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ISB Students Lending a Hand

In addition to academics, service is an integral part of student life at International School Basel. Being located in Basel, Switzerland offers our students and staff wonderful opportunities to get involved in the local community and learn the language.

A recent project spearheaded by two ISB Senior School students, EnYu and Liv, showcased both service and language acquisition in an effort to connect with the local community. Read more about how the project resulted in over thirty Grade 11 students volunteering at the local Coop in Gartenstadt, interacting and helping local customers.

How did you come up with the idea for your CAS project?

It started as a small one-time event for our German class led by Mrs. Nguyen, but later was passed onto us and became our CAS project with various students from different classes. We were inspired by a newspaper article, stating that there is a lack of integration between our school and the Swiss community due to the students not learning German. However, the fact is that German is mandatory for students below Grade 9 and 86% of students still continue with German lessons after this. To work on integration with the local community, we decided to start with a small task, such as packing groceries at the Coop Gartenstadt. 

Why did you choose to help the community and specifically volunteer at Coop?

Coop Gartenstadt is only two stops away from our school and a lot of students go there during lunch or after school. Therefore, it was the first idea that came to our mind when brainstorming for a place to collaborate with this community project. 

What were your goals for the project?

We hope that through our work, the local community understands that ISB students are willing and trying to integrate themselves into the local community as much as possible. Additionally, we hope that students feel more integrated, and hence, have more confidence to participate in the community.

How did you prepare for the project?

We first wrote to Mr Köllemann and Mr Aruni, the managers of Coop Gartenstadt, to confirm the date of the project after which we started advertising in our grade. The Grade 11 language teachers were all very friendly and allowed us to briefly present our project during a lesson. Mrs Nguyen is a very supportive supervisor. She gave us time during our German lessons to design a poster and get everyone in our class to fill out a student profile. Without her, we would not have organised such a successful event.

Once we have got around twenty people signed up, we emailed Mr. Köllemann again to set up a meeting. During the meeting, we officially presented our project to Mr. Aruni and discussed the set-up on the day. The day before the project, the volunteers were all given "Student Ambassador T-shirts" as well as general information about the logistics of the day.

How many students/staff participated in the project?

A total of thirty-one students and three teachers were involved in the project. We helped with packing groceries and organising baskets and trolleys. This number of participants is likely to increase next time as a lot of students have expressed interest in this project after their friends told them how much fun it was!

What was your experience volunteering and helping to pack groceries?

En Yu: It was very nerve-wracking in the beginning. I thought I was ready for the project and when I get there I will get straight into the mood and be able to serve the people. When I got there, I had no idea how to approach customers and I didn’t know where to start. Once I took the first step, I got further familiar with the process and by the end of the first hour, I was a pro at packing groceries!

Liv: I was excited to help with packing groceries, however, I was nervous that people would not appreciate our help. I later found out that people were very intrigued by our project and wanted to know more. It felt natural to hold conversations with customers and I was not nervous to ask if they wanted help at all (something I would usually find very difficult, being quite an introverted person). The shift went by very fast and I actually had a lot of fun, especially since I had some friends with me to help pack.

How did the local community receive the volunteers?

Customers were very intrigued by our project and appreciated our help a lot. They were extremely surprised when they found out that we did not want to collect money through this project. Customers were prepared to give money as they are used to local school students working at Coop from time to time in order to collect money for their trips and projects. Our project was simply in order to facilitate the integration of ISB students into the local community by carrying out free voluntary work. 

Do you feel you met your goals?

We definitely got closer to our goals. Several customers came up to us and thanked us for our service and praised us for our good work. We all tried our best to show kindness and friendliness to the customers and I’m sure that they felt it too. This is something we are planning on doing again next year. 

Do you have any future plans to volunteer again or keep the project going with future students?

We are planning to do this two or three more times to keep up the great outcomes and to help people see that we aren’t doing this on a whim. At ISB, we want to show that we are committed and integrated, and are therefore planning on doing it again.