BEING A VOLUNTEER – Maddy (Australia)

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With less than 2 weeks before we reach the end of our Spring volunteer season, I can’t help but feel sad that my time here is almost over.

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Hailey’s World Centres Story (USA)

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Hello Everyone! IMG_7191
My name is Hailey and I am from the United States. I am a recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelors Degree in Community Planning. Currently, I am a 2017 Spring Volunteer at Our Chalet and come the end of May, I will be moving to Sangam to be a Long Term Monsoon Season Volunteer.

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5 Fun Things To Do In Switzerland! – Poppy (UK)

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When I arrived at Our Chalet to work as an Our Chalet Assistant for the Winter 2016-17 season, I had little idea of all of the exciting adventures that were to come over my 3 month stay here. Both locally in Adelboden and nationally within Switzerland there is a huge range of activities on offer that will suit travellers of any tastes, and listed below are what I think are 5 of the best close by to Our Chalet!

1. Go on a day trip to Lucerne

The Swiss public transport system is very easy to navigate, and I found travelling around using it extremely convenient. One of my favourite places I visited was Lucerne, which is around 2.5 hours from Adelboden by bus and train. When I visited, the Swiss Carnival ‘Fasnacht’ was taking place there, so the city was a riot of parades, marching bands and fancy dress alongside the historical sites such as the Kapellbrücke and the Lion Monument.

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 2. Take a gondola up a mountain

According to the Our Chalet song lyrics, the Chalet is located ‘High up, high on the mountain’, but if you want to get even higher up the mountains, the Chalet lies close to the Adelboden Oey gondola station, from which you can go up the mountain Silleren. When you reach the top, you can relax by enjoying the amazing views, or if you’re feeling a little more adventurous you can even challenge yourself to do the Climbing Tower high ropes course – just make sure you have a head for heights or some encouraging friends to cheer you on!

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3. Skiing

I couldn’t mention the mountains without giving a nod to my favourite winter sport: skiing. The Adelboden-Lenk ski region has over 210km of pistes, and includes everything from the easiest blue runs for beginners to the black Ski World Cup run on Chuenisbärgli to test even the most experienced skiers – although I’ve not dared to do the World Cup piste in my time here, I do love to watch people whizzing down it at speed from the blue and red runs that intersect it.

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4. Go on a tour at Kandersteg International Scout Centre17238396_925943764207433_1760207782_n

Most of our guests here at Our Chalet come from Guiding and Scouting backgrounds, and are excited to be visiting a WAGGGS World Centre for the first time – but did you know that just over the mountain tops in the neighbouring valley lies another centre of international scouting? Run by the World Organisation of the Scout Movement, KISC is about an hour away from Our Chalet using public transport. I went on a tour there with my fellow staff members from the Chalet and found that it was oddly familiar yet also so different to Our Chalet. All in all, it was a really cool experience, and I would certainly recommend it if you’re interested in learning more about international Scouting.

5. Experience Swiss Christmas Traditions

From going to Christmas markets in Bern, to being part of Our Chalet’s Neighbours’ Christmas Celebration, I really got to experience what an authentic Swiss Christmas is all about during my time as a winter volunteer. I think my favourite Swiss Christmastime tradition is also the one that I found the most unusual: having real life candles on the Christmas tree! Although this might be considered a big fire safety hazard by some, putting lit candles on your Christmas tree is the norm in much of Switzerland, and it certainly is very pretty!

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My Little Adventure as a Winter Volunteer – Najwa (Malaysia)

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If you were to ask me what would be my biggest fear spending 3 months living at Our Chalet Switzerland, no doubt it would definitely be the snow. Coming from Malaysia which has a hot and humid weather throughout the year, snowy weather is definitely something new for me. It’s now been a month living here in Our Chalet and I am proud to say that cold weather is no longer a fear of mine. In fact, I am actually loving the snow and really can’t wait to try skiing and sledging!

Flashback to the first few days of my arrival in Our Chalet, I still remember the excitement we had when Tanya (Our World Centre Manager) passed us a map to Adelboden town. I n-map-readinghave got to admit that map reading is definitely something I am not used to since where I come from which is Kuala Lumpur, everything is so near to each other, hence a map is not really needed. Growing up as a city girl, it also took me quite a while to adapt living in Adelboden mainly due to the different geographical layout of Adelboden and Kuala Lumpur. However, I think that making the decision to live in Our Chalet is by far one of the best decisions I have ever made in life. Ever since I came here, I have tried so many new things that I would never thought I would do such as cooking real meals and making tinders for the fire.
Yes, cooking! It n-ricemay sound weird that I tried cooking but back in Malaysia we have 24/7 food stalls with such reasonable prices thus I do not really cook as the stalls or restaurants sell variety of food and they are easily accessible. But here in Our Chalet, each of the volunteers will surely be assigned to do dinner preparation where cooking is indeed required. Frankly, since being a volunteer here I now realised that I do enjoy cooking a lot and I have started to explore and try cooking many dishes be it Swiss meals or Asian meals.

Nonetheless, the Christmas celebration
with our dear neighbours and friends is one that I would cherish forever.
Having the chance to celebrate Christmas with the local people was n-christmasn-decorating-tree
such a great experience as we got the chance to mingle and get to know more about the Swiss culture on celebrating Christmas. The one thing that I truly enjoy experiencing this festive season would be collecting pine cones as one of the many Christmas decorations besides decorating the Christmas tree with little cute ornaments from around the world.

Above all, I am really looking forward to spending time with all my new friends here from around the globe. Having the chance to know people from countries like Argentina, Ukraine, UK, America, Finland, Austria, Germany, Slovenia and Canada simultaneously has given me the opportunity to know more about their countries. Travelling around Switzerland also is at the top in my to-do list for the next 2 months. So far I have visited Bern, Lugano and Zurich during my days off and Lugano is by far my favourite place here in Switzerland. Hopefully, I shall be able to explore Geneva and Lucern in the near future especially going to the Kapellbrucke which has been a dream of mine since I was a kid. Living here at Our Chalet is indeed an opportunity of a lifetime and I would certainly recommend all the girls out there to unleash your potential here by giving back at Our Chalet.n-team-pic

Najwa Puteri Nur, Our Chalet Assistant, Winter 2016/17

Discovering the Magic of Our Chalet – Sarah (USA)

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A year ago I arrived at Our Chalet, eager to start in a new role as Programme Coordinator, after falling in love with this place as a volunteer. Even though I had spent a couple wonderful months here previously, nothing could have prepared me for what I have experienced since my return. This year has been unbelievable; full of adventures and new challenges. I learned to cross country ski, made dozens of igloos (which was very strange for this Florida girl), rafted with a group of hilarious teens, went canyoning, met hundreds of very cute cows, let a llama chew on me, spent a few nights cuddled above a cow barn with my co-workers, climbed countless mountains, turned Skippy Storrow (arguably my favorite creature here) into a superhero, watched the sunrise over the Alps, ice skated on a lake, and ate more cheese and chocolate than I would like to admit.

My friend Jenn always says she feels like her best self here at the chalet. I don’t think I ever understood how a place could have that kind of effect on a human until I experienced it for myself. I find that the person I am at the chalet is kinder, more patient, more adventurous, and stronger than the person I am anywhere else.  It not just in myself that I this; it seems like no one leaves the chalet unchanged. I’ve watched girls push themselves to try things they never thought they could do, from hiking the peak of a mountain to watch the sunrise, snow tubing down an Alp, or abseiling into a gorge. I’ve seen leaders leave filled with pride after watching their groups take on every challenge side by side. I’ve been inspired by my chalet family who all have left their homes and families to share and learn from one another. Our Chalet has this uncanny ability to challenge each person to discover their potential.

I joke that at the chalet you are never really alone. While at times that can be the most frustrating feeling, it has become one of my favorite things about living here; it is constantly teaming with life. I’ve shared the staff house with 5 different seasons of vollies, and even though chaos reigns 90% of the time, I love the constant stream of people coming through every door and the laughter the always follows. I have met some of the most amazing women who support each other through every challenge and are always there to celebrate any win (even if that win is staying awake for karaoke in town). Our Chalet is my home and I am so glad I get to share it with all these crazy humans.

Guests regularly ask if I get tired; tired of the views, tired of the people, tired of the same adventures week after week. My answer is always the same: how could I? While in theory many days are the same (because the route up a mountain rarely changes), in reality no two days are ever are. The light on the mountains and valleys is always changing, each group brings new energy, and every single person who enters through the chalet doors changes it in some way. How can a person tire of these adventures?

This year, as we celebrate the 85th birthday of this amazing place, I can’t help but think of those who have come before me. What were their experiences like? Did they share the same sense of wonder and excitement upon arriving? Did they create memories filled with a sense of pride that they did things they never thought they were capable of? Did the relationships they began here last for years to come? How did Our Chalet change their life?

Before I came here I was told that there was something magical in the air that I would never be able to forget, and I wouldn’t agree more. Our Chalet has forever changed me and continues to make me the person I want to be, and I can’t wait to see what my future here holds.

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Sarah Wach – Programme Co-ordinator January 2015 to present