Golden orange sunlight floating over the valley, bouncing off the majestic mountain peaks…. Ever since experiencing such a beautiful sunrise when I stayed at Our Chalet in 1997, I knew that I had to come back.
Returning not just for one week but for three months as a volunteer has been unbelievable. Every day I look around at the awe-inspiring scenery and I feel so lucky that I applied for, and was accepted for, this amazing opportunity. Life as a volunteer at Our Chalet is busy, hard work, exciting and the most fulfilling thing I’ve done in my life so far. It’s a great feeling going to bed knowing that I’ve used every second of the day to the best of my ability.
For three months, I’ve been living and working closely with 8 other volunteers from Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Poland, South Korea and the UK. It is great fun and broadens your horizons living with friends from around the world. The chalet management team encourages and inspires us to work in an open, honest environment. We are all treated as individuals and are urged to examine openly our personal strengths and weaknesses at the same time as supporting each other and working together.
Every day as a volunteer at Our Chalet is full of variety; cleaning toilets and floors, presenting a slide show about the history of Our Chalet, working as a tour guide on bus trips to castles and towns in the local area, cooking meals for over 100 guests, leading hikes, washing dishes and even dressing up in local Swiss costumes. Seeing a clean floor at the end of the day or hearing guests applaud a meal you’ve cooked is very satisfying.
Personal highlights have been taking a group of 40 American Girl Scouts on a 16-hour day trip to Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria, enabling them to discover a little bit more of Europe and also leading guests on overnight hikes where we slept for a few hours in the hay at a cheesemaker’s hut and then hiked in the dark to the top of a local mountain, Bunderspitz, to see the magnificent sunrise over the valley.
Another important aspect of life at Our Chalet is challenge. It’s brilliant encouraging guests to surpass and surprise themselves and to realize they can do things they always thought beyond them. Living at Our Chalet, I have also faced personal challenges. I have discovered that I can conquer my nerves and cycle forty kilometres around a nearby lake, especially since last time I rode a bike ten years ago, I fell off. During the summer, I have also found myself swimming in a glacial lake, learning Swiss-German songs and doing a bible reading in German in a local church. Our Chalet is a magical place where dreams come alive and we can learn to believe in ourselves.
The mission of WAGGGS is to encourage Guides and Scouts to become responsible citizens of the world. I can’t think of a better way to try and fulfill this mission than to come and have fun living and working at Our Chalet.
Emma Burbidge (UK)
Summer Volunteer, 2003