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Summer sailing through the Danish experience

Aarhus and Eastern Jutland is home to many internationally-minded companies and organisations contributing to this area's internationalisation. This month International Community gives the floor to its very own Tiny Maerschalk, living and working in Aarhus for Erhverv Aarhus.

Photograph: Tiny Maerschalk

Text: Tiny Maerschalk

In 1997 I moved to Aarhus, Denmark, after graduating as an interpreter (Dutch-English-Danish) in Belgium. My plan was to stay two semesters in Denmark, improve my Danish and then move back. However, I never got to pack my bags again as I got a job. So it was never a deliberate decision to stay - life just happened, and I'm still here.

Over the years, I have learned that clubs and associations are the cornerstone of Danish society and THE way to get to know Danes. In Denmark, there are more than 100,000 volunteer organisations. Clubs and associations go hand-in-hand with volunteering, as they simply cannot exist without each other. Volunteers can sit on the board, act as coaches, teachers, organisers, or those who just bake a cake once in a while. This also ensures a lower price range for members, ensuring that income should not be a barrier to participating in activities. My Danish husband and I have been volunteering in different organisations over the years. This summer, I was emersed in the ultimate volunteer-driven experience – and I loved it!

Our entire family – my husband Fredrik, 10-year-old Ella and 5-year-old Ida and myself – spent a week on the island of Tunø for the annual Tunø Camp. Tunø is a 3.52 km² car-free Danish island between Samsø and Jutland. It is located about 8 km from Jutland and has 118 inhabitants. Tunø Camp is an annual joint event arranged by the dinghy departments in Århus Sejlklub, Kaløvig Bådelaug, Egå Sejlklub and Solbjerg Sejlklub. This year the camp could celebrate its 40th anniversary!

The camp's primary purpose is to give new and experienced youth sailors the opportunity to have a lot of sailing lessons on the water and an enjoyable time with other sailors across age, abilities, and club membership. As our 10-year-old daughter Ella takes sailing classes in the dinghy type called Optimist and being ardent sailors ourselves, we all decided that a week of our summer holidays would be dedicated to participating in the camp. We were informed that we would have to actively participate in getting tasks done, but we didn't really know what to expect.

"When we came home after a week, we were all filled with new experiences and friendships. There is no doubt about it – we will be back next year!" - Tiny Maerschalk

The past year a small volunteer group with representatives from the different sailing clubs has organised the entire camp. This year 120 adults and children signed up for a week of fun. It was great to witness how a 100% parent-run camp runs smoothly when all adults pull together. No matter how big or small the task, it got done with a smile on their faces. Preparing food for 120 people, getting the sailors safely on the water, doing dishes, playing games with the sailors' siblings who stayed on land, and many other tasks had to be taken care of daily. The only reward being happy kids and getting to know people across the sailing clubs. But what a reward it is to be part of a true community and surrounded by happy people. Who knew that prepping breakfast for 120 people at 6:15 in the morning during the holidays could be that rewarding.

When we came home after a week, we were all filled with new experiences and friendships. There is no doubt about it – we will be back next year!

My advice to all readers is: Find an activity of your interest, sign up in a local club or association and become part of the volunteer team. Just a small task such as washing jerseys or baking a cake is valuable for the club, and just wait and see how doors open to new Danish connections.

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