Helping Others: Tales from our Corporate Volunteering Program
An “Le+O” for People in Need
Helping people to help themselves is the goal of the “Le+O” project initiated by Caritas in association with the Archdiocese of Vienna. “Le+O” stands for Lebensmittel und Orientierung (“Food and Orientation”), and the project provides socially disadvantaged people in the participating parishes with around five kg of food once a week to ease the burden on their household budgets. Professional social workers are also on hand to offer the recipients personal counseling when they come along to collect the food.
We helped with this project on 6 February 2019 as part of our corporate volunteering program. Our main task was to sort and distribute the food, but we also had plenty of opportunity to talk to the recipients and people who work there. If you like moderately physical work and helping people who are committed to helping others, then this is definitely a project for which you should volunteer.
Wiener Tafel Smell and Taste Lab
The Wiener Tafel food bank organization believes that people can learn how to handle foodstuffs – and that it is best if they do so while they are still children. Its “Taste Lab” regularly visits schools to teach children the value of food in a fun way.
On 13 June, I had the opportunity to experience first hand how two classes at the Quellenstrasse elementary school in Vienna enthusiastically set about experimenting at five different lab stations. While smelling, tasting and touching the food was clearly more fun, they were also quite willing to listen to some theory as well. The representatives of the Wiener Tafel explained to the junior food researchers, for instance, that food does not have to be thrown away immediately as soon as it reaches its use-by date. What do I like to eat and what don’t I like? What is good about fresh and healthy food? The Wiener Tafel wants to encourage children to integrate the answers to such questions into their own lives – because knowing about the source and origin of food is important for achieving a balanced diet and sustainable use of our natural resources.
At one of the stations I helped with, the children sampled three different strawberry yogurts. Only one of the three was made solely from natural ingredients, and the clear winner of the test was – not surprisingly – a ready-made supermarket product with an enticingly high sugar content. The children also did a blind tasting to see if they could identify – and ideally name – specific fruit and vegetable flavors. One thing they learned in the process was that raw kohlrabi doesn’t bite! And everyone was fascinated by the demonstration on how to make curd cheese. This is actually easier and quicker than you might think: all you need is milk and lemon juice. All in all, this was a fun-packed, enlightening morning, and the children’s enthusiasm was shared in full by all the volunteers.
Giving Joy and Reaping Smiles in the Damaris House
On 4 June, we spent a day in the Caritas Damaris House making, gluing, painting and decorating boxes with 15 children between the ages of 3 and 11.
Each child chose a wooden box and turned it into a colorful work of art using glitter, paint, foam animals, ribbons and much more. And both the boys and the girls set about the task with equal enthusiasm. The team spirit, help from different age groups and respect between the cultures were all wonderful to see. The welcome and thanks we received were an enriching experience. And it’s not just the children who want to repeat the event, we would also do it again any time.
In Action at the “Laufwunder” Run
This year, I had the opportunity to help out again with the “Laufwunder” (“Miracle of Running”) event, a charity run or scooter ride organized for schools by youngCaritas.
For every circuit they complete, participants make a donation for selected projects to support children and young people in need. It was definitely a corporate volunteering day full of action. As soon as you entered the arena, you knew immediately that this was going to be a fun day: literally thousands of children and young people had gathered at the Alte Donau Sports Center in Vienna. Cool music pushed the runners on, laughing children pinned their starting numbers onto their T-shirts, the crowd clapped and cheered them on, the atmosphere was electric.
Our job at the event was to help out at various stations – of which there are plenty. In the two previous years, I had worked at the Eskimo ice cream station. This year, I was assigned to the registration desk. As you can well imagine, the ice cream station is very popular. I worked with four other people to set it up, fill the fridge with ice cream, stamp passes and hand out ice cream to the runners. When masses of kids all turn up at the station at once, you have to work really fast to make sure that all the passes get stamped so that each child only gets one ice cream.
At the registration desk, my co-worker Andrea Wiedinger and I worked through huge piles of sponsor lists and entered the donations for each runner into an Excel spreadsheet. In between, we also had time to visit some of the other stations and lend a helping hand. These tasks are ideal for anyone who doesn’t like to stand around for long and is used to working precisely. Some of my other co-workers were responsible for taking USB sticks containing registration desk data to another station. This is a perfect task for people who enjoy sports: my colleague Birgit Biegler told me that she walked 15,500 steps on the day. All in all, this was a very positive day that shows how many people are willing to do something for others – be it running in the event itself or working at one of the stations. The “Laufwunder” takes place on two days in May, with young people running on one day and small children on the other.
Play Day in the Caritas Residential Community
On 29 May 2018, nine members of staff from our Group (myself included) organized a “Play Day” in the wonderful garden at the Caritas Residential Community.
When we arrived in the morning, we were immediately greeted with a very warm welcome from the on-site Caritas staff and some of the residents. We had prepared five different “play stations” for the day: a tin can shooting range, an air hockey table, a boccia court, football nets and tables with various board and skill games. Each resident was given a “Play Card”, which was stamped at each station he/she visited. When the card was full, the owner was able to exchange it for a fun gift.
The residents were all very different both in terms of age and level of disability. But they all have one thing in common: they are all charming and loveable in their own special ways. I had a great deal of fun on the “Play Day” and quickly forgot my initial apprehensions. But it was also a lot of hard work, and I marvel at the staff who do this work day in and day out. I am glad to have taken part in this event and am already looking forward to my next corporate volunteering activities.