Summer series: Seeing Graz through another perspective – Part III

4 Volunteers, Blog post Number 3, a lot to 2 and 1 mission: Having the time of their lives while being a volunteer in Graz! Time is flying by so fast – it’s already the fourth week for our great international volunteers Ana, Tereza, Shu and Yassine who are working for Jugend am Werk. 

During these last weeks they have learned a lot about themselves and disabled people. Saying that „disabled people are capable of innovating and creating many pretty things and what I like so much about it is the moment when I see the smile on their faces“, puts also a smile on Yassine’s face. On the one hand our volunteers learned something about themselves: how to integrate easily and approach to the clients and the team members. On the other hand Tereza “hopes that the teenagers learned something from her teambuilding this week”, so in the end everyone gained some experience in a different way.

Additionally they could also improve their German in learning some new words and within four weeks they also got to know the Austrian and European culture. Shu states that she „learned lots of new things during her trip to Budapest, while taking the Eurorail for the first time“. Our four volunteers also try to cook together to introduce their cultures and national food to one another. Plus, in this past weeks Ana “learned about the Austrian economy and how Austria tries to introduce young people with problems of the professional world.”

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So aside from all the travelling and exploring Europe, you may ask yourself, how does a normal day look like as an EP? Work starts at 9 a.m. and ends in the afternoon around 3 p.m. In “incafé” there are usually people in the morning drinking coffee. Before midday, the preparations for lunch have to be done. Shu mentions that the rush hour is at lunch time when she „serves guests and sends the dishes to specific tables“. Despite all the work concerning the café, they prepare activities once a week for their colleagues to get to know them and their culture better. Tereza, who is working in a different project than Shu, states that her “work is different every week as there are more projects – sewing bags, handicraft and decorations, kitchen and two projects concerning gardening works.” Furthermore she says that working slowly is important because the goal of the organization is not quantity but “to give the opportunity to work to people who have problems finding a job”.

Time is going by too fast for our four volunteers. Although after four weeks they have a daily routine, every day is still special for them because there is always something new and interesting to explore here in Graz and Europe.

And if you can’t get enough of their stories, stay tuned for the next blogpost!

Author: Giulia Di Pietro

Summer series: Seeing Graz through another perspective – Part II

After having spent the first two weeks in Graz, our dear volunteers Ana, Yassine, Shu and Tereza have started to get deeper into Austrian culture. They have started exploring this culture and communicating with Austrian, especially their colleagues.

Most of the volunteers have not yet really felt a culture shock. They all feel comfortable with living in the Austrian society with its customs, food, habits etc. and they do not feel that this culture differs all too much from their own. However, Ana points out that there clearly are some differences, even though they might not be very substantial. For example, at the beginning it was alien for her to wait for the traffic lights to turn green before crossing the street. In Spain, her home country, one would not wait for green lights but check if there’s a car in sight and cross the street if this not the case. Also, she highlights that Austrian people treat the environment respectfully and more carefully than Spanish people do. This goes also with the cleanliness of the streets or rather the city as a whole. Shu in particular feels that there is a quite a large difference between Hong Kong and Austria, especially regarding lifestyle “Hong Kong has a very quick speed of life. However, in Austria, it is very different. Everyone lives a very relaxing and slow speed of life”.


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Furthermore, our volunteers are starting to get in touch with their native-Austrian colleagues. They explore how people here generally think, what point of views they may have and how they live. “I like the typical conversations about religion with Yassine, who is of Muslim religion, and also to see how far away “my world” is from his. The important point for me is that we respect what the other says and we search for a better understanding of our point of views trying to be assertive and without judgement”, says Ana. Of course, we must not forget that language is an obstacle that is hard to overcome. A lot of Austrians do speak English, but only to a certain extent. According to Yassine, the beginning was hard as he could not really understand what the others were talking about, but he’s improving and is now able to extract the key information. Because of this difference in languages and cultures, Shu has learnt a valuable lesson on how to overcome language barriers: “I found that even though you cannot speak German, the most effective way is to smile. Just SMILE!”. Tereza has also had many good experiences. She is open for new stories and new opinions and at the same time also her Austrian mates are. “I feel quite comfortable, I like listening to people telling different stories and exchanging ideas”, she states. A cultural exchange that comes along with cultural experience is taking place and is giving the four volunteers new input for their view on the world as well as on themselves.The volunteers have also made the most of the central position of Austria in Europe, over the last weekend Ana and Yassine went for a trip to Slovenia, Shu went to visit Budapest and Prague, and Tereza has been visiting other parts of Austria too. “Austria gives you the chance to visit a lot of countries because you can move very easily and the transport is really cheap”, says Ana.

So, the four are in the middle of this unique experience. We do frankly hope that they will go on as well as they did until now. We’ll keep you updated!

Author: Carla Kowanda

A social project with a transcontinental impact

Our department of social projects puts its main focus on a project called ‘Global Education‘, with the major task of introducing intercultural communication and a social, open minded discourse about diversity into the everyday schedule of participating classes in Vienna.

The project is based on a cross-cultural learning approach. By inviting students from all over the world to teach children at the age of 6-10, it spreads awareness about different cultural topics, such as cultural diversity, sustainability and world issues. Currently, we have three Viennese primary schools participating: the Josefinum Volksschule, OVS Zeltgasse and VS Kaisermühle. The projects last 6 weeks, in order to create trustful evolving relationship between students and school children.

The aim is to opt for a playful learning environment, where children can get involved with social world issue topics that are normally not taught in school, and to teach them about tolerance and the beneficial aspects of cultural diversity.

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A sample showed us, that most children at this age have already been confronted with racism, social exclusion and prejudices of differnet kinds. This makes clear, how important it is, to raise the question and discussion about cultural diversity, especially here in Vienna, where many immigrants from our eastern neighbors have found a place to stay and to raise their children.

Our main goal is for the children to experience cultural diversity as something enriching and positive, as an endless source of learning opportunities and a way to connect with people from all over the world. As the lessons are taught in English, the children will simultaneously experience improvement in their language skills.

On the other hand, the incoming students get the chance to get to live and work in another country, with a different culture and unknown traditions. Those experiences are the ones that help to boost their personal development the most. Therefore the project is not only a rewarding opportunity to help children gaining knowledge in important world issues, but as well a chance to get out of the own comfort zone and improve the know-how in multicultural interaction.

There is the possibility for everyone to get involved and become part of Global Education. One of the best possibilities to do so is by becoming a host family and accommodating an incoming student for the duration of the project. It is a unique opportunity to get in contact with a new culture and new traditions and to enjoy the diversity that the world offers right in your own home.

As we are always striving to improve our projects and to implement new strategies we are now working on a collaborating with non-governmental-organizations, to provide the students with a lager pool of opportunities. Moreover we also hope for the students to get the possibility to get involved, not only in the teaching process, but also in afternoon activities for example in youth clubs, in order to reach even more children and to build an even stronger base for an ongoing learning experience.

Author: Sara Balitzky