Summer at Roots Camp: Mahlzeit Austria 2019

By: Annalise Cajic

Volunteering at Roots Camp

Hanna has been volunteering at Roots Camp while participating in the Mahlzeit Austria project.

As the Mahlzeit Austria project nears its end, Hanna reflects on her experience working at Roots Camp. AIESEC volunteers at this summer camp are promoting an unplugged and sustainable lifestyle to Austrian youth. Living without running water, electricity and the luxuries of modern life, Hanna realized that you don’t need these things to have an amazing experience. She also learned that we must respect nature if we want our planet to thrive.

Since the Mahlzeit Austria project is promoting SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), the camp is teaching its campers that living sustainably is possible. Actually, it can be a life changing experience.

And loving life’s simple pleasures is easier than you think!

Working at the camp

Campers sleep in teepees and live without electricity and running water.

Upon arrival at the camp, which is located south of Vienna, Hanna is responsible for the young campers. This includes making sure they sleep well, preparing food and organizing activities. Since campers sleep in teepees and prepare meals on the fire, leaders such as Hanna are needed to ensure a smooth transition to this new lifestyle. 

She adds that she was always “present at the different activities such as archery, wood carving [and] the games station at the wrestling tournaments.” Doing archery in the woods sounds like a good time. Wish I was there!

Living off the grid

Life without electricity and running water sounds like a difficult task. However, Hanna explains:

“It became quite easy to adapt to the living conditions… I just found my inner Jane from Tarzan and lived life to the fullest there. You shouldn’t stay too much focused on the difficulty of adapting to the life there… You basically have to get over it and enjoy it.”

That’s it. To have a successful AIESEC experience, you need an open mind and a positive attitude. Only then can you become a leader.

Learning to live sustainably

In its essence, Roots Camp is about respecting our environment and enjoying life without the luxuries we take for granted. This is how volunteers promote responsible consumption on behalf of the Mahlzeit Austria project. Hanna summarizes: 

“If we ruin nature than our whole ecosystems are ruined, so respect nature and learn how to appreciate it, but also use it… It’s called Roots Camp so we do go back to the roots of where it all started.”

Memories made

Beyond working with children and adapting to a more sustainable way of living, Hanna says that “it’s quite nice to experience what it’s like to live without a phone, to live without a hot shower and always cook your food on fire and actually make fire all the time.” Overall, she describes working at the camp as a “cool experience.”

Lots of memories were made at the camp, including this sunset!

If you are meeting volunteers from around the world, doing archery in the forest and promoting an SDG, your Summer is cool in more ways than one.

Click here to find your next AIESEC experience. 

The Wiener Tafel market: Mahlzeit Austria 2019

By: Annalise Cajic

Read as I work alongside Ezgi and Marina, fellow AIESEC Global Volunteers participating in the Mahlzeit Austria project. Spending their days working with Wiener Tafel, I joined them on the job to discover more about what the non-profit does and how they are reducing food waste.

Working at the market

If you don’t yet know, the AIESEC’s Mahlzeit Austria project aims to promote responsible consumption and production (SDG 12). That’s when Wiener Tafel enters the chat.

Volunteers prepare produce to be distributed to charities.

Monday to Friday, Wiener Tafel receives, sorts and distributes food that would otherwise be thrown away.  To reduce food waste, they collect unwanted food from supermarkets and restaurants. This is where Ezgi and Marina’s job comes into play. Volunteers separate the good, fresh product, from that which has passed its prime. The food is then pick up by partners who put the food to use, instead of letting it go to waste. Charities often use food provided by Wiener Tafel to feed those in need.

On a bright and sunny Friday day, work has already begun when we arrive at 8:00 that morning. I noticed (and appreciated) the relaxed atmosphere and friendliness of the other volunteers. Sipping coffee, I introduced myself and we talked. Well, tried, because I don’t speak German and nearly all the volunteer don’t speak English. Still, we tried. I’ve gotten pretty good at using hand gestures in replacement of German during my 6 weeks in Vienna!

Volunteers sort lettuce as part of their work at Wiener Tafel.

We then went outside to start working. Today, a large quantities of lettuce, zucchinis, onions, potatoes and carrots arrived. We spent the rest of the day sorting the produce.

It was surprising to me how much of the produce was perfectly edible. While a supermarket may deem these heads of lettuce not good enough to sell, we simply had to peel off a layer of leaves and what was underneath was good as new. It’s little surprise then that according to EuroCommerce, the EU wastes approximately 88 million tonnes of food each year. That doesn’t sound like responsible consumption to me, and if we want to save resources and the planet, this number must be reduced.

Teamwork makes all the difference

The variety of people volunteering for Wiener Tafel gave me another view of our fight to reduce food waste. Our group not only consisted of AIESEC volunteers, but of people from all walks of life. I met young woman from Iran with an Master’s degree in accounting. She volunteers at Wiener Tafel once a week. The man with which I picked up some leftover baked goods at Dunkin’ Donuts (a highlight of the day, naturally), told me he was ashamed that a wealthy country like Austria would allow so much food go to waste. He says he volunteers to help change that.

Together, we were a dynamic group working for towards common cause. And we became friends in the process, so it was a successful and fulfilling day if you ask me!

Small acts can make a change

Whether big or small, you can make a difference too. Whether big or small, your efforts to reduce food waste can help reduce climate change in a time of crisis. At home, you can do so by using leftovers and eating food before it’s too late.

If you want to volunteer at Wiener Tafel, click here for their contact information.

 

Volunteering at Augarten: Mahlzeit Austria 2019

By: Annalise Cajic

As part of the Mahlzeit Austria project, some volunteers are working at Augarten, a community garden in Vienna. There, they are promoting sustainable food growth and the value of growing one’s own food to Austrian youth. I spoke to volunteers Anna, Alessia, Elena and Solmaz to learn more about their experience at Augarten. Whether they are in the gardens or cooking with children, they loved every minute of it.

Choosing Augarten

“I wanted to participate in a project which sustained the environment” says Alessia, an AIESEC volunteer working at Augarten.  It seems all the volunteers are interested in environmental initiatives and are grateful to be spreading awareness of such an important issue.

Some Instagram worthy desserts made by AIESEC volunteers with children at Augarten.

Promoting food sustainability is not the only reason for choosing this project, though: “I chose Augarten because I love working with children, and I wanted to learn something new about different kinds of plants,” says Elena.  Whether one wants expand their knowledge of food waste, work with children or simply enjoy the great outdoors, participants share a variety of goals and motivations. There are many reasons for wanting to participate in an AIESEC experience, after all.

However, there are certain qualities that embody every AIESEC volunteer working on the Mahlzeit Austria project.

A curious spirit, desire for self-improvement and eagerness to make a change are all things I’ve noticed in my fellow volunteers, and they exist in Augarten volunteers as well.

I know this because these volunteers are teaching children the benefits of growing their own food by maintaining a garden and cooking with the foods they grow. Tending to the garden and the wildlife in the greenhouse, children receive a hands-on lesson in local agriculture.

Education for a sustainable future

According to the United Nations’ goal for responsible consumption and production, developed countries must “ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature.” This goal also emphasizes that we must reduce “global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses.”

This is how work at Augarten is contributing to these goals.

Children at Augarten prepare food using fresh, local produce.

Growing one’s own food is a welcome option that encourages people to eat more fresh foods while reducing food waste. When we buy food from faraway lands, we must consider more than just the food itself: every mode of transportation has an environmental cost. Also, fruits and vegetables are often unnecessarily wrapped in packaging for protection during transportation as well as to preserve their freshness.

When we grow our own food, we avoid all of that! 🙂

Greenpeace recommends that we “avoid food that was grown according to industrial agriculture principles.” Instead, “choose organic, fresh, local, unprocessed foods when available.” By teaching Austrian youth how to grow their own food (and enjoy doing it), Anna, Alessia, Elena and Solmaz are also encouraging a more sustainable future that values homegrown, healthy eating. Oh, and it also helps save the planet, which is pretty important, too.

Loving every minute of it

Volunteers have learned a great many things while working here. “I am learning to overcome my physical limit,” Anna tells me, while Alessia adds, “I’ve become more confident in my capabilities.” Developing confidence in one’s abilities is an important step along the journey to becoming a leader, and AIESEC aims to do just that through meaningful experiences.

Until next time!

 

Seminars for project volunteers: Mahlzeit Austria 2019

By: Annalise Cajic

Delivering workshops is not the only thing Mahlzeit Austria project volunteers are doing this Summer. When they are not teaching youth about food waste or working with Wiener Tafel, they are improving their skills through workshops hosted by Pulswerk and project runners. Volunteers are taught to improve their own workshops and see the value in self improvement as they become global citizens.

Workshop by Pulswerk

Pulswerk, founded in 2012 by the Austrian Institute of Ecology, has partnered with AIESEC on this project to promote the United Nations’ twelfth SDG (Responsible Consumption and Production). This week, they met at the Pulswerk office to share their thoughts on the project thus far and discuss areas of improvement.

Mahlzeit Austria volunteers receive a workshop delivered by Sabrina Lichtnegger of Pulswerk.

It’s important that we value the process self improvement and work actively to deliver excellent workshops to Austrian youth. We are the leaders of tomorrow, after all!

Meeting with Anna and Valerie

The Mahlzeit Austria team also met with project head Anna Balashova and AIESEC team member Valerie Christ to discuss similar subject matter. At the AIESEC Vienna office, we reflected on the project’s first couple of weeks and openly shared what could have gone better. As a “part 2” of our meeting with Pulswerk, ways to implement our ideas into the workshops were discussed.

Volunteers discuss how to improve their workshops on food waste.

Lessons learned

Firstly, we all agreed that we are fortunate to be teaching to children a topic that is so important to our future. Volunteers have a positive attitude and we hope the children feed off of that (no pun intended!). But we also agreed some things can be improved, and we shared those too.

For instance, more activities should be implemented into the workshops to engage children and create a more dynamic presentation. While the current workshops already includes some activities, it was decided that more could be added to make them even more fun.

We all know that children under 10 have limited attention spans, so a long PowerPoint presentation would feel more like a lecture than anything else. And who needs that, especially during the Summer? We want to make food waste an interesting topic, because it’s an important one.

Here’s a list of ways we decided could make the workshops more engaging for children:

  1. Games
  2. Quizzes
  3. Dances or other physical activities
  4. Arts and crafts
  5. Music (song about food waste, for instance)

A few of these ideas will be implemented into the workshops to help children stay focused and absorb more information about food waste.

The importance of reflection and improvement

When reflecting on these team meetings, fellow volunteer Elena says, “they are actually useful. We can meet all together and discuss.” As we worked together, we got a little bit further along on our journey to self-improvement. Being in Vienna on this project has taught us that while we should always do our best, improvement is an ongoing process.

While the workshops on food waste to children were good to begin with, they can always be made more effective. So it seems to me that self-improvement was the theme of this week, and we’re sure to see a lot more of it before the project is over.

 

 

 

 

 

Working at Wiener Tafel: Mahlzeit Austria 2019

By: Annalise Cajic

Meet a Global Volunteer in Austria

Marija, Global Volunteer and aisecer, poses at the Wiener Tafel office in Vienna, Austria.

“I have always wanted to visit this city [Vienna]. And then, I chose this project because I saw this opportunity to work in [an] office, to see how things are done… [h]ere, people are really really friendly,” says Marija Milicevic. As a Global Volunteer, she is working  at the Wiener Tafel office to promote and learn about food sustainability.

From Serbia, Marija speaks English as  a second language and is practicing her German in Vienna: “you get used to it,” she tells me. “Sometimes they forget that you know English and they start to speak [German] a lot… but it is [good] practice.”

 

About Wiener Tafel

This non-profit organization collects and redistributes food that would otherwise be thrown away. Wiener Tafel also raises awareness about the effects of excessive food waste on the environment and works to reduce this problem through projects such as “Soup with Sense” and “TafelBox.” This Summer they have taken some AIESEC Global Volunteers under their wing to continue their mission for sustainable consumption and production.

Working at the office

Sharing her experience so far at Wiener Tafel, Marija says:

I saw how people wish to help others… it really surprises me because in my country, it is not the same situation. They will like to help, but we do not have something like Wiener Tafel to give that opportunity. Definitely after this project I will be more responsible about wasting food.”

Marija prepares letters and pamphlets that promote projects by Wiener Tafel.

She has no previous experience working for an environmental initiative, but says that “after this, I will start to take part in some other volunteer projects.” This opportunity is motivating young people to increase their knowledge about food waste and expand their borders at the same time. Looks like Marija is becoming a better global citizen every day!

Her enthusiasm is inspiring, and there is no shortage of it going around among the volunteers. 

Advice for future Global Volunteers

When I ask her if she would be a Global Volunteer again, she says “yes, definitely because during this project I met really really good people and I hope to stay in contact with them. I feel like I am growing up during this project.”

Whether you are learning German or promoting food sustainability, the best way to get good at something is to be immersed in it. When you are saving the planet and becoming a leader (as Marija is), it’s the same deal. Don’t learn about something from afar. Get out of your comfort zone and jump right in.

And doing so alongside people who love to explore and learn is even better. 

 

First workshop completed! Mahlzeit Austria 2019

By: Annalise Cajic

This week, global volunteers debuted their workshops on food waste…

After spending the week preparing their workshops for youth on food sustainability, Mahlzeit Austra volunteers put their skills to the test for the first time. (Learn about the workshops and their creation process here).

At Mahlzeit Austria, volunteers such as Daria and Olia are promoting one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to youth. Here’s a run down of the some volunteers’ experience with their first workshop. What did they learn and what will they do differently in the coming weeks? Let’s find out.

Mission success: Mahlzeit Austria Volunteers Olia, Maria, Lasha and Daria at their first workshop about food waste.

My roommate, Daria, is sitting on the couch as we discuss the results of the first workshop. “For me it was cool, because children were really quiet and good,” she says.  BTW, Daria is my friendly roommate who may appear many times in this blog. We’re lucky we get to hear her input on a lot of these important matters!

Fellow volunteer Olia tells me about her lack of experience with children and speaking German. It was no surprised then that teaching children in German was even more daunting. Fortunately, they pulled through using teamwork. Despite the challenges, she tells me, the “children understood us and we felt their support and interest.” I guess this is my chance to thank any child who listens attentively and enthusiastically. They make all the difference!

Never stop improving

As we walked out of our first workshop,  we immediately discussed how to improve ourselves. Our final consensus is to include more games. Daria tells me, “maybe it can be more fun for children, because sometimes it’s like a lecture and they need to move more. I think children need it.” I agree. Children don’t want to listen to a lecture. Neither do I. 

When asked what she would have done differently, Olia reflects, “I would have probably added more games, but it went well in general. the amount of feedback we received was priceless because children liked us and listened to the things we told. The best is that they realized how important the topic is.” The SDG Mahlzeit Austria is promoting (responsible consumption and production) is important to volunteers and youth alike (or anyone who cares about humanity’s future, tbh). That’s why these volunteers welcome feedback and improvement.

That’s because the most important part of anything we do is getting better at it. Taking an event as a learning experience is at the heart of any AIESEC opportunity, and it’s why they are committed to providing youth with global experiences.

Teamwork > Flying solo

Remember enjoying participation? It’s one of AIESEC’s core values and ties in nicely with what we’re doing in Vienna with these workshops.

Though working with other people can be tricky (you have dealt with lazy group members and annoying partners, because haven’t we all?), I was happy to see my colleagues work together successfully. They also seem to notice the benefits of doing so.

“Benefits of working in a team environment are obviously in a number of ideas which we can produce together. We can also all participate in a project which makes our job easier because we don’t have to do everything on our own.” You said it, Olia! I couldn’t agree more.

 

 

 

Workshops on food sustainability: Mahlzeit Austria 2019

By: Annalise Cajic

Welcome to the Mahlzeit Austria blog!

This Summer, AIESEC is working on the Mahlzeit Austria project, which promotes sustainable production and consumption, one of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Focusing on food waste, AIESEC volunteers are in Vienna to deliver workshops to children on food sustainability. I tagged along with my friends and fellow volunteers Maria, Olia, Lasha and Daria as they developed these workshops. Let’s go!

About the workshops

Global volunteers attend a workshop by Pulswerk on food waste.

“It’s not just about food sustainability or reducing inequality,” says Sabrina Lichtnegger of Pulswerk, the AIESEC partner and promoter of sustainable development in Austria.  She’s telling us that to change the world we must embrace every SDG by changing our lifestyles. We’re learning straight away that the little things count, from how much food we throw away to how far away it is produced.

Mahlzeit Austria volunteers will be spreading this message to children and their families in their workshops.

 It’s all in the process

Olia, Maria, Lasha and Daria prepare their workshop on food sustainability.

Huddled over laptop and notes, I sit and watch them try to organize a plan. Funny enough, they are speaking in Russian, so as a non Russian speaker, I can only deduce they are planning something. They switch to English at times (so I know what to write about. Haha. And thank you).

I’m then  haunted by memories of working on dreaded group projects at school. Remember those? Nobody likes them because working with people is hard and you always feel like you’re doing all the work. This doesn’t seem to be the case here, though: when everyone is committed to a common goal and has the desire to do it, it’s a lot more fun. I guess I should take some lessons from AIESEC volunteers then…?

Becoming a global citizen

As I watch Maria, Olia, Lasha and Daria prepare, I really feel the global essence of AIESEC. They were speaking in Russian in a German speaking country, and now I’m writing about it in English! 

It also goes to show that when a social cause meets enthusiastic youth, cultural barriers are surpassed in favour of collaboration and leadership. 

From Belarus, Russia, Georgia and the Ukraine, each presenter proudly compiles fun facts and pictures of their countries. Did you know that hash browns are a traditional Belarusian food? Or that Lake Baikal in Russia is the world’s deepest lake? I didn’t know that. And if you didn’t know, you do now! I guess we’re becoming world citizens together.

AIESEC’s six values

Throughout the process, living diversity, one of AIESEC’s six core values, was evidently present. But I soon realized that the five others are at play too. Hear me out:

Striving for excellence: All participants want to be here. They are motivated to reduce climate change by reducing our food waste. They are driven, hard working and want to change the world (I am not being melodramatic, I swear this is true!). This can only be done through excellent effort and attitude.

Living sustainably: These workshops teach children the importance of eating sustainably by reducing their food waste. By educating the youth of today, Mahlzeit Austria volunteers are promoting a more livable tomorrow. Is there anything more important than looking out for our planet and humanity itself? I think not. 

Demonstrating integrity: Masha, Olia, Daria and Lasha are volunteering their Summer to educate children about something they care about. And doing so while embracing teamwork and each one of AIESEC’s  values means their hearts are in the right place. 

Activating leadership: We want to make a difference, one workshop at a time. We are cultivating our ability as change makers by leading Austrian youth in the right direction.

Enjoying participation: Working towards a common goal requires everyone’s participation. Those who are shy learn that to promote something they care about, they have to get themselves out there!

Quick fire Q&A with Mahlzeit Austria Volunteer Daria

Q.  What was the biggest challenge you faced when developing the workshops?

Daria, Mahlzeit Austria volunteer from Russia, shares her experience developing workshops for children on food waste.

A. It was how to make this information easier for children. Sometimes we don’t understand some things ourselves, so it’s even harder to make children understand these concepts.

Q. Did you learn anything about sustainability and food waste?

A. Of course, yeah. Specifically about the fridge, temperature levels and which side is the best and for which products.

Q. Which leadership skills did you use during the process?

A.  Maybe preparing to risk everything… And having self confidence. Wow.  Thanks for adding some drama to this interview, Daria.