Eight nations, one common goal: Three weeks of voluntary work in the Waldorf School Schönau an der Triesting

Verfasst von Michaela Strasser

From the 10th to the 30th of August, ten international students and three austrian camp coordinators swapped their accustomed surroundings and jobs for working with garden shears, rakes and paintbrushes, among other things.

Under the heading “Renovation and Gardening“ the volunteers from Taiwan, Russia, Italy, Spain, Nigeria, Bulgaria, Austria and Turkey made it their job to brighten up a large area for no less than 12 school classes. After the arrival of the volunteers on a sunny Friday and Saturday followed by a short settling-in period which included introductions and talks about hopes and fears, work started.

On your marks, get set, work!

The school’s principal, Angelika Lütkenhorst, gave us an approximate explanation about our tasks in the form of a project schedule on the first Monday. The detailed instructions were given according to the areas of responsibility, depending on the groups, which frequently changed in order to give everyone equal opportunities of gaining different experiences within the three weeks. These groups were divided up into:

  • The kitchen group: two volunteers responsible for cooking (and keeping the kitchen clean) for two consecutive days.
  • The painting group: two to four people per day, depending on the project schedule: clearing away the furniture, covering the floors with protective paper, painting the school‘s façades black and the class rooms white (to prepare the walls for the varnish that was applied afterwards according to the Rudolf-Steiner teachings by parents and teachers).
  • The gardening group: the remaining volunteers got together in either one or two teams to perform different tasks such as pulling out weeds, raking and mowing the lawn and cutting down hundreds of so called trees of heaven/stink trees (invasive plants).

In the last week, we were more flexible for various assignments to make sure to leave everything as it was before – only in a much better condition. 🙂

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The tasks were diverse and mainly rather exhausting, but we learned that we could overcome any difficulties by keeping a positive view and never missing out on the most important aspect of work: having fun together. Whether insulating an old attic (we called it roof floor) with loads of sheep’s wool, filling up a platform with gravel or carrying rocks across the garden, there was nothing that could have changed our good mood.

And when the days’ work is done…

They say time flies when you’re having fun, and in the evenings that we mostly spend together in one big group, time moved like a jet plane. We were usually playing games (e.g. the “killer game”, black stories and many more) in the kitchen, sitting under the mighty old trees or – if the weather was gracious to us – around the campfire. It was not the exception that we went to “bed” (the mattresses in the banquet hall) only at the break of dawn.

At the weekends we tried to meet the challenges that the weather gods prepared for us. Our plans to go to the mountains fell through, but we found alternatives to make the best of our spare time:

  • A trip around Schönau to explore the town, the houses and the river Triesting on the first day.
  • An invitation from Angelika to the Heuriger (wine tavern) and some self-initiated evenings there.
  • A three-day weekend trip to Vienna. (Belvedere, Schloss Schönbrunn, Hostel, …)
  • An evening workshop with Thomas from SCI about “Creating a climate for Peace” and with a Waldorf teacher about the concept of the Rudolf-Steiner school.
  • A one-day trip to Baden and a private screening of the movie “Hector and the Search for Happiness“ in the same city two days later.
  • Our “international evening” with singing, presentations, pictures and even traditional clothing.
  • A guided tour in the museum of local history, followed by an invitation of our “neighbour“ Mr. Korb-Weidenheim for viewing his Johann-Strauß-Villa.
  • A delicious barbecue in Angelika‘s private terrace at the end of the three weeks.

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The way to a volunteer‘s heart is through his or her belly

The culinary delights that we enjoyed at least twice a day were certainly among the highlights of our time in Schönau. Every kitchen team chose to cook lunches and dinners that were typical for their home country. And despite the limited amount of ingredients obtainable in Austrian stores, it was just great to taste the different meals that our chefs cooked for more than a dozen people. Our trousers that were somehow getting tighter every week were proof that mere “tasting” had been far exceded.

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A temporary farewell to all the volunteers

At the end of the camp we all agreed we had a great and unforgettable time. So AUF WIEDERSEHEN, ADIOS, ADDIO, GÜLE GÜLE, 再見, до свидания, довиждане, GOOD BYE!
A reunion for the summer of 2015 is already planned, which proves: One more, new international family exists!