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Scouts practise multilingual team spirit

A joint effort - putting up a pole together swissinfo.ch

Some 500 youths from abroad, including young expats, are taking part in the national summer camp organised by the Swiss Scout Movement.

This content was published on July 24, 2008 - 15:57

They are among more than 25,000 children, guides and volunteers who have pitched their tents in the southeastern region of Lake Zurich where they will stay until the beginning of next month.

The 22 Swiss abroad are living proof of the theme of the summer camp, Contura 08 - forging ties among different language groups.

The expat youths came a long way and were the last group to arrive at their site of Tuggen.

The largest group travelled to Switzerland from Chile where they attend the Swiss school.

"Everybody seems very nice. I don't always understand what people say but I'm having a great time," says 11-year-old Joaquin. It's his first visit to Switzerland and he looks forward to building "towers or some other special construction".

His help is welcome in setting up the communal tent around a tree trunk. The children are pulling on ropes to keep the trunk in a vertical position.

Language learning

Other children came from Germany, France and Sweden as well as from the United States, Brazil and Colombia. They were invited by the Foundation of the Swiss Abroad to attend the camp for the first time.

Amelie, 12, comes from Gothenburg in Sweden and regularly visits relatives in Switzerland.

"I hope to have fun here and perhaps I can learn some German," she says.

Foreign languages are also spoken on other sites of the summer camp since scouts from 14 different countries have made their way to Switzerland. There are also 280 scout members with disabilities and their helpers taking part in the event.

Preparation

It took the many volunteers more than ten days to set up the basic infrastructure of the camp, but preparations began three years ago.

"It is a huge effort and it takes the motivation and energy of a scout generation to mount such a large event," says spokesman Philip Wernli, who is known under his scout name Chipo.

He says it is very pleasing to see the thousands of happy scout members arriving at their campsites.

A few kilometres east in Benken, 14-year-old Joël (Zippo) is busy working on a tree trunk next to a water slide.

"It is an experience you don't have very often," he says because this is the first national camp in 14 years for the Swiss.

"Let's hope the weather will be nice," adds Joël who leads the tiger patrol from the village of Kleinlützel in northern Switzerland.

Eleven year old Fabia who is set to receive her girl guide name at the event appears to have a clear idea of what to expects: "Go hiking and do something together with all the others from our camp."

Around the world

The kids in Kaltbrunn live the motto of their camp to the full. They are dressed up as members of numerous ethnic communities from around the world.

In reality the small Vikings, pirates and North African desert dwellers are brownies aged eight to 11, experiencing their first national camp.

"We had to adapt the infrastructure for the needs of the young ones," says spokesman Chipo.

Special tents, kitchens and toilets were set up to make the camp experience a bit more comfortable for them.

"We want them to take home happy memories of the days spent here," he says.

swissinfo, based on an article in German by Christian Raaflaub

In brief

Switzerland's Scout Movement is the country's largest youth organisation with around 700 local groups.

It has about 45,000 members, but numbers have been dwindling over the past 15 years.

The Swiss scouts are part of the World Organization of the Scout Movement and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.

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Contura 08

The national summer camp is taking place at eight sites in the Linth plain in eastern Switzerland until August 2. It is the first such event in 14 years.

About 25,000 children, guides and volunteers from all four language regions of the country, including 500 guests from abroad, are taking part in the two-week camp.

An open day is being held next Sunday and Swiss President Pascal Couchepin is due to address the scouts on Swiss National Day on August 1.

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