In June I had the pleasure and honour to attend the IOGT Switzerland annual meeting, my very first official visit to a Member Organisation as a Board Member of IOGT International.
Switzerland and all of its organisations from children to youth to adults have played a special role in the years of my membership in the IOGT movement. My very first Active (then still EGTYF) summer camp and congress took place in 2000 in Fiesch. My first IOGT International World Congress that I had a glimpse on took place in 2006 in Münchenstein. But most importantly, the people I have gotten to know from our Swiss organisations have played an enormously important role in my path to understand what IOGT is about. It has been their open minds, acceptance and the very bearable easiness of being that made me understand that the IOGT movement is about its members, the people and the opportunity to learn from each other, to work together and have fun together.
It is about accepting and welcoming everyone, regardless of their backgrounds, their past and possible problems, their beliefs and convictions. What unites everyone is the desire to provide a helping hand, a smiling face, welcoming arms through alcohol-free lifestyle for a better future, safe and fun environment for children to grow up in, and to empower every single person to reach their full potential. 164 years ago when IOGT was founded in the US, including women and African Americans into social movements was still unheard of and not at all accepted by the larger society. But our movement stood up for everyone’s right to participate equally in society.
I have always admired the way IOGT Germany integrates people in recovery into their community, making people feel needed and enabling them to give, even a smallest thing like arranging chairs in the Guttempler Café in Berlin. It is about acceptance and empowerment, valuing every single human being in their abilities.
Economically speaking IOGT possesses an incredible asset of social capital, a huge bunch of individuals who have dedicated their lives achieving our goals. Nothing is impossible with these people!
At the IOGT Switzerland annual meeting, it was absolutely amazing to witness the congratulation ceremony for people who have been members of IOGT Switzerland for 75, 70, and 60 years. How many businesses or organisations can show employees or members with such a long record? I personally have been a member for 17 years. That means I still have some decades to go…
One of the greatest assets we have is the generational diversity among our members.
One of the greatest assets we have is the generational diversity among our members. IOGT gathers children, youth, and adults of all ages. One could grow up and grow old being part of the movement. I know many families where generations go back long being members of IOGT. It is a unique opportunity for all of us to learn from each other and work together. Perhaps more a European phenomenon, but generations tend to cluster themselves and have limited contact to other age groups. I wish that we jointly could bridge those clusters better and I hope that we as International Board can facilitate this. The enthusiasm of Juvente Switzerland at the IOGT Switzerland annual meeting presenting their work and the happiness in the eyes of the senior members hearing about it, was priceless.
IOGT International has 122 member organisations in 54 countries across the globe. Last year marked a historic moment when we held our World Congress in South-East Asia, in Thailand, commending the great work done in the larger Asian region. This is another aspect of our global community that makes us who we are. We are a very diverse organisation bringing together members with so different cultural and religious backgrounds, but at the same time sharing a common ground, same principles that we follow everywhere. I wish that with this International Board that we are now, we can build as many bridges as possible to enable the maximum of exchange between our members, to enable learning from each other and through that contribute to better understanding between cultures, religions, genders – this way promoting dialogue and peace.
I am proud being a member of IOGT.
I am proud being a member of IOGT, a statement I recently voiced at the FORUT Germany seminar on curbing Big Alcohol. It provoked unexpected reactions. I was well aware that many members of both IOGT and FORUT Germany have faced difficult pasts, have overcome addictions and had to re-build their confidence. And yet, participants of the seminar concluded the first day by also saying “I am proud being a member of IOGT.” It was one of the most emotional moments I have experienced in the organisation. The sparkle of being connected with so many others around the world within our movement did spread and the understanding that we do not need to justify, nor excuse our alcohol-free lifestyle did provoke the feeling of belonging, of caring and of willingness to do more. Isn’t this exactly why we are?
Heart-driven working towards Life Set Free together, being proud to be a member of IOGT.