Christmas in our hearts – Arche herzensbrücken

21. December 2016

The Olympiaregion reveals new facets and perspectives on a daily basis. It’s not just the lovely surroundings – a temptation for all the senses – that enchant me, but equally the warmth of the people that live here on the plateau: a profound wisdom; living in harmony with the region; and a dedication that is renewed on a daily basis to protect this dream of a lifestyle. Just like the founder of the organisation Arche herzensbrücken (Ark ‘Bridge of Hearts‘).

I have set myself a personal goal each year before Christmas: to try to do something good – my way of saying thank you for the good life that I have been blessed with. Showing and sharing from the heart. On my travels through the Olympiaregion I had noticed this sign:


ARCHE herzensbrücken

My curiosity was awakened: what did that mean and who was behind it? One phone call and an appointment for an interview had been arranged with the founder Mag. Horst Szeli. In the meantime, I read the brochure ‘A Piece of Normality – for Families with Severely Ill Children’ and I could see how much heart would be needed for such a project. An attempt in a four-star hotel to bridge the gap between ‘healthy wellness’ and ‘limited wellness’. Removing the fear of contact and helping to raise awareness – a tough line to tread.


Eventually we meet over a cup of coffee. Horst, from Lower Austria (Pottendorf in the Baden District – 6817 inhabitants), tells me that he worked in Casino Seefeld and on his qualifications as a trainer and coach for more than 20 years. During a car trip from Vienna to Innsbruck he was listening to the radio programme ‘Frühstück bei mir’, which featured Father Kai, the founder of the Sterntalerhof – a hospice for chronically ill and incurable children in Burgenland in the south of Austria. Horst couldn’t forget the words of the father: “Sometimes you just have to do something without knowing why.”

What mark would he leave with his life? What could he look back on? What would remain after he was gone? Suddenly he started thinking about a type of therapy that he had learned: ‘There can be no wings without roots.’ Horst wanted some roots. His first step was to take a training course with Caritas working with adults. That wasn’t enough for him, though, as his thoughts returned to children and young people. To see if he could really achieve anything, he signed up for a three-week work experience in a children’s hospice in Bad Grönenbach in Germany – sadly there is no similar training available in Austria. This work, as everyone predicted, did not only feature suffering, death, pain and loss. Quite the reverse, the more he put into it the more he received in return. His personal fulfilment and satisfaction grew day by day and it became clear to him that this was where his future lay.


In 2012 he founded the “Arche herzensbrücken” association. He needed to push himself forward, clear up any legal problems, and apply for grants from the Tyrolean government. Running the gauntlet in all directions. Additionally, he presented his project in clinics around Austria. The goal was to gain as many partners, colleagues and donations as possible.


It was a long and rocky road for the “Arche herzensbrücken” but by summer 2015 it was finally time! The first seven families experienced a ‘new’ kind of holiday and every one of them was treated in a loving and professional way. Helpers, doctors, a nursing sister, the whole family – everyone was on hand with their time, experience, equipment and a tremendous amount of HEART.

In 2016 – only a year later – 35 families took their holidays together. The brothers and sisters grinned from ear to ear: “When I’m back at school now I can talk about our holidays!” – unimaginable that this is not possible for every child. After all that I learned about this project I can say that the Arche herzensbrücken has won my support and my heart.


Weiterführender Link:
Project ARCHE herzensbrücken


Fotos: Bettina Friedrichs/Fotolia

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