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!

 

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