Beep, Beep, Beep, I roll over and hit the off button on my alarm clock. I lay staring at the digital display that tells me it is already 6:45am. Slowly I get up and begin to get ready for another day at Our Chalet. At 7am, I leave Stoeckli (the staff house) and head across the lawn to the kitchen, tired, but looking good in my Navy Blue and White Uniform. At the kitchen I find that Melanie from England is already there and Marzcena from Poland soon joins us as we start getting the dining hall ready for breakfast and setting out all of the food on the breakfast buffet. As soon as breakfast is ready, we start preparing the sandwich making stations for the guests to make their own lunch.
At 8am the guests start trickling into the dining room and by 8:15 the dining room is almost full and we have already had to refill the yogurt and cereal as well as one of the orange juice pitchers. By 8:30 when the rest of the volunteers arrive to help with breakfast cleanup, the sandwich stations are set up and even though breakfast is not yet finished, we have begun to wash the dirty dishes.
By 9:00am, everyone has finished their breakfast, made their sandwich and is standing outside the office getting ready to leave for their excursion. In the kitchen, we are still washing dishes and can see Mallee from Australia and Marilou from Mexico leading a group going to Bern (the capital of Switzerland) down the hill and to the buses. Another group still waits outside the office for Alex from Ireland and Maddy from England, who are taking them to the St. Beatus Caves, where legend says that Beatus, the monk once killed a dragon.
By 9:30am, we have finished cleaning the kitchen and dining room and are in the office for our daily meeting with the World Center Manager and Deputy World Center Manager to find out what all needs to be done at Our Chalet today. In addition to the daily cleaning, we have to reorganize and clean the swap area, restock the store, and replace some burnt out light bulbs. After the meeting, we begin with the daily cleaning. All of the bathrooms are cleaned, floors are vacuumed and mopped, and the trash is taken out in both the Main Chalet and Spycher.
At noon all of the staff still on property gets together and eats a big family meal of leftovers from previous dinners. In the afternoon we finish up any cleaning leftover from the morning and start on the extra projects. Soon all of the projects are finished and we have a chance to take an hour off before helping Janeth from Honduras prepare dinner. We all help prepare the chicken curry, rice, peas, and berry crumble for dinner.
When the guests arrive, Maddy goes outside and sings grace with everyone while back in the kitchen; we put all of the food onto trays for each table. After dinner is over all of the dishes have to be washed and the entire dining room and kitchen cleaned again. At night there is more cleaning to do in the kitchen and the last thing before we leave is to mop the floor.
Outside, Melanie and Marzena are running a campfire, and as we leave the kitchen, we can hear the guests singing camp songs from around the world. Soon everyone is back in Stockli for the night, sitting in the music room sharing stories and laughing before we all go to bed.
A day like this may not sound very glamorous, but no volunteer does the same thing every single day. A volunteer may have to stay and clean at Our Chalet and clean for two or three days in a row, but then they get to go on hikes and other excursions with the guests. Volunteers at Our Chalet are expected to work hard, but they get to do a lot of fun things as part of their job as well. As a volunteer: I went on amazing hikes; visited several cities, including the capital city of Bern; went canyoning; spent an afternoon in a wood sauna; played in a local soccer tournament; learned how to decorate cakes; slept in the bomb shelter; went to an adventure park; and met some amazing young women and ladies from around the world.
When volunteering at Our Chalet, you are more than a seasonal employee who will leave in a week or three months, you are part of a family. If you are thinking that volunteering at Our Chalet sounds like something you might want to do, then apply. Everyone who comes to the Chalet leaves with tears in their eyes, because they are so sad to leave such a wonderful place, they take with them many happy memories of their time in the mountains, and resolve to come back one day and do it all over again.
Top 10 memories as an Our Chalet volunteer
- Overnight hike and sunrise at the top of Bunderspitz
- Going into town at night to have fun with fellow staff members
- Being a part of the only all girl team to enter the local soccer tournament
- The Adventure Park
- Tea Party in Baby Chalet
- Watching the fire works on Swiss National Day
- Being Chef for a day
- Hiking over the mountain to Kandersteg Scout Center
- Staff Barbecues
Jamie Hain (USA)
Our Chalet Assistant, Aug-Oct 2006