With social distancing, masks and a passionate dedication to others

Corporate volunteering in the year of the coronavirus

Responsibility & dedication, 16.02.2021

Committed and responsibly minded employees, exciting work in social institutions and environmental initiatives coupled with good hygiene concepts resulted in a total of ten successful assignments by ERGO employees in 2020, the year of the coronavirus pandemic. These were real hands-on projects, most of which were outdoors - for example in the shepherd's hut in Munich. Two assignments in October 2020 in Cologne and Munich exemplify the importance of corporate volunteering – particularly now.

The shepherd's hut in Munich| Photo credit: ©URKERN2021/Ivana Bilz

The shepherd's hut in Munich | Photo credit: ©URKERN2021/Ivana Bilz

In Cologne, seven employees worked in Anna Foundation's bike workshop a fixed children’s and youth aid facility. “We offer children and young people a temporary home and provide individual support if they are not able to live with their parents and siblings, for whatever reason,” explains Weronika Bitzer. The graduate social worker develops individual support and cross-group services for the now 61 children and young people in the seven residential groups. At the moment, this also means that she and her colleagues have to systematically implement requirements brought about by the pandemic. “The youngest child we have is six years old and attends primary school, while the older ones attend secondary schools or vocational schools. Now that means home schooling and contact restrictions for everyone, all of which is very difficult for us all.” The children and young people now often use their bikes to be outside and getting around. Many bikes have been donated to the facility. As part of their Corporate Volunteering assignment, seven ERGO employees cleaned, repaired, and adjusted 25 bikes to each child in the Anna Foundation workshop. 

Christoph Klawunn, Board Member of the DKV Deutsche Krankenversicherung private insurance provider, which is part of ERGO, recalls his experience of the assignment: “Each of us remembers the first bike we got because it meant mobility, independence and adventure. We are pleased that the children and young people here will have a similar experience through our hands-on work here.” Weronika Bitzer also regards the work carried out by the ERGO volunteers as sending a positive signal to the children: "This voluntary work is extremely important, as our children and young people experience the fact that society is interested in them - and even more so that they themselves are part of this society. And that strangers are prepared to do something for them.” 

PS.: Anyone wishing to donate a (children's) bicycle will find a donation point in almost every town, including youth institutions, family centres or refugee or homeless initiatives. Spare parts, such as second-hand bike baskets, saddles or tools, are also very welcome.

Do sheep belong in the city centre? Of course they do!

Twelve ERGO employees spent their Corporate Volunteering Day in Munich’s last city-centre nature conservation zone, in the grounds of the Kraemer’sche Kunstmühle former paper mill in the district of Untergiesing. Sheep can be found grazing just twelve minutes away from the famous central Marienplatz square – and not just as environmentally-friendly “lawnmowers”. Dr. Nikolas Fricke, who has been theoretically and practically involved with sheep rearing since his degree in Agriculture and Sustainable Resource Management, manages the Otto Eckart Foundation’s sheep farm. “Sheep are not just important for the maintenance of soil on dykes or on riverbanks, as we know from the North Sea or the Rhine wetlands, but also here in the city centre of Munich. Many urban children visit our “Alm School” within the factory grounds with their school classes or children's groups. They experience the animals here and even form a bond with them. I am almost tempted to say that our sheep are the teachers in our Alm School,” he comments, stressing the importance of the project. 

The sheep farm is very labour-intensive, as the volunteers found. Their work involved preparing the meadow for the winter, inspecting fences and reinstalling them so that no sheep become lost. But the work also involved the construction of a hay rack, from which the sheep can pull their food with their mouths. Susanne Courage, a Sales Representative who swapped her desk for this green oasis for this particular day, was surprised in many ways: “I was born and bred in Munich, but I had no idea about the sheep farm. Its concept and great importance in the context of the Alm School for children, but also for older people who visit, totally convinced me. That is why I'm happy to help, in future too.” 

Many services to the public provided by the facility could not be offered this year on account of the pandemic: “This is a great pity, as formative and original experiences, such as milking a sheep, create a natural relationship with nature, especially with children,” explains Nikolas Fricke. This also applies, of course, to adults, such as ERGO employees, who helped to shape the unusual habitat of the sheep in the heart of the city.

Corporate Volunteering at ERGO

Corporate Volunteering is the voluntary and employer-sponsored deployment of employees in charitable projects as part of ERGO's social commitment. Employees are involved with climate protection and environmental conservation, as well as social projects. ERGO releases its employees for half a day, while the employees contribute the other half-day themselves through holiday or flexitime.

Text: Monika Stobrawe


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