Europe Region Volunteer Training at Our Chalet

Jenna Goodwin, Jemma Lee and Elizabeth Moody all took part in the recent WAGGGS Europe Region Volunteer Training at Our Chalet. Here Elizabeth reflects on her experience:

Having applied to be a Europe Region Volunteer back in January and being accepted onto the Communication Working Group I was delighted that the time to actually travel to Our Chalet had come, so to say I was marking off the days on my calendar would be an understatement. The trip to Our Chalet wasn’t just for a nice holiday or a box to tick on my Guiding adventure but an opportunity to experience what it means to be a member of WAGGGS and to train with women from across Europe. Each volunteer would get a general training in each committee – External Relations, Growth, Gender and Diversity and Communication – and the general strategy of Europe Region for the Triennium (three years; don’t worry my sister didn’t know it either)! Every Working Group would get a detailed look at their specific task and the strategy they wanted to work on over the triennium, with a sponsor from the Europe Committee to bridge the gap between us and them. But the rest would be revealed when we arrived.

When I applied I thought that the chance of being accepted was slim to none as my experience levels weren’t everything I felt Europe Region wanted. So I was shocked and stunned when I got accepted. When I got over the excitement of being accepted then the feeling of doubt came in, moments where I questioned my experience or knowledge began. I questioned did I have what it took to make the most out of it for myself and for the team I was to be a part of. This feeling persisted till boarding the plane to Switzerland and arriving at Our Chalet as many of the people I met had more experience, but one thing for sure I wasn’t going to let my doubts slow me down.

I was one of three girls going to Our Chalet from Ireland to take part in the training. I was the only one to sit on the communications working group as the other two, Jenna and Jemma, were to be in the External Relations working group (you can imagine the confusion this caused two girls from Ireland whose names were basically the same, with similar features that both were on the same working group)! Our trip to Our Chalet was long and each of us took one bus to the

airport, a plane, a train in the airport, four trains and then a taxi. We arrived just after 1 o’clock in the morning and exhausted! We made our way into the very quiet Our Chalet to find welcome letters for each of us detailing which room we were to be sleeping in, where we could get a midnight snack and all the other basic information we needed. The best piece of information though was the complimentary wifi codes we were given because, you know what they say, if it isn’t on Instagram it didn’t happen. Safe to say we all immediately checked in online, had a midnight snack and crawled into bed.

The next morning we got up at 8am for breakfast not really knowing what to expect. We were welcomed by the slim few that were early birds too. We all tucked into a huge breakfast spread and COFFEE! We got chatting to all the different women from around Europe that had decided to take the plunge and volunteer on a working group. After breakfast we followed the blind leading the blind as we tried to find where all our sessions would be taking place in. Our first session was led by the chair of Europe Regions Committee, Marjolein: it was an introduction to the training and a look at Europe Region’s strategy for the next three years, the length of the Committee’s term.

The day continued with a few icebreakers and more sessions about the strategies of the individual working groups and, for those not in the know, what they were about. Thursday focused on two of the key areas – Gender and Diversity and Growth. After the sessions all the countries came together to have an international night where we got to share food and entertainment from the different countries.

We were offered a campfire song from Germany, the UK, and Denmark, a dance from the girls from the Czech Republic and Slovakia and Ireland decided to teach everyone how to do the Walls of Limerick. After the performances it was down to the important part, the eating! We enjoyed Viennese sparkling wine, haribos from Germany, the “best soda in the world” according to the Danish at the Scandinavian table and scones from the UK. Ireland certainly left our mark at the International Evening with everyone leaving with a lovely Irish (temporary) tattoo, let’s just say they were ready to be kissed.

The next morning there was a slight change of plans. Originally, we were supposed do our sessions in the morning and go for a hike in the afternoon but due to the weather this was rearranged. So after breakfast we all set out on our hikes – one to the village and one to the mountain in weather that could only be described as standing in a cloud with visibility only an arms width ahead of you and a constant drizzle of rain (the Irish were in their element). We were told this was better than the weather forecast for the afternoon. With this in mind I decided to join the group trekking to the village as there was a chance of shelter and a hot drink instead of imagining seeing the mountains. So we set out in all the waterproofs and warm layers and we arrived at the idyllic village of Adelboden where we took part in a scavenger hunt and only got as far as the question about the café where we stayed and chatted for the remainder of our time. We hiked back up to Our Chalet just in time for lunch.

After lunch the serious part of the training resumed again. The sessions focused on the work of the External Relations Working Group and the Communications Working Group. Included in the Communications presentation was a talk about the rebranding of WAGGGS. I found this really exciting as finally we got a more detailed look into exactly what I would get to work on and the background behind the new branding. Plus we got an impromptu break go out and play in the surprise snow.

That evening after dinner we took part in an exercise on Gender and Diversity. We listened to music from different countries and tried to guess where they were from and, let me tell you, I failed miserably: modern music is almost impossible to guess. We then looked at the kind of world we wanted to live in and the obstacles that were in our way but, in typical Guiding fashion, we didn’t just sit around and talk about it we visualised it through a game. Each person wrote on a sticky note two characteristics of the society they want to be part of. Then we wrote on two balloons our obstacles. We then helped each overcome these obstacles by bursting each others’ balloons.

Saturday was the day we got to work in our Working Groups. My group got the T-Bar which, for anyone who has been to Our Chalet, is the best room in the whole place as it’s got the comfy chairs and the coffee and tea. This became vital in my group as there were three British among the group who loved tea! The Communications Working Group is made up of four women from the UK, one girl from Denmark and one girl from Ireland, me (in case you didn’t guess). Our meeting consisted of two of the women from the UK, the Denmark Elizabeth, the Irish Elizabeth, as well as our sponsor from the Europe Region Committee, Lilit, and Ruth from the UK who work for WAGGGS Global as part of the communications team. We discussed the guidelines set out by the Europe Region’s Committee for what they considered was important for us to complete. We looked at how we felt we should achieve this as well as how we could work with the other committees. This all went into creating our strategy for the next three years.

That evening we took part in the Our Chalet Who Wants to be a Millionaire. This version of the game was very different to the TV original.  Our version was not only Guiding-themed but also included a challenge every round that typically involved running around Our Chalet, and in girl guiding fashion and with Olympic competitiveness my team fought successfully to win the competition.

The next morning was the last of day of the training weekend and there was already a feeling of sadness about leaving. We started off the morning again in our Working Groups to finalise our plans and figuring out how we were going to achieve our goals. After this all the Working Groups came back together to discuss their strategy and goals for the triennium. As well as discussing how we, each group, could work together. This is very

important for the Communication Working Group as we will liaise with the groups the most. After the presentation from the Working Group we had to wrap up just in time before it was time for the Irish to leave. We were the last group to leave on that day after many heartfelt goodbyes throughout the day.

The journey back to Ireland wasn’t as long or as complicated as the journey to Our Chalet, I wouldn’t even change that for the world or all the Badges in Our Chalet.