager, when my sister first volunteered at Our Chalet. She fell in love with the mountains, the international guiding and scouting, everything the Chalet is. I could not quite understand her passion and enthusiasm, having never visited Switzerland or any of the World Centres. I was just happy she was happy.

Then last summer, a year after graduating from University, and three years of working for the same hotel chain, I felt like it was time to try something new. I have always wanted to live and work abroad for a while, to get different experiences and see more of the world. So when the position of Guest Services Coordinator opened up at Our Chalet, I just went ahead and applied. It was completely unplanned, unexpected and very surprising to everyone, including me. During the application process I was in a daze; am I really going to do this? But the more and more I researched Our Chalet and chatted with my sister, the more excited and ready I felt. So when I got the phone call, offering me the position in Switzerland, I was jumping with joy. I was actually going!Spring volliess

I have now spent 11 glorious months in the Alps, and I have one more month left to enjoy. Our cyclingChalet is everything I thought it would be, and so much more. It is an absolutely fantastic place to live and to work, not only because it is located in one of the most gorgeous places in the world, but because the people who come here make it so special. There are not many workplaces where you get to do things we do here, have such amazing guests, meet such wonderful people and get away with all the silly business we do. Tonight, as part of my Staff Challenge, I have put up a tent in the Spycher building’s attic with the intention of sleeping there for the night. This is a part of my Staff Challenge, and it gets me much closer to the 100 points required to complete the Challenge.

The year I have spent in the First World Centre in Switzerland has been absolutely wonderful. It has been challenging, fun, exciting, hard, emotional, educating and beautiful, and I have not regretted the decision to come here for a single day. The feeling I get when I wake up and look out to see the mountains in all their glory is incredibly peaceful and exhilarating at the same time. The friends you make here, the things you get to do, see, feel and experience are unlike anything else.20150517_182234

I travel home grateful for this year, and I know this is only a ‘’See you later’’ – not a goodbye. I will be back.

20150627_053426 Marianna Terävä – Guest Services Co-ordinator

Living the Dream Life in the Swiss Alps – Vikki (HK)


Watching the last Swiss Challenge group of this summer leave Our Chalet also means that the time of me leaving Our Chalet is getting closer. As people say, we are living in our own little world in Our Chalet, not much in the real world worries us, and now it is time for me to go back to reality, and I will miss my times here dearly.

Summer is a hectic season where the Chalet is bustling and full of guests nearly every single day. Then what are our days like on a normal working day? Summer highlighted programmes offered to guests are the Swiss Challenge events, lasting for 8 days, and our working sVickichedules basically are set around it. Either, we will be doing guest services, or leading programs for that Swiss Challenge. Leading programmes are loads of fun and immensely satisfying as well, having to getting to know the guests and watching them challenge themselves through the high adventures and the hikes and grow and develop individually and as a team. It never fails to amaze me how people from
different countries could bond so well just within a week. There are lots of tears shed when the last Swiss Challenge group leave. But I am sure the friendship formed here are lasting and the memories created here are ones that would stay with them the whole life and are life-changing ones. It is intense having to live with the same people and work with the same people every day, seeing them 24/7, especially this season we have people from very different and diverse cultures. I have heard so many wonderful stories from everyone and learnt so much about different cultures, which is both eye-opening and inspiring. For sure, what makes the Chalet so special to so many people
must be the people here.

One of the most important memory during my three months here would be the near shot of reaching the peak of Bunderspitz. It is quite an experience to be caught in a thunderstorm up on a
mountain, hiding behind a wall of snow and waiting for the thunderstorm to pass. The peak is just there! So near yet so far away at that time. Well it is a bummer, but safety first and we hiked back down, slipping and sliding down the slope, which is quite a funny sight, thinking back. It is a pity in the end the weather doesn’t allow me to climb to the top of the Bunderspitz the second time and enjoy a sunrise on top of it, perhaps that would be one of the regrets that would lure me back in the
summer time.

Processed with VSCOcam

The other most important memory is the night when I slept out in a bivouac to watch shooting stars (at the same time completing the staff challenge :P). That night is the first time I see actual
shooting stars. We could not hold in our whoo and aaahhs whenever we see some good shooting stars. Then sleeping in a bivouac overnight is extremely cold despite having three layers of clothes plus sleeping bag. But watching the sunrise from behind the mountains, gradually lighting up the whole sky pink from the little dodgy bivouac is immensely satisfying and once again made me in awe of the amazing nature Switzerland had to offer.

Vikki Sunrise

This summer has been a blast for me, trying so many different things, ticking so many things off my bucket list, meeting so many amazing people and hearing so many inspiring stories. Volunteering at Our Chalet certainly has been once in a life time experience and nowhere could have offered the same experience that Our Chalet gave me. Alas, it is time to say goodbye and hopefully, one day, our paths will cross again and I will visit my home up the the Swiss Alps again.

Vikki Shum (Hong Kong) – Our Chalet Assistant Summer 2015

Our Chalet – A place I will never forget – Cathy (HK)


Hi, I’m Cathy from Hong Kong. I waCathys a summer volunteer at Our Chalet. I could not believe that I have already been here for three months. It was an amazing and unforgettable experience that I have even had in my life. 

Before coming here, I has just graduated from university for a 3-year study of social work. Before finding job and starting work immediately, I want to let clear my mind about what I want and to pursue for my own dream before it’s too late. Therefore, I was here being a summer vollie.

Cathy OC

Our Chalet is an amazing and magical place. It is a place that help push yourself out of your comfort zone and let you unleash your potential. I have done a lot of incredible things here that I have never thought I could do. I am now able to cook dinner for more than 90 people, to abseil in a fast speed without any hesitation, to hike up a mountain over 2500m, to try many adventurous activities and to chat with the foreign smoothly. Many of my first experience also happened here, for instance, making snowman, hiking overnight, swimming in glacier lake, rafting, paragliding, scootering, seeing shooting star, etc.

Within all these, my most impressive moment must be the pendulum swing that I did with other vollies’ support and encouragement. I was really scared and terrified when I need to jump off the bridge. But it was worthwhile! It was so much funCathy swing and awesome to swing in the sky and enjoy the swiss alps surrounding me. Another impressive experience was I hiked four Swiss mountains peaks which over 9,000m in total. I was not a keen hiker and I did not go hiking a lot in Hong Kong. Luckily, I found my hiking buddy, Katie, another summer vollie, so that we can go hiking together often and make me realized how fun hiking is. I enjoyed the journey during hiking and also felt great satisfaction when I stood on the top of the mountain and looking the fabulous view.

Cathy jump

With these experiences, I am now braver and having more self- confidence. Instead of being fear and worried, I am excited to face my next challenge.

Apart from surprised by my own potential, I was amazed how the guiding and scouting make us all gather in the first world centre of WAGGGS this summer and create such a great memory to me. At the very first beginning, when I arrived, I felt lonely and hard to make friends with others. It was hard for an Asian living in environment where most spoke English as first language. I need time to think about how to reply and what to say every time. But, when I stayed here longer, everyonCathy Vollie teame was nice, helpful and supportive.

And I realized that no matter where are you from, what languages you are speaking, how different your culture are, we are all a big family under guiding and scouting. We helped each other, finished work together, hanged out and enjoy days together. All the staff and guests made my days here in Our Chalet and I will definitely remember you all, especially my lovely and awesome vollies, the time we watched Sound of Music in the first moving in day, time that we played “cows cows”, the time we worked hard in cleaning th
e chalet, the time we hiked the thunderspitz😛, etc…Cathy Guests

Just like what Helen Storrow and Falk said, Our Chalet did offer adventure and challenge but at the same time, I could find peace for my soul. I am really happy that I’ve spent my summer here. I don’t know when I will come back, but I’m sure Our Chalet is always my home and I will definitely return

Cathy Steps

Cathy Au (Hong Kong) – Our Chalet Assistant Summer 2015

From China to Switzerland: A Journey back into Scouting – Lauren (USA)


A cool breeze caresses my face and I slowly begin to regain consciousness. The dew is fresh on the grass, and I can hear water trickling from the fountain near the kitchen. It’s sunrise in the Bernese Alps aPicture 1bnd things are just beginning to stir to life at Our Chalet. Here, the days are strikingly different than what I’m used to. I recently finished a job of just over 2.5 years in China, and it’s hard to accept that this place is so calm and refreshing. China, in all of its exotic wonder is a mixture of people, cars and smells. Street vendors hawk their delicious food and shop owners set their wares on the street to sell. Everyone has a cell phone and is constantly in a rush to get wherever-it-is they’re going. Sometimes you push your way onto a bus or haltingly ride your bicycle in-between cars who seem to forget they share the road. Some days you simply take refuge in Starbucks for a little peace and quiet.

Here is the exact opposite. The mountains are a calming presence, millennia worth of immovable stone there to reassure you that time can wait.  Bees lazily buzz around your morning coffee and the occasional bird soars overhead. It’s idyllic. Even on days that seem incredibly busy either leading guests to mountaintops, or cooking and cleaning bathrooms, it is still peaceful. You sometimes look out a window and ask yourself, “am I really here?”

Picture 2

Yes, I am. But as Falk, our first Guider-in-charge, would ask, “why am I here?” That is a more complicated question. After so much time in China as a teacher (a job I enjoyed, but is not my passion) I was ready for a change. My educational background is in outdoor youth programs and I served as a camp director, ropes course facilitator, and outdoor program volunteer with my local council. Prior to moving abroad nearly every weekend was spent with Girl Scouts or on a ropes course. I missed fresh air while in big Chinese cities, but in an intangible way that  realize how much until I had the opportunity to be an adventure guide for some local schools in Guangdong province.  I felt a sense of peace that I hadn’t felt in a long time and I immediately knew I needed to come back to my roots.

So, my Chalet journey began. After discovering the volunteer program right before the application deadline, I sPicture 3pent a hectic few weeks frantically contacting Our Chalet, GSUSA, and my references and writing an application. I’d about given up hope when, in the middle of a family visit I received an e-mail: they wanted to interview me to be a volunteer! About a week later I sat in my Guangzhou apartment at midnight answering questions. I felt confident, capable and as though this was going to begin a new chapter, and be the beginning of my return to where I belong.

And, it has been. Over a few months I left my job and apartment, said goodbye to my students, and shipped most belongings back to my parents.Picture 4 In spite of the difficulty of finishing these tasks and parting with friends I never questioned whether this was the right path. Now that I have been at Chalet for two months, I feel at home, home with scouting, with young women, and with such a diverse and wonderful staff team. Yes, we’re different. Our staff members come from 10 different nations and we speak 10 languages between us. Our guests often come from countries which are not represented by the staff team. Sometimes things are lost in translation and there are misunderstandings. Sometimes there’s laughter in our differences, sometimes frustration and sometimes joy.

Picture 5

But out here, in a place with adventure and “peace for the soul,” there is the Guiding and Scouting sisterhood. I feel it in our hikes and in duties before dinner. I feel it on International Night and at pinning ceremonies. Most importantly I feel it in the daily interactions with my fellow Vollies, with long-term staff, and with guests. As Falk said, “we have all made the same promise.” We are not so different after all.

I can honestly say that here, after nearly three years, 7 countries, and countless adventures, I feel at home. Beneath the roof of Chalet, I havefound happiness knowing that I am part of this family and will carry this experience with me into the chapter of my story.Picture 6

Lauren Reichstein
Summer 2015 Our Chalet Assistant

GUEST : Swiss Challenge Event


The mountains rise before you on the trip from Zurich. At first they are green hills behind the industry paralleling the railway lines that pull you farther and farther from your old reality. But by the time you’ve changed trains in Bern and hopped a bus to Adelboden in Fruitigen, they are giants–towers of rock and trees and meadow that soar overhead. At that moment, the planes, trains and automobiles it takes to get here become worth it.

“It’s so beautiful it looks fake,” one of our American Girl Scouts exclaimed as she swiveled around in Our Chalet’s yard, gazing at the mountains on all sides.Adelboden

No matter how many times I bring girls to Our Chalet, the reaction is always the same. I first made the trip in 1987, with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. The girls had decided when they were Junior Scouts that they wanted to travel to England and Switzerland,  and they spent years planning their adventure. I returned in 1997 with another troop, and again in October 2014 with a group of adult Scouts.

Front DoorNow I’m back, this time with my granddaughter–following in her mother’s footsteps–and 11 other girls, and four other adults who are having those familiar reactions to the scenery, the activities, and the adventure of a lifetime. Everyday has been “the best day ever.”

Francy's group

After gazing at the mountains and the valley around Our Chalet for a few minutes, we were greeted by the warm staff and taken to our rooms. The girls settled into “the attic”–the same room my daughter’s troop had stayed in almost 30 years ago–and the adults divided into comfortable spaces among the guest floors. The dinner bell called us to a spaghetti dinner and we eased into our new home.

The next day founIMG_5769d us learning campfire and orienteering skills on the Chalet grounds, as well as tips and challenges for living sustainably. The day also included a session on the WAGGGS “Free to Be Me” initiative. A barbecue lunch introduced us to local sausages and chocolate, and in the evening we learned how small our world truly is: as each group staying at Our Chalet presented itself through skits and songs, we realized every corner of our home state was represented by other guests. But we learned how big it is too, as we shared laughs with Girl Guides from Denmark and Canada, and Scouts from other states in the U.S., trading swaps and extra “knickers,” the colorful scarves Girl Guides wear when traveling abroad. The Chalet is truly a place to make new friends.

We ventured off the ChaAdventure Parklet grounds the next day with a trip to the local adventure park, where both girls and adults were pushed out of their comfort zones by zip lines and ropes courses and a sky-high rock wall that tested their climbing skills. Their faces could hardly contain their wide smiles, and they bounced their way down the trail to home, overcome by excitement. It was another best day ever.

The town of Thun waited for us the next day, after a funicular ride up the face of Niessen Mountain and a boat trip across Lake Thun. Most of the girls toured medieval Oberhofen Castle and had fun in the dress-up room there, trying on hats and emailing pictures of themselves back home.

The only disappointment of the week came that night, when the overnight hike to Bunderspitz was cancelled due to weather.

Adelboden 3

But maybe it was for the best. We were tired! Free day couldn’t have come at a better point in the program. So the next day we headed to Adelboden for a leisurely lunch and some shopping. By the time we climbed the hill to the town’s Main Street, Dorfstrasse, we were ready to eat–so much for rest.
BakeryMore  shopping awaited the next day, after a hike to the Trummer Holzschnitzere woodcarver, on which we learned the term “Swiss flat.” In Switzerland, even the flat road is never flat. At his shop, we filled our packs with the hand-carved Girl Scout and Girl Guide souvenirs in which he specializes. Next door, we rejuvenated for the climb back with lemon cake and chocolate milk.Hiking

On the way home we put those packs down to try our hand at abseiling. As we lowered ourselves 30 meters into the Cholern Gorge above a crystal green-blue river that thundered through the rock, the beauty of this place again took hold. Another best day ever.

By now those packs were pretty full, but we managed to make some room in them the following day, when we headed to Interlaken to watch how that delicious Swiss chocolate is made. There might not be much left in Switzerland, because so much White Water Raftingis going home with us. But that afternoon we burned off some of that sugar with a trip down the Lutschine River in a rubber raft. Our guide bellowed commands: “paddle forward!!” while we strained to keep the boat moving in the right direction among the rocks and rapids. “Get down!!” our guide called. We obeyed, as we bumped and splashed our way into Lake Brienz, where we jumped in and played in the blue abyss. There we met up with the group that headed to Trummelbach Falls, to see the inspiration for “Lord of the Rings.”

More adventure awaited the our last full day when we hiked to Elsiegenalp. Some took the high road, and some took the low road, but we all arrived in the same placeMore Francy group. Bathing suits in our packs, we looked forward to a refreshing swim in a real alpine lake, but Mother Nature, who had been treating us to 90-degree weather all week, had other plans. Our alpine lake had evaporated to an alpine puddle. We settled for a dip in a man-made lake. And those of us who went on to the peak of Elsighorn were rewarded with a sense of accomplishment in the 1,000-meter gain in altitude as well as views of snow covered peaks and the surrounding towns.

That night the tears mingled with songs at the closing campfire as the last best day ever — and the best week ever — came to a close. More trains, planes and automobiles would take us back to our old reality the next day, but memories of Our Chalet will be with us for at least the next 30 years.Campfire End

Francy Shreve
July 2015

STAFF: “Guiding is not just escape, something like a holiday” – MK (CA)


You need to come here. Simply put, you need to visit Our Chalet at some point in your life. Put it on your bucket list. Come as an individual, or come as a Group. Bring your best friends or the Guides and Scouts you work with. But come.


Before I came to volunteer at Our Chalet, I was a student; I had finished my Masters degree and was searching for a change. In grade three I can distinctly remember declaring to my friends that I was saving every penny for a trip to Europe. Well, I did save all of it, but the summer I turned 18 came and went, and it wasn’t practical to travel. Seven years later, with two degrees, I still didn’t feel satisfied. It turns out seven years of trying to turn into an adult, with a major death in the family, a major break up, and being at a complete loss of what I wanted to do with my life, I was due for a quarter life crisis.


Luckily, I jokingly say I am spending my quarter life crisis as a Spring Vollie at Our Chalet. In the 20 days of travelling before I arrived at Our Chalet with a best friend, I realized I was running away from my problems. But, as I stood in the Horseshoe at Opening Ceremony and a quote from Ida Von Herrenschwand was read “ No. Guiding is not just escape, something like a holiday.“ a little voice in my head wondered what I was in for. Little did I know, you can’t run from those things, they catch up to you, in this case they caught up to me in this beautiful corner of the world.

mk pie

The irony doesn’t escape me that many of the things that I needed to improve on, things I was running from, whether bad habits from relationships or poor life skills, I seem to be tackling head on. That lazy person in the relationship, who wouldn’t cook, clean or do her own laundry? That was me. But now I can cook for 80+, clean like a machine and do what seems an endless amount of laundry every day. And you know what? I don’t mind at all. In fact I take great pride in my hard work. That person who was broken down from years of wondering about her self-worth and required constant affirmation from others? Again that was me. But now I can look in the mirror, or climb the Chalet hill, or hike from Adelboden to Thun (46 km!) and realize I am worth something, and I don’t need someone else to tell me that. I do deserve love, I do deserve happiness and its up to me to find it. But I do owe thanks to the people around me, both staff and guests that affirm those things and support us Vollies. In turn I make sure they receive the same validation and respect as well.

Sy mk m

Our Chalet is truly the perfect combination of peace for your soul and adventure. It is a place to admire the beauty of nature, but also push yourself outside of your comfort zone. It is a place to explore yourself, break yourself down, and build yourself up into a better person. This isn’t just a holiday. Visiting Our Chalet is what you make of it, and I hope you do come. I hope on your mountain hike you bask in the glory of this beautiful world and realize you are beautiful too. I hope as you explore another culture you realize the uniqueness of your own. I hope as you challenge yourself physically and mentally you realize how special you are, how valuable our world is, and how important your story is.

mk v ch

Seriously, you need to come here.

Melissa ‘MK’ Kohlman
Our Chalet Assistant – Spring 2015