Before coming to Park In I asked myself what would make me a good youthworker.
I knew that the team was very motivated and willing to involve me in every activity. I also wanted to genuinely learn and give my individual contribution.
Being here for more the three months now, I have found out some interesting things that I think every youth worker shares and that makes his or her job so very valuable.
THE WILL TO DO GOOD.
Sounds obvious, but it´s actually not. Not everyone in every field checks in everyday at work with the will to improve the life of people around them; even if that means to listen and pay attention to a single person for an afternoon, or to hang Christmas gift packages to the door so that youngsters can take them. Or to turn on the air diffuser with essential oils or prepare questions to interview the kids about crucial matters.
ABILITY TO LISTEN.
It´s easier said than done. It is easy when someone, especially if younger, brings an issue to your attention, to want to give an advice. Or maybe, tell them what would be best for them. It comes not natural to just take a step back and listen. With no judgement and no answers. But with openness and understanding instead.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE.
Rules are there to be respected. And youthworkers are there also to help the kids to follow them. This naturally pushes them to keep their accountability in check and be an example for the youngsters. We know that people learn by imitation primarily, and this is crucial when working with younger kids that are often searching for someone to look up to.
In this crazy times of a World wide pandemic we are leaving in restrictions. Most of the activities that were possible before, are no longer allowed. It can be hard to find the motivation to show up with a smile and the right attitude when your job consists mainly in contact with people and now that is in stand by. But still, the focus is always on the solution, never on the problem. Whenever I was asking a question the first answer was never „no“, it was „but, maybe…“. The energy is used to find a creative, different solution.
Those are just few of the elements that youth work consists of. I hope that with time and more experience, I can get to learn even more of them, and grow. In the meantime, I can just be grateful for the amazing opportunity to see this qualities realized in the everyday life.
During this crazy pandemic times it is easy to feel stuck and unsafe, yet some people take advantage of this slow and unsettled era to explore. To explore not only foreign countries, but also and maybe most importantly, different cultures and parts of themselves.
We have some sneak peek of their of their life abroad so far. Let´s dive into their experiences, starting with Baha:
“Due to my high interests about foreign cultures and diversities, I decided to have a social year as a volunteer. I was expecting to improve my multicultural knowledge, learn new languages and discover different cultures. For me that was the way to observe the effect of culture and language on people’s perceptions, behaviors and living styles. Then at the end i could remove borders in my mind and gain better understanding and different approaches of people who are different from me. During my first days of volunteering, I felt that I was exactly in the right place. The place was a Youth Center where I can get in touch with a lot of children from many places of the world. The thing that made me most excited was speaking 3 different languages everyday and switching from one to another instantly during the day. In those moments I felt that I was exactly in the place where I wanted to be.Although only 3 months have passed I feel myself more open minded and with more tolerance about differences. Day by day I learn more about the value of diversity. Once for all, it felt amazing to do a favor without expecting anything and see smiles in their faces.”
Let´s continue with Aleksandra´s words:
“Even if I had any doubts or concerns before coming to Austria, they all faded away as soon as I met my crew, my neighbours and of course the teenagers – the amount of support I received was just amazing. The Tyrolean community was so welcoming that Schwaz instantly became my new beloved home. I am happy that I found a place, where diversity is cherished and everyone can feel safe. I am going to do my best to contribute to the work of the youth centre’s stuff.”
It is interesting to see how important it is to feel welcomed and to perceive a home environment away from home, even when we look for a challenge or a new experience. Linda has also highlighted that concept with her words:
“I first decided to engage in a volunteer project abroad because I wanted to make new experiences and meet new people from a different cultural environment. I didn’t want to create expectations before my departure: I was taking the leap and was ready to welcome everything new with a positive attitude. When I first came to Tyrol I immediately felt that I had made the right decision: the people were welcoming, the environment stimulating and the landscape just dreamlike.During these first months I feel that I have learned a lot about myself, the others and about how to deal with many different situations. I had the occasion to be helpful to people who often come from a difficult background and this had a great impact on my self-development. At the same time, being part of an international community of young volunteers gave me the motivation to overcome the little struggles in everyday life.”
I certainly share many of the feeling expressed by my fellow international explorer! The first word that came to my mind when I stepped into Park In was : Cool. This youth center where I started to work and the beginning of October 2020 really reflects in its aesthetic the purpose that it has; a place where everyone is different and equal, a safe space to share thoughts, music and creativity. My purpose for 2021 is to learn more everyday about that, Austria and Tirol, traveling around as soon as possible! Forever grateful for the chance that I got.
I am sure that even in this challenging times we will all use our time in this beautiful country for the best, always connected.
I am Bahattin from Turkey. Since 1st of October i am working as a volunteer for a youth center in Telfs. Altough i have been in Austria before i could not have chance to get in touch with people this much closer and to get know them and their cultures properly. My first days in Austria started amazing. My house, my homemate, my collegues everything and everyone was so nice. Until the second wave of pandemic hit us…
Second wave brought second lockdown with it. One more time we closed ourselves to houses. I had some digital works for youth center and rest of time was passing with reading, running and watching Netflix. During these days i have got and invitation from my German friend Marie. I didn’t even know we have 2 weeks of holiday during christmas. She invited me to her hometown and celebrate Christmas with her family. It was an fabulous idea! It would be really nice to see Marie again after 9 months and despite of the corona situation i could experience one of the most important cultural event of european people.
I started to packing for my exciting travel. Marie was informing me about christmas and according to her suggestions i went to market to buy some christmas presents to her parents. As far as i learnt they like some special Tirolian foods such as Getrocknete Steinpilze and Tiroler Speck. As far as i learnt presents are one of the most enjoyful part of Christmas! (I will tell others below)
I was just leaving from the shopping center. Something took my attention and i started to walk toward the place. It was a Christmas Tree shop, surrounded by fences and there were lots of various size of trees. They were just waiting for to be bought. This reminded me our Sacrifice Fest in Turkey. During this fest, lot of cow and sheep bazaars appears around the cities. And people goes there and buy one animal for their family. Then bring them to butcher. They take 1/4 of meats and they donate the rest 3/4 meats to poor people. It is such a social event makes bridge between poor and rich people. Also people visit their families, elder parents and we cook and eat all together for 4 days.
On 19th of December i was in the train from Innsbruck to Saarland. When the train crossed the German border 3 polices came to me and asked for passport and my travel quarantine registiration. Even as a person from out of Europe like me, it was so unusual to have border control in schengen. But they were so nice and helpful. After 5 years i was in Germany again and while watching outside from window i was thinking about how time flows rapidly even we don’t realize…
During my travel i had 3 train transfer, and it was so impressive to observe places from Telfs to Saarland all the way around. The train passed huge cities like Munich, small cities like Kufstein, and smaller towns and villages which surrounded by farms. You can even realize in this route changing of plant types. This was such a nice experience.
I have arrived to Saarbrücken at late hour. Marie picked me up from train station and we went their home. Her parents didn’t sleep and wait for welcome me. This was such cute and warm. I was also so tired because of the travel and everybody went to sleep…
Saarbrücken is a small city which based around old coal mines at south-west of Germany. City is consist of small streets and really nice and old traditional houses. As an architect, i impressed from this well preserved town and low density buildings.
Decorating Christmas Tree!
Next morning, i woke up quite late because of my tireness. When i went downstairs there was already a big tree middle of the living room. Marie and her father was trying to put some lights on the tree. He offer me a coffee for getting awake (probably i was still looking so tired). He went to kitchen and i helped Marie for putting lights. After completing lights we start to put other decorations. End of the day we have a so cute christmas tree. I was curious about what happening these trees after christmas. I asked this her mother and she answered ‘We throw them from window’. This is another funny and cultural part of christmas. I said ‘ So it is in good place now. Near the window!’
Christmas Evening and Dinner!
My favorite part was just beginning. The thing about christmas which made me most impressed was dinner with family. Since before i traveled there, Marie was mentioning family gathering is the soul of Christmas. I understand her better when i witness it. Since i came to Austria, almost 3 months passed. While i spend time with Marie’s family, i realize that how much i miss this family atmosphere.
They had invited her aunt and she didn’t even know i am from Turkey. This unknown caused too many funny moments. After a while we get know each other and before dinner when we drink champange she was looking at me so strange. And suddenly she asked ‘Are you allow to drink alcohol?’. Everybody started to laughing because i was the person who was drinking beer all the time in last 3 days. After a while we sat dinner table and there was a slice of bacon on my bread. She started to starring at me the same way like before. And she asked again ‘Are you allow to eat bacon?’. Actually it was so nice of her that warning me about. But others they know that i am already eating bacon and drinking alcohol, they start laughing everytime after these type of questions. But i informed her patiently about more than half of Turkish people have a secular life like me and also we are not riding camels… 🙂
After dinner we sat in livingroom and all presents were already under the tree. I wasn’t expecting that they also buy some presents for me too. This is why i really suprised and was so happy. I had already become the child that i was watching only in movies who getting lot of presents in christmas. We opened the packages with a game. Everyone choosed a number on a dice. We roll dice and the person who matched with the number go for open one of his packet. After these ritual we made a video call with Marie’s grandmother and her brother who studying in Innsbruck. We spent rest of evening with drinking chatting and playing games.
Rest of my days in Saarbrucken passed as same like Christmas evening. We were cooking, eating, playing, watching movies together. I even cooked some Turkish dishes for them. After being long time alone in quarantine in Austria, this family gathering was brilliant for me.
Consequently, all the time i spent with a family in christmas mood made me notice that even most of new generation people from both side of east and west prefer staying away from a religious life, they should still keep these type of events to keep family relations alive. Thus we will save our organic connections despite of globalization which makes us living, studying, working far away easily from our hometowns and making our family relationships weaker. No matter how we mention them: Christmas, Easter, Ramadan or Eid, we are still human and we will always need those deep connections with our past.
And we will always be in need of a real warm hug more than a whatsapp emoji.
Last Sunday I had the opportunity to visit the Montessori school in Telfs, guided by two lovely workers: Zita – teacher, former Esk volunteer and Foteini- current Esk volunteer.
The Montessori Method of Education is different from the school system that we know, what we would define as „regular“.
It emphasizes independence and it views children as naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive environment. It discourages some conventional measures of achievement, such as grades and tests. At the school in Telfs, they welcome kids from 5 to 15 years old.
I was not aware of the details of that method before, and when I got to know them, they sparked some reflections. I think we could all take inspiration and example from that and ask ourselves some important questions.
Why do I want the things that I want?
In Montessori School, there is a general program that teachers follow and three main subjects : German, Mathematics, and the Science of the Cosmos. Two things really stood out to me regarding the academical program. Firstly, one day per week is dedicated to contact with Nature. Secondly, children can choose to deepen a specific topic according to their predispositions and inclinations. There is no particular ranking or order that they have to respect, or judgement.
As a result, they have the opportunity to get in touch with their true preferences and what gives them joy and purpose. They are free from a very young age to unleash their potential and their natural curiosity.
Why is it so important to ask ourselves this question as adults? To understand how much of what we think we want is spontaneous and genuine and therefore brings us motivation and meaning, and what was learned as a result of a poor and discriminatory education system. Often we are taught that some passions belong to a lower category of skills, or maybe they won’t get us anywhere in life. With these premises it is undoubtedly more difficult to discover what gift we are meant to bring as unique individuals in this World. Which is a crucial part of living a life filled with relevant and positive experiences.
Where do I create my home?
The Montessori School in Telfs looks like a big family house. When the students get inside, they take off their shoes and wear slippers. In the secondary class, they cook 3 times per week , planning the whole menu ahead. Classes eat all together and clean after themselves, they also take care of laundry and ironing. This is, in my opinion, a good method to learn responsibility, obviously. But other that than, it pushes people to give a personal contribution to their environment. In today´s society we tend to focus more on permanent achievement rather that how important it is to grow together with our surroundings, developing, learning about it and also shaping it, somehow. We often forget that our voices and actions matter. We are connected and we can create meaningful experiences for ourselves.
DO I SPEND ENOUGH TIME IN NATURE?
Many of us are getting progressively further from mother nature. This is understandable and logical considering urbanization. Still, we should keep in mind how important is for us, as humans, to form a relationship with grass, lakes, rivers and mountains. I think this is crucial in the teaching of Montessori School, kids spend one day per week immersed in the green. Here the territory is so amazingly beautiful and nature is rich, which makes it simples to just take a walk through the backyard and be in the forest.
Every time we step into nature and reduce external distractions we are recharging and meditating. Nature heals. It´s scientifically proven that <<Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones>>.
I think everyone can take inspiration and example from this method of learning. As individuals and as a collective.
Today I opened my window when I woke up and I was reflecting about my new lovely hometown.
They say that moving abroad has different phases, the first is the honeymoon phase. It is described as being filled with excitement and curiosity.
Hi, my name is Ilaria. I come from Italy and I have moved to Hall in Tirol in October 2020. As a person who has lived in a foreign country two times before moving to Austria, I can definitely confirm that feeling of enthusiasm and adventure that comes with moving.
Every ordinary task seems new, sceneries are fresh and the opportunity to discover everything is fascinating.
Nevertheless, every single place holds a unique charme and peculiar taste. It is often hard to describe exactly the sensations that a place is able to communicate. Therefore, I would like to do it through my five senses, so that you can experience Tirol as if you were in my head, through lenses of foreign eyes.
Pure white snow on the mountains surface, illuminated by the sun, makes a perfect contrast with the blue sky.
As much as I am used to see mountains around me since I grew up under the Italian Alps, I am stll amazed by how majestic they look here. Even when the weather is not clear and looks foggy, they have a fantastical glamor.
Autumn, my favourite season,is turning the colours from green to orange,yellow and gold. No better way to mark the succession of the Seasons. Everythig is now evolving.
There is a cute organic bakery, just down the street, couple minutes away from my apartment here in hall in Tirol. Everytime I pass by, this is what I smell: cloves, fennel seeds, cinnamon and cooked apple.
If I go towards Mills for a walk in the woods I can see the pretty houses with their small gardens and I smell the scent of burning wood and fresh grass.
Except for the sound coming from the skatepark just nearby my apartment, I can hear the bells from the village church, they remind me of home, together with the singing birds in the morning.
Also, If I take a walk in more remote areas I can clearly distinguish the sound of the river flowing. The wind through the leaves of trees, is caressing everything.
Hands down, Tirol to me tastes like chees. Chees and butter. Like a comforting meal when you get home after a long walk . Like a warm, enjoyable soup during a cold winter day. No coincidence one of the best dishes is Spatzle.
Cozy. Warming wool. A homemade, soft sweater that you can wear for a family gathering or a brunch with friends.
I hope I was able to convey my appreciation for this beautiful corner of paradise that is kindly hosting me for the next year. I would not want to be anywhere else right now. I am very grateful for this opportunity .
I am Aleksandra and I come from Poland. I have been working as an ESK volunteer since the early October of 2020. My Austrian adventure started in a Youth Centre “Yunit” in Schwaz. It’s an amazing place for youth to spend their free time. Even though it has a lot of things to offer, e.g. board games, billiard and snacks, the best thing about Yunit is its stuff – a group of compassionate people, who are always full of ideas. They deeply care about the local community and no matter the circumstances, they find a way to bond with the youth. Watching them interacting with teenagers made me sure that I would be surrounded by complete professionals for the next year.
One of the projects, which were undertaken before lockdown, was painting a wall. Youngsters were supposed to paint particular parts of the wall according to their wish. It was not only an opportunity for kids to express themselves artistically, but also to leave their own permanent mark, therefore contributing to the youth centre.
I think we can all agree that we live in peculiar times. Covid turned our world around, forcing us to face problems that we didn’t expect. Lockdown, which started at the beginning of November, completely changed the way in which Yunit works. Youth centre had to be closed but it didn’t stop the crew from caring about the teenagers in Schwaz. Part of the team started doing street work which turned out to be successful and appreciated by both teenagers and parents. Moreover, we stay in touch with youth via Instagram. On @yunit.schwaz (Follow us, if you can!), teens can find awesome recipes, present ideas, take part in photo contests and much more.
Due to the closure of my youth centre, I was transferred to work in a retirement home. Even though I wasn’t surrounded by youngsters anymore, I found this experience truly nice. I met tons of new people who made me feel appreciated every day of my work. I feel lucky that my volunteering project gives me opportunities to grow and develop in so many ways. Even when things don’t go as planned, they can be fixed with a little patience and creativity.
Limitations and the lockdown have hardly any positive sides but if there is any lesson I learnt from this – it is to always be flexible. The ever-changing world calls for unconventional solutions. Adaptability might be the most valuable feature in these uncertain times. Swimming with the flow and being open for changes will bring us way more joy than hanging on tightly to a plan.
I have no idea what 2021 will bring but I am ready and excited for whatever may come!
(This post is a sort of continuation and conclusion for the “Caturday” post I made back in April. While the quarantine is now over, I felt something needed to be added.)
Katzenheim is a small cat refuge located in Schwaz. It is linked to the “Tierschutzverein für Tirol”, an animal welfare association in the Tirol region. This place welcomes cats without owners, stray cats, or abandoned, or lost. It also accepts pregnant cat mothers and newborn kittens.
The place itself feels warm and welcoming to cats and humans alike, being more like a home than an animal prison. And the people here, professionals and volunteers alike, do their best to take care of these feline refugees, and, if possible, find them a home.
If you find yourself longing for some feline company, you can come and adopt one of the residents here. Kitten or old cat, black or white, quiet or playful, athletic or chubby: there may be a suitable companion for you.
Alternatively, if you live around schwaz and would like to get to know all of them, the shelter is always looking for volunteers to help them provide their pensionnaires with enough care and attention.
For me, I discovered the place in the middle of the confinement, thanks to the good advice of a concerned colleague. Like many people, that was not a good period for me. In fact, looking back, it may have been my absolute lowest point, emerging from a very trying winter only to enter a spring of forced passivity and powerless anxiety.
I was not alone, many people actually tried to help us all getting through that time, including the team and the other volunteers from pojat, but online socialization and distant relationships were never my strong points, and through all that I did not see much to do, write, or say, that could make it better, so I mostly kept to myself.
I started volunteering in Katzenheim, a couple of times at first, then almost everyday until the end of the shutdown; and still two or three times a week once my youth center reopened. It gave me something to do that made me feel both happy and useful. It helped give me enough will to go back to work, and later to start some projects of my own. Enough will to recontact old friends and try making new ones. Enough will to finally write this post.
Maybe that text is a bit late. The confinement has been over for 3 months, after all. But maybe confinement will come back at a later date, or maybe someone will feel as I did, for completely unrelated reasons.
I guess the point of this post is not about cats. Some people are allergic to them, some people don’t like them, some people simply don’t care about them; so what worked for me is obviously not going to work for everyone. But the actual point is, something worked. Things do, sometimes, get better.
And if that last sappy comment is not for you, then here is at least some more cute kittens.
Today I thought it’s the right day to share this video that I started to record in the first week of the quaranteen and that I finished editing today. I hope this first day back in “freedom” for Tirol will be a rebirth for all of us!
What do you think about work? For some, it is a question of how to do it less; and for some others, it is a matter of survival in society. Let’s take this one: work is one of the basis of societies. People have nightmare or dreams with their jobs because it defines our status, it gives us freedom, it enters us into adulthood, it gives us a purpose… But you know that working as and independant young one is hard and the EU deals with this problem? Here is my reflexion.
There are several points that we all can define as the causes of unemployability before the 30’s years old. Let me get into the point(s). Some organizations or companies have the fear of having unexperts working with them so some of them require even years in the same sector. This also makes the youth fear and insecurities. Youth might think they are always unprepared so they must have a lot of studies. That’s our next point. People believe that we must have a career mandatory. (Insert dramatic voice) Unless you have superior studies, you would fail in life without a job. How killing!
We can work with medium studies and with no studies. Since I’m in Austria, I discovered that there’s a lot of posibilities if you don’t have huge status diploma and thousands of courses and three languages fluently spoken like a native. Not only fault of our mentality but companies as we said before. How then can we have experience if you don’t let us work? I give clues later.
And then let me speak about the conditions. Youth people often have to live with their parents hundreds of kilometers away from the work just because the apartments or the houses are so expensive that it is imposible to be independant and start a family/new life alone. But how my father can do it and not me? He has experience on his job and you don’t, so the first years you may gain between the 40% and the 60% of what you would earn in 3-5 years; And that’s if the contract is for an undefined time, which is more commom to find it temporally. And gender or nationalities is often an issue of unequality in companies.
This sounded really despairing and I put companies as the same level as the Evil incarnated. I do apologize. But the truth is that we are fighting this. The most clear: what I do. Yes, I am a volunteer and this a win-win job. I give my hand in a certain area while I learn in a foreign country and I can make a Youthpass (we spoke before in another post) that is like a resumee of what I did here; And let me tell you that is even more useful to ask for a job than a career diploma in many cases. We also work!
Also, this is not the only thing that you can find. Internet is crowed with ideas, experiences, blogs, suggestions, international jobs, interships, non-European volunteers and much more that is headaching to think. People share their experiences in social media, ask then how they did; organizations offer interships or scholarships, fight to apply them; companies look for crew of other countries, use all the tools on your hand to give them reasons to hire you.
This can also help with the people of distance and the difficulties of living alone. Then you receive conditions that allow you to stay: a paid insurance, a place to live while your work is on during a period of time and any sort of subsidy. Do you want also one of my advice? Enterpreneurship doesn’t only mean to create your company. If you use the (psychological) tools that enterpreneurs pray like it was the Bible, this world is at your shoes. There’s a lot of courses of enterpreneurship even for free that you can use in your own direction. And here’s the second advice: enterpreneurship is based on energy. Energy to create, energy to be responsible, energy to be brave, energy to think, energy to meet… Being active in a nutshell.
If you accomplish these requirements, you prove to be one of the best options of the market. Wouldn’t this then guarantee you a position in the company? You don’t need to answer. Proof to be that master, that salvation, that mesiah that they are waiting for. Thus they won’t even care about gender, nationality, ethnicity or any kind of that. Companies are greedy so instead of fighting, be better than they and proove it that you’re the way to make them gain money.
One or two more general advices
First, the father quote: boy, this is tough. So allow yourself to fail and be patient. Of course you can be scared, but don’t let the fear win this time. With corona-stuff we entered into a crisis and we need new ideas and fast people that can save the economy; so take this another father quote on mind: don’t stare at the floor, the sky is upper your head. Also try not to be nervous. It is not like to be dressed casual or in smoking-suite. Be yourself and avoid lies. For many, being dressed in a simple way is better than being “over-fancy”. This also applies to respect; Speak with respect to the people you are suround, but don’t exceed your esteem, you’re not talking to the queen. And finally but not less important: always learn from others and yourself.