Volunteering at Our Chalet. By Elizabeth Nutbrown

I volunteered for nearly four months at a Girl Guiding World Centre in the heart of the Swiss Alps. I was part of the summer season volunteer team. My role was to lead outdoor activities for the groups of girls that came from overseas to participate in the programme and helping with the general running of Our Chalet.

I have gained a lot out of this experience. I have gained many international friends that I hope to meet up with again one day. I talk to them regularly still over Skype which is great. I gained confidence on leading outdoor, adventure activities with children which will help support my teaching career. I got the opportunity to try lots of new activities in a new environment myself which was physically challenging but very rewarding.

Our Chalet’s team is made up of women from all over the world. This creates a really international experience. This experience allowed me to see people from all different cultures. It was really interesting to realise that we have many more similarities than differences. It was so pleasing throughout the season that we had no arguments or falling out. Everybody accepted each other for who they are and what they believe in.

My highlight of the trip was when I had two days off work and got the opportunity to do an overnight hike with two wonderful new friends. We left Our Chalet after dinner and hiked up Bunderspitz to a point that was flat enough to pitch a small tent. We got a few hours’ sleep and had a great laugh surrounded by Alpine Cows. Our aim was to see the sunrise from the peak so we got up at 6am for the 6:37am sunrise. We hiked up to the peak and saw the beautiful sunrise over the Kander valley and Adelboden valley at 2456metres. We then packed up our tent and continued our hike into the next valley where we planned to camp at the Boy Scout International Centre.

The girls that visit Our Chalet with their guiding units from their home country gain an awful lot from the Swiss Challenge experience. It is a challenging experience for them because they are often physically challenged throughout the week, challenged by mixing with people from different cultures and for some, simply being away from home is an experience in itself. I think that it is such an important element member’s experiences that I decided to complete my dissertation on this topic and carried out research whilst at the Chalet. I have found this super interesting to explore.

The funding from the Eleanor Peel Trust helped me to enjoy this experience to the limit. I used the funding to pay for my flights which I managed to get in the Easy Jet sale then I put the small amount that was left over towards some walking boots which allowed me to fully participate in the activities within the climate and to set a good example to the girls who needed to have appropriate equipment for hiking each day.

I hope to one day go back to Our Chalet with a guide group of my own and give them the opportunity for them to experience what I did. I am so pleased with the lifelong friends and memories this opportunity gave me.