Volunteering in the Alpine Park Karwendel, July 2014

Verfasst von Grégory Frenay, Anzhela Safina und Lisa K. Polak

Foto: Lisa K. Polak
Foto: Lisa K. Polak

PART ONE

It all started on a sunny Sunday afternoon in the first days of July in a small mountain village called Hall in Tyrol.

The first scene takes place at the local train station. It was a quiet place, it was hot outside, people were hiding inside their homes, and the wind sometimes carried the sounds of far-away-cars and the laughter of people sitting in the train station bar.

Only one huge, good-looking, but lonely guy – as we will later learn, a volunteer from Belgium – was lying on a bus station bench, gazing at the sun and waiting for something to happen. Nothing happened. But he didn´t know that he was already under observation; under observation of us, the work camp-coordinators. `Cause one has to say, it was the first day of an international, environmental volunteering project of the SCI in cooperation with the nature and alpine park of the Karwendel region and the beginning of two wonderful, amazing weeks in the mountains of Tyrol.

So suddenly the silence was broken by the arrival of a train. A lot of people were getting out of the train station, some of them carrying heavy backpacks. Those with the heavy backpacks were gathering. 15 youngsters from 9 different countries came all along the way to Austria to help the organisators of the Karwendel Alpine Park with the maintenance of the park. The camp coordinators arrived and explained the first tiny steps of the workcamp procedure. After that, Gerhard, the manager of Thaurer Alm, where the workcamp was located in the first week, at an altitude of around 1400 meters, came to pick up everyone with his minibus.

Foto: Lisa K. Polak
Foto: Lisa K. Polak

When everyone has arrived at Thaurer Alm, the camp coordinators started with a small introduction concerning the purpose of the workcamp and explained that besides being coordinators between the different actors and contact person for any personal concern of the volunteers, that they will be as well volunteers, working with everyone else every day.

After that, the volunteers were gathered again, and the “get- to – know- each- other”- phase started with name and icebreaker games, until everyone knew at least three or four names of the other members of the group. They were also asked to map and write down their thoughts on what they expect, what they hope and what they fear regarding the workcamp and to discuss those aspects, if necessary, in the group. The day was getting to it´ s near end, and everyone was choosing a bed in one of two huge bed rooms and then checked out the place around the hut. After that, Carmen, the wife of Gerhard, who manages the hut with him together, cooked for us delicious Austrian food, as she did the following days.

So week ONE started. On Monday we went up the mountain. For some of us, it was an easy trip, for others, not used to the mountains or not having brought along good shoes, it was quite exhausting…

Foto: Daniel Sperl
Foto: Daniel Sperl

PART TWO

So, after 2 hours of getting up in the mountains, Hermann, the manager of the alpine park and Toni, who´s responsible for the environment education in the park, showed us the kind of work we were going to do. There were different types of work (like for example cutting invasive bushes, assemble small rocks or remove invasive plants to create better alpine meadows for the cows), so everyone chose the one he/she liked most. After two or three hours we were able to enjoy ourselves having lunch and observing the picturesque views around. The rest of the working day passed pretty fast. In the evening everyone was tired but satisfied with the work that was done. The first day was warm and sunny, but several days during the first week were rainy, so that we couldn’t work high in the mountains. Anyway, there was also some work that we could do around the hut and not far from it. During such rainy days we had more time to play different games that helped us to know each other better; someone taught another his/her native language; someone showed how to make various origami things… Moreover, in the middle of the week we had an amazing international evening. Everyone brought something from his/her country, we tasted delicious things from different countries, and we listened to some native music and laughed a lot. In the end of the week we realized that the time passed very quickly and it was time to say goodbye to Thaurer Alm, Carmen and Gerhard, who were very kind to us the whole time that we have spent there.

The hike to the other hut called Pfeishütte wasn’t easy to everyone but we´ve managed it. The first 30 minutes after the arrival at the hut, we were relaxing and sitting on the benches in front of the hut, sunbathing. After that Vroni, the manager of that hut, showed us our huge room where we lived all together. The room was very nice but a bit cold.

PART THREE

In the second week, we had to work in (mostly) steep areas, where we reconstructed hiking paths, which were blocked by smaller and bigger stones. We did this with a local volunteer group of the city of Innsbruck. Being that high on the mountains we could enjoy magnificent views and in the afternoon and early evening, when the sun was still shining, we enjoyed local Austrian food on the terrace of the hut and after that we were sitting together, playing games or sitting together discussing about life. We think that everyone enjoyed the camp very much, since we were a group that grew together very quickly and enjoyed the work and the international atmosphere.