More than 100 years ago, there was a movement formed in Germany by the name of “Wandervogel”. It rose out of the longing to escape the rapid urbanization and industrialization of that time. The “Wandervogel” represented a strong culture of hiking, adventure, and bigger tours to places farther away.
At the beginning of the last century, my grandfather was one of them, a Wandervogel. It was here where he met my grandmother. From the stories my grandparents shared, I learned that these back-to-nature youth movements existed.
“What struck me most was their emphasis on freedom, the big part of self-responsibility, and the spirit of adventure.”
In the late 1950s, my father met my mother at one of these circles in Berlin. The Berlin based youth movement group he was a part of was influenced by two currents from the first half of the 20th century: the Wandervogel movement, interwoven with the philosophy of Dr. Rudolf Steiner, the newly emerging anthroposophist. From the Wandervogel movement, the worldwide boy scouts movement evolved later when Sir Robert Baden-Powell emigrated to England.?
Anthroposophists asked Steiner to inspire them to conceptualize a reform approach to education and, in 1919, Waldorf education was born in Germany. Ever since, there have been movements popping up around the globe, which emphasize the harmony of we human beings with nature. Learning with and from one another has become a culture of its own.
Being born into this culture, it was the only reality I had. Spending our summer vacation working at a farm high up in the Black Forest, hiking in the Swiss mountains for weeks, spending our holidays in tents at the Danish coast line – these are my childhood memories. Sports also played an important role in my upbringing, together with adventure, nature, music, art, theatre and handicrafts.?
My oldest siblings were in their early twenties when my mother thought about what we could organize ourselves.
“1980: The First Camps, a Family Matter, 1980s in Germany, Austria, Denmark, Switzerland”
Germans love skiing. My elder siblings already learned how to ski. They were to teach the three younger ones. Arranging many child activities on a regular basis, my mother invited another 30 children (those of our friends, foster children in our family and classmates from Waldorf school) and asked parents to also join (a cook, a doctor, and experienced seniors). With this, her elder sons became ski instructors of the younger siblings, plus of the 30 other children who participated as ski school attendees. And we took off to the Alps.
Others joined us, and over the last 40 years we cultivated a great variety of experiences, adapting to local conditions and settings.?
“Each of our camps is different; each of our camps is unique, crafted according to the needs of the youth participants.”
Comparing myself with others in university and work-life, I feel gifted with my surroundings as a child. I have the happiest memories and most diverse exposure to all possible spheres of life. These enable me to not only be a competitor with excellent intellectual, cognitive skills, but also a human who holds a treasure to share with others.
At university I met my wife, Hanhan 含晗, who was born in Xi’an.
After university, being trained as an interdisciplinary scholar, I worked as a futurologist at the internal Mercedes Benz Future Lab in Berlin. We created scenarios and analyzed trends worldwide – making educated guesses at how people will live and work, consume and produce 20-30 years into the future.
I wanted more, and persuaded my wife to move to China with me to satisfy my curiosity about life in China, as well as the Chinese people and their “contemporary culture” in rapidly modernizing urban China.
We went to China, built up our businesses (www.linya-international.com) in Shanghai and almost fully arrived. Hanhan and I worked hand in hand, yet something was still missing. Our work was theoretical desktop work; we were not actually getting involved in the things we analyzed and observed from a distance. The work with youth, with children, the handover to future (planet-decision-making) generations was part of who I was, and this part needed to come alive.?
Then, in 2008, the economic crisis hit my little company quite strong.
We, my organizationally talented younger brother and I, with little infrastructure in China, began again to lay new ground.
Our daughter, Linya-Christin 臨雅, was born in 2008.
The first successful outcome and start was an initial 5-week English teaching Waldorf Camp in Xi’an during the summer of 2010. World Waldorf Camp had finally arrived in China.?
We had to improvise and to overcome many difficulties. In the summer of 2009, we failed to realize a first camp due to many uncertainties and our ignorance in understanding Chinese needs. We wanted to quit already; it was far too difficult for us in China. But our Chinese friends encouraged us to keep going and develop, step-by-step, the beauty of our vision for children.
We established our own permanent coordination team in Shanghai and started to have more and more activities, locations, and necessary activity-supporting programs like training weeks for counselors and conferences, coaching weeks, etc.
Since 2013, we have had several camps for children, juniors, and families, and even with Chinese participants abroad, throughout the year. Until today, this was far away from a smooth, organic development without having to overcome difficulties. Each year, we literally had to reinvent ourselves and start from scratch over and over again. Our expectations and visions are still far from being entirely realized. Nonetheless, we persistently strive towards our goal.?
“We develop and strive – far from perfect – but constantly better.”
Several hundred children in China experienced a glimpse of beauty and have the chance to do something with it. The experience will nourish and inspire them for a whole lifetime. That is the achievement of WWC already thus far.
Our son, Linus Vincent Michael 臨諾, was born in 2014.
To provide an opportunity for children to learn about human life through experience that make them say proudly, “I create beauty with my own hands!”, “I did it myself!” and, “Yes, we can!” – this has always been my motivation for this work.?