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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STAFF: Make a wish! – Somto (NGA)

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I have been here at Our Chalet in the Swiss Alps as a volunteer for the winter season. Taking the decision to come here wasn’t easy because I had to put a lot of things on hold. But from planning my journey and finally arriving it was worth it. My dream of seeing snow came true though, I saw snow, I felt snow, I walked in it and I experienced all kinds of it and waking up every morning and seeing the whole place including mountains tops look white and beautiful always brings peace to my soul. I have seen so many beautiful sites and lots of memorable experiences, each and everything I do daily is new and wonderful.

To start with we had a white Christmas and New Year celebrations, it’s the first time I have spent Christmas away from home, not just away from home but far away from home in a different environment, with different people and cultures. It wasn’t the same but it was fun anyway. We went on a trip to the Christmas market in Bern, it was cool and I fell in love with the city.

somto groupWe have been hiking to different places; Woodcarvers, Engstligen waterfalls and going snow tubing. Walking in the snow always makes me feel like am on the moon! I also used the snow shoes for the magic tree snow shoe hike which was great. It might also interest you to know that two different wishes I made at the magic tree came true; so do try and make a wish at the magic tree anytime you visit our chalet!

Soon it was time to learn how to ski, I enrolled for some ski lessons and can proudly say I know how to ski even though am not an expert.  I am yet to perfect making turns – the skis are their own masters and they never bend to your command until they have flung you on to the ground a few times first!

It’s fun and interesting to know that you have to put in so much energy to control some tiny objects!

I had a great time during the ski world cup held in Adelboden, it was awesome watching professionals ski in real life and listening to the beautiful tunes and background music that were playing. We also managed to get into the village that night to see other events (such as the bib picking ceremony) that were taking place. It was so much fun.

somto ski wc

One of the best activities that I enjoyed doing here was sledging, it’s so much fun, especially sledging at night – I will really miss that! I also had a go on the airboard and another of my dreams came true when I went paragliding. I lack words to describe how I felt but it was very good!  One thing I learned here is just how cold it can be, it is never this cold back home in Nigeria!

somto para1somto para2

It has been a wonderful experience and I have enjoyed every bit of it, there is so much fun in the Swiss Alps, there is so much fun high up in the mountains and much more fun lies beneath the roof of Our Chalet.

Chinweoke ‘Somto’ Orakwute (NGA)

Our Chalet Assistant – Winter 2013/14

STAFF: A peak into peaks! – Angie (CA)

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Hi Everyone, I’m Angie from Vancouver Canada.  I’ve spent my summer here at Our Chalet as a summer vollie and could not be more excited about it! 

Angie in the clouds

Falk and Helen Storrow could not have picked a more perfect place for the chalet nestled in the heart of the mountains. It is this very aspect that I have enjoyed the most about being here; with the mountains so close it makes it so easy to get to the top and admire Switzerland’s beauty from a new perspective.

It is my personal challenge to hike over 20,000 meters over several peaks and I am well on my way to reaching that goal.

The first peak I summited was Bunderspitz within the first few weeks here. At 2546 meters high it is the third highest peak I’ve been to and one of my favourites. You really get the sense of being high above the world and the view on a clear day is unparalleled. Even on a cloudy day when all you can see are your feet on the rock below, the feeling of bringing yourself that high simply by continuing to place of foot in front of the other is so rewarding. It shows you the power that you posses and that you are capable of so much more then you may realize sometimes. I think it is my favourite simply because it was the first peak I summited here and it got me hooked, giving me the desire to climb to the top of as many mountains as I possibly could in my time here.

Angie - Bunderspitz

My second favourite peak that I’ve been to is Faulhorn. At 2680m it is the highest of my peaks and is located near Grindelwald and I like it because it is the only one have have done on my own. It is wonderful to share a summit with someone but is amazing in a completely different way when you are able to do it on your own. Knowing you have only yourself to encourage you and only yourself to look out for you, allows you to become self reliant in a way like no other. At points you are tired and all you want to do stop and turn back but you have dig deep to find the strength to continue. Basking in the impressive glory of the Swiss alps and the Eiger gives new appreciation for the world and all that it is capable of.

Angie - Ammertenspitz

My third favourite peak is Ammertespitz. Sitting at 2613 meters it is the second highest peak I’ve summited. The day Kathleen and I hiked it was the perfect day for hiking; a combination of sun and clouds resulting in a prefect temperature and would even suit Goldilocks. The morning was tough as we had a long way up to go. Once we reached the pass right before the peak our excitement came over use and we made it to the peak quicker then expected.

We marveled in amazement at the surrounding mountains and enjoyed lunch in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I took my classic “I’ve reach the top of a mountain” picture and we carried on to a white-blue-white trail (the hardest level of hiking trail) which took us to two more peaks before heading back to the chalet for dinner.

As of now I have hiked to 16,970 meters leaving me with just over 3000 meters to go! At the beginning of the summer 20,000 meters seemed like an unimaginable task but with the end so near I am so proud I’ve push myself to hike on days when I really just didn’t want to. I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to live amongst these mountains that allow you to see what the world looks like from the top of it.

Angie - top of the mountain

Angie Skidmore (CA)
Summer Volunteer 2013

STAFF: Nothing short of incredible – Danita (CA)

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Hello, Danita from Victoria, BC, Canada here! 

I looked at the calendar the other day and realized that I have been at Our Chalet for over a month. Wow. It sure has been an incredible adventure.

Danita - staff blog

Coming to Our Chalet has been a dream of mine ever since I learned about the World Centers back in Guides. It’s safe to say that the last month has literally been a dream come true.

My time here has been full of adventure. I have done things I have always wanted to do, and things I never even thought I was capable of.

So what have I been up to these last 4 weeks? Well let’s start with the hiking. Being able to hike on some of the nicest and most beautiful trails I have ever seen is unreal, but if I am honest, it wasn’t an easy start.

The first hike we did was proof of that. By the time I got to the top, all I wanted to do was lay on the ground and never move again in my life. How do the locals and even the cows make it look so easy?!

However, the second time I did that same hike, a week later, I got to the top, and felt awesome.

In fact, I felt so good after that hike, I decided I should celebrate by jumping into the VERY COLD glacial lake. It was cold, but oh boy what an experience that was. I can’t say I ever would have imagined myself climbing over the side of a 20 meter bridge to abseil down the side, but that is something else I have done here.

The first time down was terrifying, the second time was absolutely thrilling. I have seen breath taking views (sometimes literally after a good hike) from the tops of mountains, and been absolutely awed by the endless beauty of this country.

And being in Switzerland I have of course dined on A LOT of delicious chocolate. If you were wondering, Swiss chocolate really is as good as people say it is. It is said that on average, the Swiss consume about 22 pounds of chocolate per year. I have a feeling I might end up eating that much during my summer here.

Danita Duguay - Canada day, Our Chalet Staff Blog

One of the things that I was most nervous about was having to be in the kitchen and cook food. Up until this point in my life my specialty in the kitchen has been heating up can of spaghettio’s.

A far cry from the delicious food we cook at the Chalet. Though I wouldn’t say I am ready to go on the Iron Chef any time soon, I do feel far more comfortable in a kitchen, even having managed to cook a (very tasty) pineapple upside down cake.

I’ve been very lucky to meet amazing people from all over the world, meet lots of new friends that I can’t wait to visit.

Ohter highlights of the months were learning how to make campfires in the Swiss scouting fashion, and seening the valley that was J. R. R. Tolkein’s inspiration for Rivendell.

July 1st marked my first Canada Day away from Canada. With thanks to the other vollies and guests though, we had an amazing Canada Day here at the Chalet.

On one of our off days, some of us decided to go to Liechtenstein. So we drove a total of 548 Km, and had breakfast in Switzerland, lunch in Liechtenstein and supper in Austria before returning back to the Chalet for bed.

Spending a day like that with my new friends is something I will never forget.

My time here has been nothing short of incredible. I have faced challenges, overcome obstacles, grown up, made amazing new friends, built my confidence in my abilities and so much more. I cannot wait to see what adventures the next two months have in store for me.

Danita (CA)
Our Chalet Assistant, Summer 2013

STAFF: I am a different Sam now – Sam (CA)

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My experiences at Our Chalet have challenged me, pushed me and help me grow as a person and as a leader.

I have done things I never thought of doing, or never thought I would have the opportunity to do. My internship here at Our Chalet has been full of fun, challenge, adventure, and family. Every adventure has presented me with some way of learning either about myself, others, or practical experience to take away and use both at home in my guiding as well as in my future aspirations of becoming a Social Worker.

My time at Our Chalet has really reaffirmed to me that my hopes of combining education and social work with outdoor adventure is possible.

I will be able to not only take home my own personal experience here but also the inspirational stories of the girls and young women who have come to Our Chalet and overcome so many obstacles and challenges.

I have been privileged to have the opportunity to help people face their fear of heights, or to push themselves on a hike when they thought they couldn’t go any further and celebrate their successes with them when they’ve accomplished something they never imagined they would or could do. These experiences have taught me about the strength and character of others but also my own abilities to motivate, encourage and support others in a time of need.

Our Chalet is more than just outdoor adventure (although that is one of its best aspects), It is also a community and a family. Our Chalet has made the Guiding movement of 10 million girls and women seem so much bigger than I ever thought it was but also so much closer.

I grew up learning about WAGGGS and the Four World Centres; I even once sent a postcard to Our Chalet when I was nine asking them for information to help me out with a Guide Badge, but I never really gave the world wide aspect of Guiding much thought.

It took a bit of time but having lived with people from nine different countries and having the opportunity to host an international evening with representation of thirty countries and a campfire with members from all five regions of WAGGGS it is now something I will never forget and will make sure I take home with me to Canada to share with my local Guiding Community.

The friendships that are created here at Our Chalet really emphasise the sisterhood of guiding; I will never forget and will stay in touch with my sisters in Rwanda, Ireland, Chile, the UK, Australia, Slovenia, USA, Canada and South Korea, the volunteers, interns and long term staff I have had the opportunity to live, work and learn from over the past four months.

These past four months have been full of friendship and song of international campfires, the fun and adventure of Adelboden’s fastest sledge run, the personal challenge of hiking to a peak, and the joy and peace of watching the sunset from that peak.

It has been rewarding to help others succeed at abseiling in the adventure park and has come with some very cold, but great bonding experiences such as sleeping in the large campfire tent. The sadness of seeing some friends go, but the excitement of preparing to meet the next group of volunteers or guests.

I can honestly look back over the last four months and say that there was not one negative experience. I’m really going to miss this place, the people and waking up every morning to the beauty of Our Chalet.

STAFF: I love my job! – Beckie (UK)

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There are not many jobs where, after finishing the washing up on an evening, you can go and spend a few hours with young women from around the world, learn about their cultures, swap some badges and bracelets and other interesting things, dance some African dance, get a henna tattoo and laugh hysterically at a certain Lebanese girl’s brilliant jokes.

Where is this job you ask? That job, is my job.

Beckie at Helen Storrow Seminar 2013

As I’m drawing to the end of my time here at Our Chalet, this wonderful International Evening with the Helen Storrow Seminar Participants reminds me why I love this place so much.

It is not for the nature, nor the escape. Whilst I love the towering mountains and the peace that surrounds this beautiful place, the true magic here at Our Chalet is the people.

Whether they are guests passing through, or staff you live and work with for months, the international environment and the friendships made are incredible.

There have been some incredible moments here at Our Chalet, from hiking up Elsighorn or going paragliding, to singing round the campfire with all the Winter Vollies before they left. Ski days with Meg, from glorious sunshine “Race you down” days, to blizzards and “Can you even see your skis?” days.

Learning to snowboard thanks to Monse, and dance Rwandan style with Sonia. The similarities between the Scottish and Irish humour with Nic, and the awe at Rach’s insane planning and organising – maybe it’ll rub off? As for Sam, programme intern, roomie for the last three weeks, I will miss you loads, but most of all: “Sammmm!? Make me popcorn!?”

Beckie on Elsighorn

And as for the work I hear you say? I have learnt a lot whilst being here. For example, I quite enjoy cleaning a few bathrooms, I love a day as kitchen coordinator, just chilling and cooking and cleaning.

There is a certain feeling of achievement when you feed everyone for the day and then still manage to leave the kitchen sparkling by 7pm.

Boris the Snowplough is my friend, and Derek the Dishwasher just needs a little encouragement.

We’re a mad bunch here, or maybe that’s just me.

As for Programme, I love programme. Leading hikes and sledging days through the winter, cooking bratwurst on a barbeque in the snow, watching groups awe at the frozen waterfalls. You know life is pretty sweet when a day in work can sometimes be a day’s sledging, perhaps followed by an evening running campfire.

Campfire is a beautiful thing. Not simple the fire its self (which yes, I could watch forever), but the atmosphere and the sharing and the people. Before the Winter Vollies left, we had a final campfire.

Beckie the Scottish ladyIt was truly beautiful. Some of the new Spring Vollies shared songs with us, Sonia tried to teach us songs in French, Kinyarwandan, and I think Kenyan. She then promptly laughed at us all failing.

It was a pretty emotional campfire, with “Say why, do we have to say goodbye” setting us off somewhat. It was very sad to see my winter family leave, but I quickly had to pull myself together “Hello SPRING!”

The Spring Vollies are a great bunch, and whilst it’s sad I can’t spend longer with them, I’ve tried to pass on all my knowledge and tips and tricks before I leave.

I will be very sad to leave Our Chalet, I am now yet another person who will be calling Stokli “Home”. But it is time to move on – to Denmark! To Denmark for a reunion with Monse and Meg!

So, what was it like to volunteer at Our Chalet? Well, I spent 3 beautiful months telling everyone “I love my job!”

Beckie Davies
Winter volunteer and Short term Spring volunteer – 2013