Somewhere in the Swiss Forest
Written by Lena Schneider and Paul Griesberger from Austria
For my second time as a SCI Switzerland workcamp coordinator I wanted to be at a special place and country I haven’t been before. That’s why I choose the Swiss Alps. The Alpe Loasa which is right at the border to Italy, surrounded by forest and only reachable by foot was the perfect place to join the SCI association again.
The Alpe Loasa has a long history but since 1984 it belongs to a group from the German speaking part of Switzerland, who lived there as a community. With the help of many young people it was possible to transform the Alpe into a good shape and make life much more comfortable at a height of 970 m above sea level. Today a young family of four people is living at the Alpe all year long and the community still helps maintaining this special place.
Yet the Alpe Loasa needs a lot of helping hands to keep up with all the work still around. Therefore, the SCI is a good opportunity for the community to find some young motivated helpers from all around the world, who may not only be willing to work hard but also enjoy the company of other people and the silence of nature.
We were a group of fifteen people from Russia, Portugal, Belgium, Austria, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Italy and Ukraine.
We helped via rebuilding stone walls, small tasks inside the house and building a storage possibility for drinking water higher up in the mountains by bringing up empty water tanks and secure them with stone walls. We also helped by bringing down the hay from steep meadows. The hay is used to feed the animals living on the farm. The most beloved animal on the farm was the young donkey called Jacky. Tony, the grumpy goat, which had some aggression problems, could only be scared off with the use of water.
The open grassland is not only important for hay harvesting, also a diversity of animals benefits from it. We were witnesses of two honey buzzards flying above our heads and looking for wasps to eat. The hay was full of grasshoppers and other insects. One evening we were able to watch a group of grazing red deer and two young wild boars digging for roots. One special moment for me was the call from a tawny owl, which I was listening to when I already laid in bed.
The life at Alpe Loasa is simple, electricity is only available due to a photovoltaic systemon the roof of the house. Water is either only available when it is raining or when the cistern is filled with water. We never had a lack of water but still we tried to save as much as we could. The shower was a test of courage for everyone (water temperature around 8-12 °C).
The camp only lasts for a week, which is a great opportunity for all people who have limited amount of holidays but still want to do a great job by being a volunteer for SCI. Unfortunately, it was hard to establish a good connection to all the volunteers. Some of them were quite young and partly overstrained by the work. For me this was a new situation. To keep the group together I tried to form a positive group dynamic. In my eyes I think the volunteers get along quite well, found new friends and had all in all a good experience at the SCI workcamp.
I think one of the best parts at the camp, which brought us all together, was the amazing food which we were able to enjoy daily. I am so grateful for Bea’s cooking skills and the support by Gaia and Flo who helped me and my partner leading the camp.
There was time for same fun as well and we could explore the Swiss a little bit more, by either taking a hike up to Monte Bisbino, which is actual in Italy, or walking down to a natural river and taking an ice cold refreshing bath in it.
The long siesta gave the volunteers time to relax, sleep, explore or play games in a smaller group as well.
I was fascinated by the nature and atmosphere which surrounds the Alpe and while writing this article I caught myself wanting to be back in Switzerland.