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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.

 

Why you should volunteer abroad before you turn 30!

Our twenties are the years we want to learn a lot, love a lot, travel the world from one country to another and meet new people. Though sometimes (most of the time) we don’t always have the money or time to do that. Still, nothing is impossible. Volunteering is great way to do it all in a budget friendly way and the truth is the world we live in needs people to volunteer before they are 30 more then we need it for our personal growth.

Meet new people & Create new memories

Volunteering will allow you to create some of the best memories of your life. It will be all about trying things with new people, in a different place!

The great thing about it is that you’ll meet not only loads of likeminded people but also completely different characters from different backgrounds as well. This is what adds to the fun to your experience: you’ll be able to learn so much from them just by talking and the chances are you will remain in contact for life!

Career booster: It will look great on your CV!

If you’ve just left college or still studying, volunteering abroad will look impressive on your resume! When you want to learn some skills that might be useful for your future career, you can always find opportunities that will contribute to them. Volunteering also a good way to show what’s near and dear to your heart and you can adapt to new environment or comfortable with trying new things important to you and show that you’re more than willing to try new things. The perfect message to put across!

Get out of your comfort zone!

Try things you’ve never tried before, say yes to everything (almost) and do your best to get the most out of your experience. Try new foods or learn a language, talk to as many different people as you can and take these experience home when you return at the end of your time in that new environment. That’s how volunteering builds you as a person by getting you out of your comfort zone a little.

#YOLO

Do it while you can! You are never going to live this day again, be in the same age you are now or have time same amount of time you have at the moment! Maybe ths there is a country that you’ve always wanted to visit, or a language you want to learn. A volunteering experience will help you cross a few things off of your bucket list, that is for sure! Embrace your freedom and enjoy it while you can!

Make a difference

Actions speak louder than words and volunteering is a rewarding way to give back to the world we live in. Use the oppurtunities you have in life to make a difference in a community or a person’s life that might not have them. Whether it’s for children, environment or something else, giving your time and skills to those who need it and appreciate it will create a great difference in your life as well.

Leave behind your laptop and phone (for a while)

In our world today, people spend hours tuned into social media on their phones and laptops, and a couple more to e-mails, Netflix and daily to-dos! That’s a huge amount of time that you spend staring on a screen. Volunteering is the perfect excuse to escape that a little! You can get out there, get back to nature and stay there for a while. Feel the sun on your face, the sand between your toes, the wind through your hair – whatever does it for you!

Learn about issues going on in the world

It’s very easy to get lost in a city life , in your daily routines and forget that the world is a big place with lots of different people and realities you can learn to love.
Sometimes, being in a completely different place, sharing it with a whole new range of people can introduce you to another way of seeing some of the issues going on around us. You don’t even have to spend your time discussing politics or world issues whole day. Simply getting out in the world is an amazing way to open up your eyes and perspective. You’ll never regret it!

Capture the moment! Take notes and photos.

We all love taking photos so why not turn your travelling experience into a photo diary or even a project? Keep a journal or go online and share your experiences on a travelling blog! This way you can capture the breathtaking moments, log all your favorite memories and go through them when you are home. This is also great to take your loved ones through your experience and show them what you’ve seen and lived!

 

Written by Asli Ertem

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.

 

 

 

10 reasons not to become a Global Volunteer

It’s been a buzzword for quite some time and still, it’s something many people don’t like to associate themselves with or that can seem downright controversial – volunteering. The notion of altruistically providing a service without any financial gain is nothing new and yet, in light of an ever-changing international context, it seems to become more relevant than ever, especially among young people.

Going abroad and working as a volunteer might not have crossed your mind before, or you may have simply thought you’re not cut out for it. If you’re looking for more reasons not to embark on what could end up being the greatest adventure of your life, keep reading:

  1. You’ll get to know a different culture, and I don’t mean just by looking from afar, as if you would watch a movie, but actually immersing yourself in everything it has to offer – understanding customs and traditions, as well as learning the meaning behind all of it.
  2. You’ll see incredible places that you might have never thought you’d end up witnessing. Whether it’s something you’ve always wanted to visit or a hidden spot, unknown to usual tourists, you can be sure you’ll remain speechless at least once or twice.
  3. You’ll be faced with a new language that’s nothing like yours and that you never imagined you’ll want to learn. Although you won’t become an expert in six weeks, by the time you return home you’ll surely have some cool phrases to teach your friends.
  4. You’ll be pushed out of your comfort zone and learn to deal with unexpected situations. No matter where you decide to go, you can be sure something will pop up that will force you to rethink your course of action, and guess what? You’ll be a better, more capable person by the end of it.
  5. You’ll become more aware, not only of what things are like outside of your own reality, but also of who you are as a person, of what your strengths and weaknesses are and how you can best put them to use in order to help change something in the world.
  6. You’ll meet people that will change your life, either by exposing you to a different worldview or by teaching you something about yourself or the planet. Whatever you decide to do, the people you meet along the way will always be the greatest component of journey and the thing you’ll value most after it’s over.
  7. You’ll gain a new perspective on who you are, what you want to achieve and what your role in the grand scheme of things is. You can be sure that by the end of your experience there’s going to be someone completely different staring back when you look in the mirror, because of all the way you’ve developed in.
  8. You’ll get to explore interests you didn’t think to pay attention to before. Whether it’s discovering your love for sharing knowledge with others or a secret passion for fields like photography, there’s definitely something to be gained out of having freedom to do new things.
  9. You’ll gain leadership skills that will help you in everything you do after you come back. Your studies, your career and your personal life will all have to benefit from the abilities you develop while being a volunteer. And no matter the field you want to be active in, you can be sure leadership is going to make a difference.
  10. You’ll become an agent of change by actively working on making the world a better place. Having the chance to do your part and leave your mark in the community you’ll live in by contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals will be something that you’ll always remember and that will definitely transform the way you think about world issues.

If the list we put together doesn’t appeal to you one bit, it might mean that you’re that rare unicorn that really shouldn’t try volunteering; but if it did – and we have a feeling you’re at least a tiny bit curious- then why not give it a try and discover all the amazing things it has in store for you? Go to aiesec.org and find your opportunity!