On 11 November 2021, cheerful voices echoed through the corridors of the FDFA's offices in Bern as 50 children accompanied a parent, relative or acquaintance to their workplace to get a taste of what it is like to work in foreign affairs for the Swiss Confederation. The young visitors were welcomed by Secretary General Markus Seiler, who according to Ljuben was "very open and jolly". The Secretary General took them to see the Federal Council Chamber, where they were impressed by the furnishings. "The Federal Council Chamber has never been redone since it was built," said Juri. Afterwards, the children visited the office of the Swiss foreign minister, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis. "I liked that we got to go into the beautifully decorated office of Federal Councillor Cassis," said Luana. "Federal Councillor Cassis's office is massive," added Nando. Sajana was interested in the work of the usher, who has access to all of the rooms. Valentina was surprised when she first saw the inside of the Federal Palace. "It wasn't at all how thought it would be," she said.
The young people spent the afternoon getting acquainted with the work of the Swiss foreign ministry in five workshops organised by different FDFA divisions. They found many things surprising: "I was surprised that the FDFA is also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and I think it's good that all the texts are translated into Switzerland's national languages," Giulia said after the workshop at the Communications Division, where she learned about the different ways in which the FDFA communicates with the Swiss public.
Just mountains, snow and chocolate?
What do people in other countries know about Switzerland? How do they see Switzerland? Do they think it's just mountains, snow and chocolate? At the Presence Switzerland workshop, the young participants learned the answers to these questions and found out about the world expos, the House of Switzerland at Olympic Games, visits by foreign journalists and experts, and about social media and communication.
"What to pack?"
With Swiss Humanitarian Aid, the children learned how Switzerland helps out in humanitarian situations around the world. Looking at the example of a tsunami in Japan 10 years ago, they found out what Switzerland did to help and how.
But what would you need to pack if you were joining a humanitarian operation? In the game 'What to pack?' the young participants packed their own backpack for a humanitarian mission in Africa. Afterwards they had a little tour of the 'Whitebox' humanitarian storage room.
Eating insects, and a hazel tree for sustainable development
At the workshop run by Global Cooperation at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the children got to know the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda. They discussed the impact of our food consumption on our climate, health and the environment, for example meat and alternatives to eating meat. The children also had the chance to sample insects from a Swiss company.
Later, they learned what the SDC is doing in the areas of climate change, water and forests. Then they planted a hazel in the corridor of the SDC building. The SDC will send them updates on how their tree is doing, and they received a packet of Swiss organic popcorn as a thank you.
Disassembling computers and x-raying parcels
The workshop at the Directorate for Resources presented the FDFA's apprenticeship programmes and the work of the IT, logistics, mediamatics and commercial apprentices. At the Passport Office the children punched passports, in the IT Division they disassembled a computer, in the Courier Section they x-rayed parcels, and in mediamatics they saw video productions. These were just some of the many practical and interactive experiences prepared by the apprentices to give the children an insight into their work.
Insight into opportunities and issues in the world of work
National Future Day at the FDFA is organised every year by the FDFA Equal Opportunities and Global Gender Issues Section. The aim is to help the children think about what they would like to do when they leave school. They learn about opportunities and issues relating to the world of work and get an insight into what it is like to work at the FDFA. "I found it very interesting how Swiss Humanitarian Aid works when there is an earthquake and with refugees," said Valentina.
The FDFA was careful this year to make sure that it complied with the public health measures in the context of COVID-19. The number of children who could take part was limited.
For Ljuben, "It was a great experience. It was very well organised and we were able to do a lot. People showed us what they were doing, and I learned and saw a lot of new things." Would the children be interested in working for the FDFA? Maybe. To quote Jonathan, "I probably wouldn't want to work at the head office in Bern, but it'd be nice to live in lots of different countries."
This press release was produced with the active participation of Giulia, Jonathan, Juri, Ljuben, Luana, Mabel, Nando, Sajana and Valentina during the FDFA Communication workshop.
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