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10-year anniversary of the “Lernen macht Schule” initiative

17/01/2020

WU’s volunteering program aims to encourage WU students to engage in volunteer community work.

Access to education is still largely determined by a person’s social background in Austria. Children from low-income families have much lower opportunities for social participation, and their future educational trajectory is largely determined by their social background, even from an early age. To help change this situation, WU, Caritas Vienna, and REWE Group launched the “Lernen macht Schule” initiative in 2010.

115,000 hours of volunteer work performed by highly motivated WU students

Around 120 WU students participate in the “Lernen macht Schule” initiative every year, providing support and assistance to 240 children and teenagers. In total, more than 1,200 students have performed over 115,000 hours of volunteer work so far. The students prepare for their work during intensive seminars, and they receive supervision and coaching to ensure that they can optimally support the kids they are working with. As learning buddies, students help kids with their schoolwork and spend free time together. These activities help strengthen the kids’ social integration and education, and they provide an opportunity for WU students to get to know kids from completely different backgrounds, facilitating mutual exchange and learning and allowing everyone involved to broaden their horizons. WU Rector Edeltraud Hanappi-Egger says, “Through their work with the kids, our students acquire key skills and provide an example of responsibility. At the same time, the kids get to spend time with positive role models who support them in pursuing their interests and talents. The program opens up new perspectives and demonstrates that education always pays off – for a better future.”

Education is the best way of preventing poverty

“From the launch of the program until now, the ‘Lernen macht Schule’ initiative has demonstrated that education is the best way of preventing poverty and the single most decisive factor for ensuring equal opportunities in this country. At Caritas, it is our firm conviction that every single child matters. We are grateful and happy to work with REWE Group and WU Vienna, two partners who share this conviction,” Caritas President Michael Landau said yesterday evening at the 10-year anniversary celebration. REWE Group has been supporting the project right from the start. “For us, the ‘Lernen macht Schule’ initiative isn’t just another sponsoring project. The program is very close to our hearts because it helps to provide equal opportunities for kids,” says Marcel Haraszti, head of REWE Group’s Austrian operations.

Facts and figures

For the duration of a semester, and often even longer, the student volunteers meet with kids on a regular basis. Since 2016, students can also volunteer as music buddies. Under the direction of the KunstSozialRaum Brunnenpassage team, the students and kids form choirs with weekly rehearsals and several performances over the course of the semester. The volunteering program also includes summer camps where students can work as instructors. These one-week camps are intended to provide opportunities for sharing fun and exciting experiences and experiencing positive relationships. Since the fall of 2015, WU has also been offering German classes for refugees at different skill levels as part of the “Lernen macht Schule” initiative. These courses are intended to help refugees interested in starting or continuing an academic education develop the language skills they need to take up a WU degree program. Under the MORE program, the participants are enrolled as non-degree program students, which allows them to take courses from WU’s regular academic portfolio.

  • Every semester, around 120 WU students act as learning or music buddies for socially disadvantaged children and teenagers

  • Since the start of the initiative in 2010, more than 1,200 students have participated in the “Lernen macht Schule” initiative and performed over 115,000 hours of volunteer work

  • In the school year 2019/20, about 240 children and teenagers from Caritas Vienna institutions participate in the program

  • Around 40 refugees take free German courses at WU every semester

  • The “Lernen macht Schule” initiative was honored as a particularly innovative WU teaching project in 2011; it was among the finalists of the Erste Foundation Award for Social Integration in 2013; and it won the “Wirtschaft hilft” award presented by the Austrian Fundraising Association in 2019

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