May I briefly introduce myself: My name is Hauke Nienkerk, I´m 20 years old and together with one fellow, I´m volunteering as a participant of the “European Voluntary Service“ at VDC Zagorje. The Varstveno delovni Center provides work, leisure activities and first of all social interaction for people with various disabilities from the entire region.In VDC we support the users in their regular tasks, bear company and provide alternation.
As it was told to us some month ago, that we might get the opportunity to accompany a group of users and mentors to their yearly „wintering“ trip, I for my part have to admit, I was a bit sceptical about what to expect. All I knew was: it would be a trip of five days in march to some place were one could ski. Furthermore, there were rumors everywhere around VDC, that some scary initiation, called „Krst“ has to happen to all newbies, which didn´t make it any better. However, the time came closer and with the confirmation of our participation, some more information was given to us: We would go about two and a half hours by bus to a place called Ribnica na Pohorju near Austria.
The day came and fearlessly we entered the bus together with about 40 users and 10 mentors. It took us to the determined place where we faced a tiny little village, two houses containing our appartments, a ski slope that was desperately forced to keep the last cubic meters of snow and damn good weather (which stayed with us almost the whole time by the way). After moving into our appartment, which was located in the same house with all of the users appartments, each of them for about eight persons, day zero started with a hike to the next hill. While on the way we were collecting wood for the bonfire the other day, we eventually came to a farm on the top where everybody got excited either about some horses and a donkey or chocolate offered to us by the farming family.
Foto: Arhiv VDC
I could try to give you a protocolar overview about all the activities and enjoyed moments of the week, but I think it would remain an attempt since in my memory from that point on it all blurres out into five of the most interesting and fun days of the entire time I´m here now. In general, the days were filled with skiing in the mornings and evenings, daily activities such as baking bread with sausages over the bonfire, playing games, hunting a treasure with the aid of encrypted messages, hiking even more and having a sports festival. And then there is the feared baptism, two hours of disgracing challenges for us and our six newbie-fellows, both mentors and users, which got us being knighted to real „winterers“ by a flood of ice under the shirt and a slap on the bottom. Since we were soared into the exquisite community, we could conclude the adventure with our heads held high at the last evening where we raved the floor at final disco.
It was undoubted an experience as I would have never expected it. It gave me a whole new point of view on the work of VDC, the community spirit which prevails inclusively among users and mentors and the fact that it is about so much more than just work and care – it is about a strong community held together by common experiences and a lot of humor.
Autor: Hauke Nienkerk
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