Nordic Walking Educating a whole village to a healthier lifestyle

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FFWPU Europe ( By Johann Rechberger, Parndorf, Austria, 15. October 2014) I was invited by the Women’s Federation for World Peace to catholic. People from 43 nations live in Parndorf. Ten percent of them are of Turkish origin.

We had a lot of thought about how we could best report at an UN conference in Vienna about my Home Town project. The theme of the conference was, “Education in the 21st Century towards Global Citizenship”. In her introduction, Mrs. Carolyn Handschin mentioned that education can be judged by the extent to which it improves the quality of life and helps to develop our hearts.

The following is a report about the presentation at the conference. However, this is only a beginning of my work in my hometown.

In the year 2002 my family moved to Parndorf, a village in Austria, near the Slovakian border. The population in this village is mostly Croatian and very serve the people of this village. After numerous discussions with the villagers, we found that there was some tension between for many generations living Croatians and the Turkish population. We considered therefore, to do something for the better coexistence of villagers and wanted to get involved about integration.

I had some conversations about it with the mayor of Parndorf. He also agreed that integration was an important issue, but knew from experience that the villagers were not interested in this topic. He said that I can only make a difference when I get involved in politics. We agreed to work together on several integration projects.

First we invited a group of Palestinian youths, who came at the invitation of the Federation for World Peace to have a good time in Austria. The mayor welcomed them very warmly. He gave everyone a gift and then we had a very nice boat ride on Lake Neusiedl. Integration projects with the local population however, were difficult to implement. Therefore I engaged more in the social committee of the municipality. We were looking for a project where we could meet the needs of the people.

A large part of the population of Parndorf live quite unhealthy because of malnourished and a leak of exercise. We initiated a fitness campaign for the entire village, hired a well-known TV health coach and organized a large-scale opening ceremony. The social committee presented the project, the mayor and the health coach gave encouraging words and the local associations presented their program where people could participate.

Since I just did a certification as Nordic Walking trainer at that time, I was involved not only in the part of the social committee in this project, but also offered two times per week Nordic Walking training for the local people.

The local press reported extensively about it and actually more than 15 persons came at every offered Nordic Walking training. We were thrilled by the great interest of the people, so we decided to train even after the initiative ended.

The mayor, his daughter, a Nordic Walking participant, my wife and I set up a local Nordic Walking club. For legal reasons we had to write articles of association and we used this to write some of our aims on integration in the articles:

  1. Diversity is a cornerstone of the Nordic Walking Club Parndorf
  2. Diversity is the strength of our village, where people from many nations are living together. It essentially involves appreciation of each fellow citizen, regardless of their nationality, religion or social group he or she belongs.
  3. Cooperative behavior is to promote the community and should become self-evident. The fact that the club encourages its members to such fair behavior and supports them in this endeavor, it is contributing to the welfare of the village.

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750 Years Parndorf

On September 7, 2014 Parndorf celebrated its 750 anniversary. There was a huge celebration with the entire population. On this occasion a 400-page chronicle was issued, where the clubs could write an article to promote their activities. The Nordic Walking Club Parndorf Healthy & Fit presented its activities and wrote as the only club the paragraph on diversity of our Articles of Association. On this day one of Austria’s largest daily newspapers reported about the 750 years celebration with the title: “43 nationalities celebrate anniversary” and the fact that integration is a major issue in Parndorf.

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