Corporate Volunteering: Gardening for a good cause

Responsibility & dedication, 01.06.2018

A whole day out of the office spent in a community project. This is how ERGO employee Gudrun Klaas spent a day - and it filled her with enthusiasm. It all happened in a small idyllic garden in the middle of the Hamburg.

Herbs, plant pots. vegetable beds, ducks, rabbits and Noah, a Labrador, wandering around. The "Creative Garden" in the Hamburg district of Wilhelmsburg really does seem like an oasis in the middle of the city. The raised beds are set in curves through the garden and are painted in bright colours. The air is full of the scent of mint and other wild herbs. Scattered throughout the garden are small stone houses obviously painted by children. A workshop and kitchen covered with colourful sheeting, three old-fashioned sheds, hen houses and beehives complete the picture of a miniature paradise. Ten years ago the artist Kathrin Milan used her love of detail and her commitment to create this garden. Since that time it has attracted no end of families, visits from kindergartens, schools and youth groups from the neighbourhood.  The Creative Garden offers a haven for socially disadvantaged children who are always welcome here. Small and large visitors can encounter Nature here and relax.

In recent weeks this was the job site of the corporate volunteering team of ERGO's Hamburg branch. A total of seven ERGO staff volunteered to work for a day in the garden. One of the group was ERGO staff member and team captain Gudrun Klaus who prepared the visit. "As early as the preparatory discussions I was thrilled by this magical place and by Kathrin's wonderful social commitment. Everything is very simple but nevertheless it has a very special charm" explained Gudrun Klaus. "Our first job was to create new thistle beds on the roof of an old moveable builder's shed. We had to fill hundreds of buckets with sand and earth and lift them onto the roof. This represented a challenge right at the outset and was, of course, a real change from a routine day in the office." The next job was to cut huge quantities of mint and nettles.

The ERGO Hamburg corporate volunteering team in action. Gudrun Klaus preparing the bed for the thistles on the shed roof.

The afternoon was spent in meeting and interacting with the children from the nursery attached to the neighbouring school.  "That was a great sight. The children were so happy and full of life. They enthusiastically planted potatoes and played with Noah, the Labrador," Gudrun reported. We experienced at first hand how the children learn to be aware of the environment and to treat Nature with a view to sustainability - at the same time as they were playing.

The team's next job was to clean and prepare the beehives. "For example we had to wire and tension the new frames and then insert the foundation. The combs had to be cut out of the old frames and the wax had to be melted", explained Gudrun. "We learnt so many fascinating facts about bees and bee-keeping from Kathrin. Given the background of the collapse of many colonies, it gave us something to really think about.

Tired out but happy about the interesting day's work the team's opinion when the work came to an end was unanimous. Gudrun Klaus and the other ERGO staff were enthusiastic. And they were also convinced that if everybody was as close to Nature as Kathrin Milan, climate change would definitely no longer be a threat.

"Urban gardening" is the theme of the 2018 ERGO corporate volunteering programme.

Corporate volunteering is supported by ERGO and is the voluntary involvement of staff in community projects as part of ERGO's social commitment. This social commitment focusses on the challenges presented by climate change. Therefore the proposals for ERGO volunteers prioritise climate change in its broadest sense. A  number of different inner city urban gardening projects are planned for this year. In practical terms this means working locally on or in gardens and parks which are created and tended by groups of people working together or associations formed for this purpose. Further projects involving climate change will follow in the course of the year.

Author: Sabina Rappold

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