STAFF: How can you possibly not?! – Cate (USA)

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A favorite game this summer between the vollies is called Questions, which began as a game of 20 Questions with a group of girls on a hike early this summer.

They were bored, it was rainy and gross, and so we started asking questions of each other. At first it was things like, “If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?” but it grew to include”If you were Prime Minister of Earth, what one thing would you change in the world?”

The game has continued through the summer, often on cloudy hikes or long busrides. It’s amazing to hear the answers these girls have, and it’s been humbling to see how brilliant, funny, kindhearted and brave they are. Often it seems as though no one’s asked them about themselves before, which, apart from anything else, leads me to believe that all the problems of the world boil down to us not listening to teenage girls enough.

At an end of summer campfire a few nights ago with just the vollies, we were playing a particularly cheesy round of Questions. The question that really got me thinking was, “What’s your favorite memory of the summer?”

Here are just 10 of the best things I’ve done while I’ve been here:

Cate O'Donnell Hardcore Parcour

1. repelled out of the Main Chalet attic

2. climbed peaks still dusted with snow

3. jumped off a bridge

4. learned how to chainsaw

5. scootered down a mountain

6.  dived into a glacial lake

7. eaten chocolate from a Swiss chocolitiere

8. white water rafted

9. enjoyed fondue beneath jagged Alps

10. carried a lantern in a Swiss parade

At Our Chalet this summer I have had enough adventure and experiences to last me a lifetime, and I frequently feel as though I’m in a commercial for some kind of energy drink. But my many explorations, challenges and adventures pale in comparison to the incredible people I’ve met here.

I cannot describe the impact of the young women I’ve met at Our Chalet this summer.They have taught me how to speak “British,” shared their environmental wisdom and made me laugh so hard my abs hurt the next day.

One of the moments that has impacted me the most was during the WAGGGS wide game a few weeks ago. The girls this week were particularly fantastic to work with, and we were repping at least three continents. For the activity about the UN millenium development goals,  I always lead in by asking them what they would change about the world. Of all of our Questions, it is my favorite.

In the course of an hour, I heard dozens of girls tell me that they wanted to end racism, feed the hungry, save the rainforest, prevent sexual assault.

The young women came from a variety of backgrounds, but they each had something specific and incredible that they were planning on changing in their lifetimes, and it floored me. How is it, I wonder, that I hear about “kids today” in a negative tone when these girls exist before us with such visions?

Cate and SarahI love campfires more than almost anything. I love Girl Scout songs, and I love waterfights. All of these things are important to WAGGGS, but the most vital thing about Girl Guiding and Scouting is the way that we empower girls to become women who will revolutionize the world.

We campaign towards stopping violence towards girls, we educate about  environmental sustainability, and we send delegates to UN conferences; every day, WAGGGS works towards a better world in ways that I can still hardly fathom.

Girl Scouting and Guiding is as essential to a free world as air, and I could not be prouder to be part of a movement that empowers youth the way that it does.

The girls, young women and leaders I have come to know at Our Chalet have without a doubt have made my experience what it is, and I cannot put into words what this sisterhood means to me. My least favorite Question non-WAGGGS people occasionally ask is how I can possibly sacrifice a summer (or two, or six) to Girl Scouts, of all things.

My question is, how can you possibly not?

Caitlin (Cate) O’ Donnell (USA)

Summer Volunteer 2012

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STAFF: There and Back Again – Heather (CA)

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As my time here at Our Chalet comes to a close it is time to reflect on the past three and a half months. It is difficult to describe all the great memories, fun times, challenges and adventures I have experienced but I will highlight some of them.

Heather Robertson

My Our Chalet experience really started when I got the email saying I had been selected as a summer volunteer for 2012. I was beyond excited and had to have my sister read it to me just to make sure I understood it right! Just a few months later I was on the plane and beginning my Swiss adventure.

The first few days at Our Chalet were a blur of meeting new people, getting to know the area and adjusting to a new routine. Soon the eleven other summer vollies and I started our training. It was during these first few weeks that we really got to know each other and quickly became friends. One of my favourite moments of the summer was when we all received our red staff neckers at the top of Bunderspitz. It was a special moment because we had all hiked and made it to the peak together and it was there that we officially completed our training.

 

Before I knew it our first summer events had started and I got into the full swing of leading programme one week and then doing one week of guest services. I love both but being on programme is when I get to take people from around the world (although a lot of them are Canadian too) and help them to try new things, step out of their comfort zones and really experience what Our Chalet is about, adventure, fun and friendship. Guest services can also be just as fun. Time spent giving tours and goofing around in the kitchen has been just as enjoyable as hiking and abseiling.

Heather (Ca) Blog 3

Planning activities for the rest of staff is another thing I have enjoyed doing. One of the reasons I do it is to get staff challenge points but I also love sharing things about my life back home. On July 1st we celebrated Canada Day so Mariam (the other Canadian vollie) and I organized Canada night. We watched a few videos, played some games and shared a Canadian dessert.  I think everyone had a lot of fun and afterwards everyone wanted to be Canadian too!

One tradition I grew up with was watching the Perseides meteor shower every August so this year I shared it with the other vollies. I made a short presentation, complete with a Magic School Bus clip, then we all went outside to watch the meteor shower. We had a perfect night for it, there were no clouds and since there is almost no light pollution here the views were spectacular! I was really happy to be able to share this experience with the others because it was something they may not have done at home.

If I had to pick a favourite memory I don’t think I could but here are my top three:

Heather (Ca) Blog 1

 

    • The 80th birthday celebration, especially the waterslide!
    • All of programme training, but going in the lake on Elsigen, the pendulum swing and the first chocolate show stand out the most.
    • Making a bivouac and sleeping in it in the pouring rain with Naomi and Heather.

Overall my summer volunteering at Our Chalet has been a dream come true and it is an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. It will be difficult to say goodbye but I know I will keep the memories I have made here with me forever.

Heater Robertson – Alberta, Canada
Summer Volunteer 2012

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STAFF: An amazing journey – Paige (USA)

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My experience at Our Chalet has been an amazing journey during which I had the opportunity to try new things and meet new people. I have always wanted to travel abroad and since attending university, I have wanted to get back involved with Girl Scouting. In the days leading up to my flight to Zurich, the thought crossed my mind of what I was about to do: travel to a foreign country and live and work with strangers that I didn’t know at the time.

At first the thought of this was daunting but I knew that it was going to be an adventure and that I was ready for whatever the Chalet life had in store for me. But once I finally arrived at the Chalet, all of the other volunteers and staff were friendly and I knew that I had made the correct choice in coming.

Here at the Chalet, I have pushed myself beyond my comfort zone. I come from the rolling hills of Massachusetts where there are no mountains. My family and I used to hike up Mount Holyoke, a mere 285 meters, each year.

However at Our Chalet I fell in love with the mountains and used every chance I could to hike to a peak. I love the Elsighorn peak and the view is magnificent because both valleys are visible and Lake Thunersee. I also had the opportunity to see the sunrise from Bunderspitz which was amazing as the mountains lit up one by one throughout the valleys (Engsligen and Kandersteg valleys).

I am afraid of heights but I push myself each time to take part in the adventure park…I even jumped off of a bridge and I got my chance to zipline for the first time which I have wanted to do for years. My favourite part of programme though is abseiling into the gorge. The first time I abseiled into the gorge, it took me forever and I was so scared (the rain didn’t help either). If you saw me abseil now you would never know.

While on Guest Services I learned how to clean toilets and other jobs which I had not done much at home. Though there was always a list of jobs each day my favourite job was definitely Common Areas from the first training session.

Paige Blog 2

Also,  on Guest Services I helped out in the kitchen and there were two times where I got to be the Kitchen Coordinator. I am an inexperienced cook (yet an experienced baker haha) but even though I always felt that I was on a cooking show when I was Kitchen Coordinator, the food was cooked, served and liked by the guests who ate it.

My favourite part of Guest Services was giving tours during the day. I have always wanted to be a tour guide and this was my first chance.

Programme is definitely my favourite part of being a volunteer because I have the opportunity to do more adventurous things and interact with the guests. I now have a renewed love of the outdoors especially the hiking and I will miss the mountains when I leave.

I have learned the power of international friendship. I live, and work with 11 other girls from around the world though most of us are from different parts of the USA. I have gotten to know each person over the course of three months and though we have had our squabbles with each other, at the end of the day we are still friends. We live and work together which can be overwhelming at times but there is always someone who will want to hang out with you or go somewhere with you…you are never bored. Even after long work days, we still make time to spend together. I will miss my friends, the vollies and staff, when I return back to my life in MA.

I expected the unexpected but I found amazing friends, learned new skills and gained a new confidence.

Paige Shea (USA)
Summer Volunteer 2012

 

Paige - Hiking

STAFF: Kia Ora – Naomi (NZ)

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Kia Ora all, I’m Naomi from New Zealand. I’ve been at the Chalet for about two months now, and thought I’d take some time to write to you all. Hope the weather nice at your end, it sure is shining here.

Naomi and friends

Our Chalet was not what I expected. But it has turned out to be so much better than anything I could ever have hoped for. I’m the baby of the group – even though I’m also one of the tallest. I finished high school in November and while many around me began to look at university classes and figure out dorm rooms, I spent my days dreaming of leaving New Zealand, discovering other places, and finding myself. I’m the cutie with glasses.

Our Chalet seemed perfect; a chance to stay in Guiding, but experience it a whole new way. So I bundled up my life into one bag, and set sail (or flight if you want to get technical). I met a few other vollies on the bus into Adelboden, and when we got to the bus stop, myself and another vollie Cate, tentatively decided to walk up the hill with all our stuff. It’s been non-stop since then.

Our Chalet brings together cultures and backgrounds from all over the world, and that’s one of the things I love about it. Already I’m learning new things about new places that never would have interested me if I’d stayed home. Stereotypes of other countries have been knocked down – especially America, as I learn that what I’m shown on television, isn’t quite what everyone in their country is like. It’s quite refreshing meeting some Americans who aren’t 100% patriotic.

It’s a chance for me to show off New Zealand a little bit too, which has been fun. For my international food I made a pavlova, and a few nights ago I did a power point on Godzone.

My favourite thing about the Chalet this summer though, is the programme. The constant activities all week long, with many of them pushing people above and beyond their normal day to day life. I am absolutely, 100%, no-doubt-about-it scared of heights. But, even after only six weeks, I am learning that all my fears are only hurdles, never walls. It’s a work in progress, but slowly and surely I am become braver and more confident in myself. It’s so different from my life back home. I never would have gone looking for a rock climbing course, or a gorge to abseil into. I was content with being scared. But now, I have goals for the summer. By the end I will be able to do all the climbs, and even come down smiling.

Naomi on Bonderspitz

I’m developing a new awareness for the outdoors as well. A knowledge that the Great Outdoors are actually great. You might think coming from New Zealand, I’d be all active all the time, in touch with nature and all that. But the truth is, I’m not. I grew up in a city, and I thrive in one too.

But here at Our Chalet, I’m learning that I enjoy being outside, not just for a few hours, but all day. I like the feeling of the sun on my back and the wind in my hair. I can learn so much by just being outside, amongst it all. Suddenly tramping isn’t something I’m just dragged along to by my parents, but something I’m actively seeking out to do by myself. And I love it, I really do.

Our Chalet”s changing me for the better. Being surrounded by inspirational and passionate women 24/7 has something to do with it also. It’s a very special experience to be working and living in a place where everyone is as passionate for adventure and challenge as I am. I’m also becoming more aware of the work WAGGGS is doing, and how I can be a part of that change. Already, I’m contemplating changing what I study when I get to university (going from English literature to women’s studies). But while I’m getting excited for my future, I also have to keep reminding myself to stop and take a look at where I am. Appreciate what I have and everything I’m doing.

But really, with a view like this, it’s not that hard.

Adelboden view

Naomi Peacock – New Zealand
Summer Volunteer (2012)

STAFF: 1 in 10 million – Sarah (USA)

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Do you ever think for a second and realize that you are only 1 person in this huge world?

It can be a depressing thought.
Sitting back and thinking, “What can only 1 person do?”

When those thoughts creep into my head,
I am lucky enough to sit back and remember,
I am a Girl Scout,
and I am 1 in 10 million.

As a young Girl Scout living in Oklahoma I never quite realized this.
I went to my weekly troop meetings in the school year,
and when summer came I headed to Camp Kate Portwood for some Girl Scout camp fun.

Volunteering at Our Chalet has shown me a new side of Scouting and Guiding
We are 10 million members strong around the world, which means I have 10 million people on my side,helping to make the world a better place.

Volunteers on training - hike to Bonderspitz

To illustrate this message to the lucky young women that visit Our Chalet, at closing campfire we sing a song.

The song goes like this…
“I am one voice, and I am singing.
I am one voice, and I am singing.
I am one voice, and I am singing.
I am not alone…”
and on that, one person will stand up with them,
they will proceed to sing “We are two voices, and we are singing”

at the end of each verse another group stands up,
as we go threw 10 voices, 100 voices, 1 thousand voices, 10 thousand voices, 1 million voices, and then 10 million voices.
Then at the end, when the entire group is one large circle,
we revert back and sing “we are 1 voice, and we are singing”

At the recent campfire, two nights ago,
A fellow vollie stood up and sang the solo part,
and then I stood and was her second voice.
While singing with just my fellow Vollie,
I thought, “what if one of us messes up?”
Luckily, neither of us did,
however, about the time it got to 10 million,
my fellow Vollie flubbed a word,
I overheard this, because I was directly next to her,
however, the rest of the group, “the 10 million” voices,
were able to cover her small mistake without everyone noticing.

That just proves that when we stand alone, everyone notices our faults,
but when we stand up, with our 10 million voices loud, no one will notice 1 person’s fault.
This is why I am blessed to be a Girl Scout.


Sarah Labude, Oklahoma (USA)

Summer Volunteer, 2012