ON THE WAY TO 2020: Interview with Theres Baertschi


(Theres Baertschi, staff member of SCI Switzerland)

When and where was your first workcamp?

It was in 1984. Through a scholarship, I was invited to an international programme in Germany. During my internship, I was sent to the camp in the outskirts of Hamburg. We transformed the garden and the surroundings of a campus to an ecological spot by establishing attracting spaces for different beneficial organisms.

Volunteering in various ways is a very important part of my life. My last workcamp was two years ago in a nature reserve on Lake Baikal.


What is your current role In SCI?

By the end of May, I will hand over most of my tasks and retire. I have been a staff member in SCI Switzerland for 22 years. I was responsible – among other things - for the North-South exchange and for the placement of outgoing long term volunteers. I also was the finance officer. For the near future, I will continue with the bilateral programme with CIS countries we recently took over from another organisation.


What are the strengths of SCI?

It includes all ages and backgrounds and it has a strong mission of peace. The network has been able to find answers to changing needs of volunteering, keeping always in mind that our deeds contribute to peace and talking about the peace impact of our activities. I’m sure that SCI can continue counting on volunteers committing themselves and ensure the base of the organisation.


And what are the challenges for SCI?

There are so many fields requiring action from committed volunteers. We have to be aware of limited time resources which people have.

Commercial travel/volunteer organisations are good at telling the interested people how important volunteering abroad is for the CV. This kind of motivation is in competition with intrinsic motivation.

How do we deal with the climate change? Can we still promote workcamps that require long trips?


When did you realise that peace is something important?

Peace is important to me since I could think. In 1967, when Israel captured and occupied the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria, my perception of the world started to lose its clear outlines. I was confused: Which reports should I believe? 1968 Prague spring, raised my political awareness. I was terrified to see the attacks of the powerful on peacefully protesting civilians.

My understanding of peace includes respect for all humans but also for nature, animals and plants.


What does the year 2020 mean to you?

It is a great thing that SCI survived for so long and is still going strong! I like the feeling of being part of this movement for many years, as staff. Throughout the history, people have been growing in the movement and I was impressed many times by meeting activists who dedicated their life to SCI.


How do you personally want to celebrate 2020?

I hope 100 actions for peace* or even more will be happening and I hope to participate at least in some of them. I’m a spontaneous person and will jump into actions that just arise. And I hope to continue participating in workcamps beyond 2020.

* During the timeframe of 24th of May 2019 till 30th of September 2020 all branches and groups of SCI will organize together,-like in a relay race- 100 actions for peace to symbolize and emphasize the 100 years of SCI and its peace-mission


*Interview by Wilbert Helsloot


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