By Lisa Hofmann, Vice President

Networking, future planning and enhancing intercultural relations within Austrian Naturefriends’ structures – IYNF met the adults and youth of Naturefriends Austria and the Secretary General of Naturefriends International.

On July 20th, Naturefriends Austria organized a water sports day at Viehofner Lake near Vienna and invited representatives of IYNF. President Tilo Podstatny-Scharf and Vice President Lisa Hofmann gratefully followed the invitation and traveled to Vienna a few days earlier to meet with the directors of the Naturefriends Austria (NFÖ) and the Naturefriends International (NFI).

More networking internationally

The talk with Günter Abraham, Secretary General of NFÖ, focused on the results of the IYNF Extraordinary General Assembly at the end of June, future networking opportunities, offers for international youth work, trainings, the structures in the IYNF Secretariat and its function as a service point for best practice and mediation between the partner organizations. The increase in Austria’s voluntary membership fee and the planned CAMP 2020 to celebrate the 125-anniversary of the Naturefriends movement were also topics. By increasing the membership fee, the networking between IYNF and the Young Austrian Naturefriends (NFJÖ) could be deepened; in particular, meetings of international secretary generals are planned to develop shared visions and projects on an international level.

NFJÖ has already gained experience on an international level. In particular, Naturefriends Styria “can look back on positive experiences at international youth camps. Participants often come from outside and become members of the Naturefriends”, says local member Petra Ehgartner. However, international projects are the exception and there is a lack of interested young people between 20 and 30 years. This age group is the weakest in Austria. Especially here lies the potential to become broader internationally. The first training of IYNF in this year “Patterns of Activism” (March 23-29) in Riga represents a successful example for the acquisition of Austrian participants. NFJÖ were sending the chairman of the Austrian University Council (Österreichische HochschülerInnenschaft, ÖH) from Graz, Michael Ortner, as well as the Fridays for Future activist, Kristina Smiešková, from Vienna. It is already planned to organize a follow-up, another training on the subject, which should take place in Graz in 2020.

Through the establishment of a strategic cooperation, IYNF offers young Austrians know-how in the areas of application for Erasmus+ and ESC, youth exchanges and international sport events. At a board meeting of the NFJÖ in Sankt Pölten near Vienna, on Friday, July 19th, Tilo and Lisa shared these goals in a presentation to representatives of the county associations, the presidium and the secretariat.

More independence for IYNF

Besides meeting the local associations, Tilo and Lisa took the chance to meet with Andrea Lichtenecker, the Secretary General of Naturefriends International, the mother organization of IYNF. The brief discussion covered structural issues such as strengthening the independence of member organizations by establishing voluntary financial contributions to be sent directly to IYNF preferably than via NFI as now. This structural relief would have to go hand in hand with a change in the NFI statutes, for which Tilo and Lisa spoke up.

At the end of their visit, the two presidium members enjoyed a warm summer day at the water sports event in Sankt Pölten. Programme highlights were:

  • Button paddling with more than 30 canoes and kayaks
  • Stand Up Paddling
  • Demonstrations of water rescue and local groups
  • Information stand of the Naturefriends Austria
  • Paddle ergometer
  • Giant inflatable boat

In an air mattress race Tilo defeated his colleague Lisa and won an air mattress with the logo of the Naturefriends in Lower Austria. The two are already looking forward to the next water sports event – maybe even in another member country of IYNF?