Swiss National Soup Day and other amazing community stories

December 14, 2017 — No comments

Schweizer Tafel – Food re-distribution

Schweizer Tafel distributed 4,074 tons of food with a value of 26,6 Million Swiss Francs during the year 2016. In other words, sixteen tons of perfectly fresh food are being distributed every day to social institutions such as homeless homes, soup kitchens, emergency shelters and other social institutions.

It makes one think, doesn’t it? And hopefully not just when we hear these statistics, but when we make a choice buying groceries and at home, in our own kitchen.

How it all started

Yvonne Kurzmeyer watched a tv documentary about City Harvest – a food distribution service to the homeless in New York City – and knew she had to take action. After some research, this decisive woman initiated Tafel Schweiz as a project of the Stiftung Hoffnung (Hope foundation). In December of 2001, the first location in the Capital city of Berne was opened.

“The fact that poverty exists in Switzerland was a taboo in those days. It was difficult to make people understand that poor people do exist in Switzerland,” says Yvonne and continues: “Not only in the developing world, but right here in front of our own door are a lot of poor people who require our help urgently.”

Swiss National Soup Day

Schweizer Suppentag (Swiss National Soup Day), held yearly at the end of November, is Schweizer Tafel’s  food-redistribution awareness & fundraising campaign.

Organized locally in 16 Swiss cities by Rotary, Lions Cubs & private organizations – such as five-star Hotel Schweizerhof in Luzern with their own volunteer-teams – executive chefs are recruited to cook soup which is served to the public in the streets by local prominence in politics, sports and the arts.

The menu is complemented by hearty bread bun and volunteer-baked cakes. All donations go to Schweizer Tafel. 2017 saw the 14th such yearly event which is also supported by a major Swiss bank.

Schweizer Tafel collects excess food from grocery stores and other businesses in twelve different Swiss regions with 37 temperature cooled vehicles. The food is then re-distributed the same day  to 500 social institutions.

Let’s meet at the 15th National Soup Day in November 2018 in a city in Switzerland near you!

Urs Schwarz – sightless basket weaver

When Urs Schwarz was ten years old, he was diagnosed with Kniest syndrome, a genetically-based developmental malformation. A very rare disease with ‘only’ a few hundred cases known throughout the world, there is no known cure.

I meet Urs in the Roten Thurm, a quaint wooden country hotel in a small town in the Emmental. A Christmas market is held on the second floor where the local men’s choir usually meet, but today Urs displays his handwoven willow baskets among a handful of other local craft vendors.

He greets me with gusto and a cheerful smile. He’s used to being interviewed and dives right in: “My mother opened my eyes,” he says. She brought on the lego set and other construction kits for her blind son and they both realized that Urs had a knack for constructing complex structures.

After attending sightless school, the teenager completed his apprenticeship as basket weaver with high marks; – in his sighted class, he was only allowed some additional time to complete the examination.

Willow weaving – age-old craft of beauty

We discuss the different types of willow wood and how the branches are first soaked in a large water trough before Urs weaves them into baskets and other items such as firewood crates, berry containers, doll carriages, lamps, hats, chairs and many more items that he then sells at various country markets. He’s well known for his quality weaving and much liked by local customers and fellow crafts people. Even now as we speak people drop by to say hi and a chat for a few moments.

Urs lives in his self-designed apartment/atelier under the roof of his family’s gorgeous Emmental farmhouse in Eggiwil. Parents Elisa and Walter – both 82 years – and his sister Annerös live here. In the newer part of the farm right next door live his brother Martin who runs the farm, and his other brother Urs.

Social support within the family

For lunch, the family gathers daily at the parents’ table, and the siblings provide transportation and other support for their brother whenever there is need. In his spare time, Urs still enjoys building complex constructs, now with Fischertechnik, and hones his other hobby: radio plays. He has collected an extensive listening-library and is especially proud of his oldest sound-pearl: a 1937 intonation of Wachtmeister Studer-author Friederich Glauser.

It’s been a delight to chat with Urs and hear him speak about his life so unencumbered, about his work in his haste-free, easy-going Bernese dialect. As I purchase my beautiful new flower basket from Urs and he determines the price from the Braille tag attached at the bottom, he tells me he’s come to peace with his fate. “Otherwise I’d have so much to chew on, I’d go berserk,” he laughs.

Buechehof – 30 years of integrated success 

It all started with the purchase of a farm by a group of parents who were determined to create the best possible living-environment for their adult, cognitively impaired children. Thirty years later, Buechehof is a self-sustaining, not-for-profit, organic working farm run for and by 45 cognitively impaired adults.

The parents’ unwaveringly held vision, paired with care for the people and the work overcame many challenges and resulted in the residents being able to live a happy & purposeful life. The bio-dynamic farm also tends to animals and runs a variety of hand work crafts.

Film-maker Peter Bolliger, together with Peter Schurte on the camera, created an insightful and touching movie that dives the viewer right into the beautiful rolling Solothurn farmlands and the world of Buechehof and its inhabitants.

What we are being shown is a world of community, warmth and care – not without challenges – but always with the willingness to work together, live together, solve problems together and to re-invent themselves.

Beautifully portrayed are also the support of the wider community which provides many volunteers for farm work and caregiving. The Major actively supports Buechehof, and the organic market products are in high demand with the locals. It is a mutually beneficial relationship between Buechehof and village and being different is not only accepted, but fully embraced without hesitation.

The movie ‘Wer Freude sät – Leben auf dem Buechehof’ had its first showing in November 2017 and can be seen in movie theatres in Olten and Solothurn. The short clip below provides an excerpt of how the film captivates what life is like in the farm community.

Please share your favorite community benefit story here – in Switzerland or elsewhere – and leave a comment below. Thank you.

About Silvia and Swiss Wanderlust

about-ss

Switzerland travel enthusiast. Cat lover, bicyclist and classical music fan. I prefer walking over running and enjoy a good Swiss card game of Jass among friends.  More about Silvia and Swiss Wanderlust »

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Additional Information

Urs Schwarz Photos: (c) Kurt Reichenbach / Schweizer Illustrierte

National Soup day Photos: Schweizer Tafel

Buechehof Photos: Excerpts from the movie “Wer Freude säht”. Peter Bolliger and Peter Schurte

Swiss National Soup day by Schweizer Tafel

Swiss National Soup day and other community stories
Swiss National Soup day and other community stories
Swiss National Soup day and other community stories
Swiss National Soup day and other community stories
Swiss National Soup day and other community stories

Urs Schwarz – sightless basket weaver

Swiss National Soup day and other community stories
Swiss National Soup day and other community stories
The Spirit of Christmas imbued in three real-life stories, overcoming personal challenges and addressing social problems in Switzerland: A group of parents who bought a farm and enabled happy & purposeful lives for their impaired adult children. A woman who re-distributes overflow food to the poor, and the indomitable spirit of sightless basket weaver Urs Schwarz who prevails over his many challenges and produces beautiful art.
The Spirit of Christmas imbued in three real-life stories, overcoming personal challenges and addressing social problems in Switzerland: A group of parents who bought a farm and enabled happy & purposeful lives for their impaired adult children. A woman who re-distributes overflow food to the poor, and the indomitable spirit of sightless basket weaver Urs Schwarz who prevails over his many challenges and produces beautiful art.
The Spirit of Christmas imbued in three real-life stories, overcoming personal challenges and addressing social problems in Switzerland: A group of parents who bought a farm and enabled happy & purposeful lives for their impaired adult children. A woman who re-distributes overflow food to the poor, and the indomitable spirit of sightless basket weaver Urs Schwarz who prevails over his many challenges and produces beautiful art.

Buechehof integrated farm – the movie

Swiss National Soup day and other community stories
Swiss National Soup day and other community stories
Swiss National Soup day and other community stories
Swiss National Soup day and other community stories
Swiss National Soup day and other community stories

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