My eyes peel open in the dark, I think it's 4 or 5 AM.
I hear the sounds of nothingness. I pick up my phone to see the same, nothingness. I realize that I turned it off in the evening to save the battery. In this cabin I have no electricity. In fact, there is no electricity in any of the cabins. Only the main house has limited solar power for the family that takes care of this beautiful old village that use to be a goat farm.
A sense of joy perks into my body knowing that I cannot aimlessly scroll through my Instagram feed. I get up, grab my camera and set out to catch the sunrise over the beautiful Lake Maggiore and the mountains of Ticino.
There is something about sunrises. It's the everything-in-nothingness that sends electricity down my spine. There's no one up but me and nature. And up here, there are no cars, no buildings, no tourist, nothing... I feel alive.
Volunteering at Campo Cortoi in Ticino
What brought me to this place, you might ask? My wife, Manuela. I admire her in so many ways but nothing like this. Her hard-working ethic gotten her over a month of overtime at her regular job. Use it or lose it as many offices would say.
Instead of running away on a shopping spree in Paris for a week or binging the next amazing Netflix show, Manuela decided to come here: Campo Cortoi. A small village located on a mountain top known as Monti di Cortoi, this typical Ticino village is only reachable by a forty-minute hike.
She brought her sleeping bag, a few clothes and some supplies. She looked like she was going on a spiritual walk to find herself. But in reality, she went to help a family take care of this little village. Drop the mic because I'm in awe of her.
Rex: Please talk about Campo Cortoi. What is it exactly?
Manuela: Campo Cortoi is a small alpine village located in the Verzasca Valley in Ticino. Apart from offering simple accommodation for hikers and school classes, the cooperative sensitizes its visitors for sustainable living and cultural landscape conservation. The camp is only accessible on foot and there is very limited electricity, generated from solar panels and mainly used for the hot-water supply.
What made you want to volunteer in Switzerland?
Manuela: The main reason why I've decided to volunteer was probably my curiosity to see places from a different, more authentic perspective. When I realized I can do this while serving a meaningful purpose and give back to community, I knew I had to sign up for it. Besides that, I like to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone - what better place to do this than in a historic mountain village, far from civilization?
How about your day to day activities?
Manuela: During my week in Campo Cortoi, I was supporting Steffi and Mario with various tasks. These included changing bed sheets, weeding the landscape and sweeping leaves. I would also watch their adorable son, Ramiro, so that Steffi and Mario were able to focus on their tasks.
And finally, I enjoyed cooking for the family, feeding the animals and even picking up supplies down in the next village with the help of the donkeys Alma, Isabella and Dimitri...
Describe your experience...
Manuela: My week at Campo Cortoi was so different from my regular job and I truly enjoyed supporting such a meaningful cause. Even though it was a short assignment, I've learned a lot and it was an unforgettable experience. To volunteer in Switzerland really is a win-win situation.
What one moment stands out?
Manuela: It's hard to pick. From meeting some amazing people and spending lots of time with my newly found furry friends (aka the donkeys), to eating delicious homemade brick oven pizza and of course watching many breathtaking sunrises and sunsets - I enjoyed every moment of it.
If someone wanted to volunteer, what advice would you give them?
Manuela: Be open to anything and just enjoy this unique experience.
Now, join us on a tour of Campo Cortoi and learn more about its history from one of their residents, Marco Sterchi:
More information about Campo Cortoi
For more Information about volunteering at Campo Cortoi, visit their website. And to find out about other opportunities to volunteer in Switzerland, have a look at the bookable offers by Switzerland Travel Centre.