Barrier-free travel @ Switzerland
Besides having fun and eating good food, there are so much more things you can do when travelling. When I told my family that I wanted to go to a volunteer trip, their responded with questions: Why do you pay to do voluntary work? Why not make good use of the time and money for something better? With some self-doubts I started my first volunteer travel, which turned out to be a life-changing lesson.
In early summer 2012, I arrived at a hotel in Chur , a small town in the eastern part of Switzerland, for an international workcamp called "ONE WORLD". The hotel was operated by a local NGO which supported the deaf. This was part of the 'Access for All' projects by Workcamp Switzerland, which aimed to engage people with different abilities together, and promote social inclusion. A total of 11 workcampers, including two with eye problems and one hearing impaired person joined as volunteers, we all came from different countries. Our duties included cleaning up a river, gardening and kitchen work. During free time, we went exploring the nature. We also learnt sign language and had some cultural exchange activities.
Two weeks passed quickly, we developed team spirit and created valuable memories together. Sometimes there were grievances, but these just helped us know more about each other. One important lesson that we all learnt, was how to stand in other people's shoes. I realised that apart from "Me", there were many other possibilities in the world. Diversity makes the world beautiful.
This 14-day-trip became one of the most valuable moments in my life. It changed not only my perception towards the disabled; but my attitude towards the whole world. Someone said this: "If something is broken, we fix it but not throw it away." If we try to understand others, and make some effort to maintain the relationships, we may have new discoveries in lives.
Volunteer travel is not normal sightseeing, it is how you choose to put away the lifestyle and values you used to have, try to work with people that come from different backgrounds, and establish deep connections among you all. You will probably meet a group of close friends, gain an unforgettable experience, an awakening moment and a new self.
PS: Inspired by the trip, I continued to participate in local volunteer work for social inclusion in Hong Kong. In 2014 I organized the first "Access for all" weekend workcamp with Voltra HK, an international volunteer organization in Hong Kong, and a local NGO. And there was also a "Wheel Power Challenge", which I organised with a group of friends who shared same values. Through these activities, we hoped to arouse public awareness on social inclusion.
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