“What are pancakes?” – “Come, let’s cook them together!”

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Scouts and Guides contributing to refugee support activities in their local communities in Europe (45): a story from Vienna in Austria.

“What are pancakes?” – “Come, let’s cook them together!” This is the kind of dialogue you may have recently heard at the weekly meeting of the “Camelot” Rangers and Rovers (commonly called RaRo, these are Scouts and Guides aged between 16 and 21 years) of Vienna’s 32nd Scout and Guide Group (Vienna 32) in Austria (members of Pfadfinder und Pfadfinderinnen Österreichs). The pancake cooking activity was part of the programme run by the Rangers and Rovers with and for unaccompanied young refugees in the framework of the #rarofugees project launched by the Vienna Scouts and Guides last winter.

“The aim of this project is to have RaRo – the members of our senior age section – of different Viennese Groups organise activities with and for unaccompanied young refugees staying in refugee centres in their neighbourhood”, explains Ernst, recently elected Chief Scout of Vienna, “In this way, the RaRo not only offer a valuable interruption to the otherwise rather monotone free time activities of the young refugees, but they also contribute their share to allow them to feel a little more at home in their new environment!”

Convinced by the purpose of the #rarofugees project, the “Camelot” RaRo from Vienna’s 32nd Scout and Guide Group started planning their own #rarofugees activity. “What kind of activities can we envisage?”, “Do we have sufficient funds?”, “Are their any particular risks?”, “How can we reach out to the young refugees?“, “Do they speak English or German?” – these where just a few of the questions the RaRo Group discussed in December.

Then this Saturday in January came, with the hosts well prepared but not really sure what to expect: “Seventeen (17) youngsters from a nearby refugee centre came to our meeting that afternoon”, remembers Christoph, Rover Leader of Vienna 32. “Together, we went skating and I think everybody will remember those three hours for quite some time!” Yes, all were tired and took home some typical souvenirs: soaked cloths, small bruises here and there, a few blisters. After all, skating is not so easy, even if you are not a greenhorn. But the most memorable souvenirs hosts and guests took home that day were the relaxed atmosphere, the shared laughter and new friendships across all language and cultural barriers! “What more could we have hoped for?”, wonders Christoph.

That is why the RaRo decided to organise more #rarofugees activities. “Last weekend”, says Christoph, “we invited another group of young unaccompanied refugees for an afternoon of joint activities in our Scout hall. The nine youngster are currently living in an assisted living community for unaccompanied refugees run by SOS Kinderdorf Austria not far away from the Group’s quarters and have the same age as their hosts.

On the programme: a series of typical traditional Scout and Guide games to help break the ice followed by a pancake party! “What are pancakes?”, the guests asked. “Pancakes – called Palatschinken in Vienna – are one of our traditional dishes and a highlight in the menu of many Scout and Guide camps! Come, let’s cook them together”, is what the hosting RaRo replied.

People looking through the windows of the Vienna 32’s Scout hall would not have noticed any difference between this and other weekly meetings: “Once again”, recalls Christoph, there was a very good atmosphere, with a lot of laughter and smiling faces! It is clear for us that we will continue this kind of activities, not just for the benefit of the participating young unaccompanied refugees but also for the benefit of our Rangers and Rovers!”

“There is a large number of other RaRo Groups throughout our province which take part in our #rarofugees project”, explain Bernadette and Stevie, who coordinate the #rarofugees project for all Viennese Scout and Guide groups, “We can already see the very positive impact these activities have on local communities!”

“Recently, we were approached by Caritas Vienna (the charity association of the Roman Catholic Church), which also runs several refugee homes in Vienna. They asked us to expand our weekly programmes of RaRo groups and young refugees and to also offer it for young people staying in their houses! What really drives the project, however, is the enthusiasm of Rangers and Rovers all over Vienna to coordinate weekly meetings and outings with the young refugees!”

Contributing to text: Christoph (Pfadfindergruppe Wien 32)
(c) image: Pfadfindergruppe Wien 32