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More cows than people

A hidden region between some alpine mountains.

On first sight, the Bregenzerwald may seem a bit boring, but well, it isn’t. We got so much more to offer than just cows and cheese, although these are deeply connected to our cultural life.

This article should be about my ‘hometown’ and yes, Alberschwende is my ‘hometown’, but it’s actually a small village, inside the Bregenzerwald region, with about 3.300 people living there. Even though I’m not really the biggest fan of Alberschwende there are a few things worth mentioning. The most popular thing of ours may be the ‘KulturKäsKlatsch'”, which could be translated into ‘CultureCheeseClub’. The ‘KäsKlatsch’ takes place every Thursday next to our church.

By the way, right behind the church, there is our ‘Dorf Linde’ (‘Village Lime’) located, which is the landmark of our village. The legend tells that 700 years ago the first human being, whoever came across this area, stuck his walking stick, which of course was made of lime wood, into the ground and from that our tree could grow.

Except for myself, there is only one famous guy from Alberschwende, Hermann Gmeiner. You probably do not know his name but surely his life’s work, that guy was the founder of the SoS Children’s Villages worldwide, which helps orphans all over the world.

Short bio of the volunteer:

My name is Raphael Johler and I am from a small country. I lived in Austria my whole life with my family and I also went to high school in Egg which actually is a place, not a thing to eat… Right now I am doing my EVS (European Volunteer Service) in Funchal, Portugal. My biggest passion, of course, is skiing. In Winter I usually work as a ski instructor in a local Ski resort located in the Bregenzerwald.


Erasmus+ is a programme of the European Commission embracing the fields of education, training, youth and sports during the period 2014-2020. One of the major aspects is the cooperation between the different fields where the programme acts, hence contributing for a diverse and rich Europe.

Amongst the several goals of the programme, the following are prioritised: the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, including the headline education target; the aims of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), including the corresponding benchmarks; the sustainable development of Partner Countries in the field of higher education; the overall goals of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018); the objective of developing the European dimension in sport, in particular grassroots sport, in line with the EU work plan for sport and the promotion of European values in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union.

In order to achieve these goals, the Erasmus+ has several action policies. The Key Action 1 (KA1) is directed towards the mobility of people; Key Action 2 (KA2) for the cooperation for innovation and the interchange of good experiences; and Key Action 3 (KA3) which is for the support of reformation policies.

European Voluntary Service

Since 1991 the University of Madeira Students’ Union has developed a wide incentive policy for voluntary work. In 2013 the Students’ Union started the process to receive, send and coordinate Erasmus+ projects of the European Voluntary Service, in order to have a larger influence in the volunteering field. The Union received its first volunteer withing the ambit of a KA1 project in 2014. Many efforts have been done to allow young people from Madeira to take part in several initiatives in Europe, as well as propose several projects allowing young people from several countries to work in the projects of the Students’ Union of the University of Madeira. The main goal of the voluntary work is the contribution of the volunteers to the communities and places they will be staying, being their work not rewarded with payment.

We believe that the European Voluntary Service is a mechanism full of experiences, allowing the approved candidates to have the privilege of taking part in these projects and benefit the places and communities where these volunteers will be staying.

Since 2013, the University of Madeira Students’ Union has received volunteers that have collaborated in several activities and initiatives. Besides being able to enjoy a wonderful experience which will contribute to their personal and professional growth, they are able to contribute in a unique way to the community in which they are inserted and to join dozens of volunteers from the University of Madeira.