The “Volunteering@WU - Lernen macht Schule” program works with kids from socially disadvantaged backgrounds and student helpers by encouraging social responsibility and volunteering activities. The program follows the principles of service learning.
The initiative was established in 2010 by Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU), in cooperation with Caritas Vienna and REWE International AG. In this program, WU students can volunteer as learning or music buddies to help kids who have restricted access to educational opportunities due to poverty or social exclusion.
Learning buddies visit facilities run by Caritas Vienna (refugee homes, halfway houses for unaccompanied underage refugees, women’s shelters, support centers, etc.) and the “Lernhaus” run by the Austrian Red Cross one afternoon a week to help kids with their schoolwork, study for tests, and participate in recreational activities. In addition to the weekly visits, learning buddies have the opportunity to participate in field trips, tours, or workshops together with the kids. These activities help both sides learn new things, develop language and social skills, and strengthen the relationship between learning buddies and their partner kids.
Music buddies participate in a choir together with kids from diverse cultural and social backgrounds. Under the artistic direction of the Caritas cultural initiative “Brunnenpassage” music buddies meet with the kids once a week to rehearse, often working on several different performances each semester. Working in teams with other students, music buddies act as the choirs’ managers, ensuring that the weekly rehearsals and performances run smoothly and supporting social cohesion within the groups.
Preparatory courses spanning several days are held for both the learning buddy and the music buddy programs. Supervision and coaching during the program provide volunteers with additional support, and continuous training seminars are available on a regular basis. The total number of seminar hours per participant are about 22h in the first and approx. 9h in the following semester(s). As recognition WU awards the volunteers a certificate and participation can be counted as a free elective.
Over 1000 students have participated in the “Volunteering@WU – Lernen macht Schule" program since 2010. Each year, approximately 120 to 160 students volunteer as learning or music buddies, offering active help and support to about 240 children and teens. Volunteers are not only making a valuable contribution to society, they are also learning to deal with and combat complex social issues – a key skill for tomorrow’s leaders.
Volunteering@WU offers also German language courses for refugee students, in this program WU employees and master students volunteer in conversation classes. Since 2015 about 120 refugees participated in the courses and in 2017 5 students registered as regular students.
The program is funded by REWE International AG and several partners and sponsors such as currently Unilever Austria, Almdudler, Stadt Wien Marketing, Umdasch Foundation, Caverion Österreich, Sofidel, Ströck and Greenyard Fresh Spain.