Ximena, a 32-year-old business woman from Santiago, Chile, is loving her experience as a social volunteer for Bergen Hostel Montana in western Norway. So what inspired her to help hostel guests on a Norwegian hillside?
Ragna Skøien from HI – Norway spoke to her to find out:
“Nobody told me hiking could be fun!” Ximena said with a big smile.
One of three social volunteers at hostels dotted across western Norway, she joins Sonia from Bolivia and Anneke from Germany in organising outdoor activities stimulating a social environment for guests.
“I wanted to do something for others, to volunteer. Here in Norway I have had the opportunity to get to know a lot of interesting new people and be the meeting point between hostel guests from all over the world.”
On her arrival, Ximena spent 3 weeks at Bergen Hostel Montana, located on the hillside of Norway’s second biggest city. Here, she took a crash course in how to be a social volunteer, focusing on its basic principle – to be a conversation catalyst between guests.
What does it involve?
Social volunteers organise activities for, and with, the hostel guests. This can be pretty much anything; from making free coffee and cookies in the afternoon creating a chance for people to speak to each other, to arranging canoe trips or city walks.
No tasks undertaken by daily hostel staff are involved here, purely stretching your wings as a social butterfly.
“What I really love about this programme is that it is all about the people, to get the hostel guests to speak with each other and have fun together” – Ximena says.
“One group went kayaking with me in Bergen, and this was an amazing experience which turned us all into a group of friends. That’s what I love! Also, being a social volunteer gives me the chance to choose what activities I think will work the best.”
From the day she landed in Bergen, Ximena fell in love with the Norwegian nature.
“The landscape, the mountains, the centre of Bergen – everything was so beautiful” Ximena describes her first meeting with Western Norway.
“In my home country, a similar culture of outdoor activity does not exist. Here I bike, go for hikes and swim together with the hostel guests. It’s fantastic!”