The “Volunteering@WU – Lernen macht Schule” program initiated by WU, Caritas Wien, and REWE International AG supports socially disadvantaged young people with their education while at the same time encouraging university students to volunteer and take social responsibility. Each semester, around 130 students volunteer to work with approximately 260 kids and teens as learning buddies and music buddies.
By building bridges between young people from completely different walks of life, the project allows both sides to learn with and from each other: The children get help from the students with their schoolwork and experience positive role models, including with regard to educational attainment. Through playful learning methods, spending free time together, and creative musical activities, the students help the kids develop both academically and socially. On the other hand, the students get to know lives and cultures completely unlike their own, gain insight into complex social problems, and are challenged to further develop their own skills. This is an important factor in the training of the self-determined, critical-thinking, and reflected leaders of tomorrow.
Due to COVID-19, students have started to work with the children on a flexible basis, using a mix of face-to-face and digital support, to make sure they aren’t left behind during lockdowns and school closures. Furthermore, the project partnered with the Austrian #weiterlernen initiative in 2020 and was adapted to use digital channels for seminars, supervision sessions, buddy meetings, etc. during lockdown. Even the choir rehearsals are held online. In this way, it is possible to develop relationships and strengthen personality and skill development even during times of crisis.