Written by Dr. Petra Wanner-Meyer & Alexandra Carballo | December 5th, 2022
Emergency aid in a crisis would often not be possible without the support and tireless commitment of volunteers. A person’s own humanitarian conviction is often the motivation for them to volunteer their time to help a social cause. However, it is also the employers who enable the prompt response to emergencies by allowing their staff to volunteer and by releasing them without much ado from their work duties during such periods. In this context, 34 companies in Baden-Württemberg, among them innovaphone, were awarded the prize “volunteer-friendly employer in civil protection” on November 17, 2022.
Our colleague Gunnar Kreidl from the innovaphone Tech-Serv team has been a volunteer at the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief ("Technisches Hilfswerk - THW") since 2004, since 2009 in the capacity of branch office leader. Gunnar’s expertise in the field of bridge construction took him to Ahrtal in Germany where he stayed for a full four months during the flood disaster. We asked Gunnar what motivates and drives him to volunteer for such assignments, which are often dangerous.
As my father was already an active member of THW, my interest in voluntary work was instilled in me at a very early age. Initially, I was a member of the Scouts for many years and I didn’t join THW until my early 30s. Despite being a newcomer I was allowed to go on my first major mission very early on, during the floods that affected the Oder River in 1997. That was where I realised what it must be like to lose everything and how important it is not to leave people alone in such a situation.
I agreed with innovaphone early on that it would be possible to spend one week a year on THW assignments. There are additional days where I am absent from work when I have to go on training and obtain additional qualifications. Longer assignments are coordinated with my managers and of course with my colleagues, who stand in for me during my absence and who take on a number of my tasks in addition to their own. In the past, both sides – management and colleagues – have been willing to support my aid work. Something I am very grateful for.
The long mission during the Corona pandemic particularly showed us how important the “communication and network” issue is for THW. For example, I installed a fax server at a coronavirus test centre which handled more than 700 incoming faxes per day. innovaphone gave me great support here too: We were given an IP411 VoIP gateway for the district vaccination centre and were thus able to set up an IP PBX for 50 users with DECT connectivity for the district administration office.
It’s not easy to name one mission that has stayed in your mind when you have been in service for so many years. But the four months I spent in Ahrtal after the flood disaster is certainly one of them. It left a great mark on me and certainly also changed me. Until then I had never before seen suffering and destruction to that extent.
The duration and intensity of Gunnar’s long-term commitment to THW is really special. However, there are also lots of other projects that we at innovaphone have grown fond of thanks to the private commitment of colleagues and the fact that we talk about them. The “Afghan School” project in Pakistan by the relief foundation Christophorus Hilfswerk is just one example where one of our colleagues from the IT department, Franziska Diesch, volunteers. It is a school that offers good education and integration to young Afghan refugees thus opening up future prospects to them in a very poor country. An invitation to donate money was sent via innovaphone’s internal communication app and the colleagues joined forces to make a donation for this project.
While the majority of volunteer work in Germany takes place privately – be it in sports or music clubs, helping with school work or in a church environment – the term “corporate volunteering” is used when companies take on social responsibility. This can, for example, mean using professional knowledge and expertise in a private environment and releasing the employee from work for this purpose – as in the case of Gunnar, who contributes his technical expertise to set up communication structures in crisis regions – or by providing financial support to associations and institutions. For example, with the so-called “Family and Friends Sponsoring”, innovaphone provides its employees with a fixed budget for donations which is released quickly and easily upon request – again via an internal communication app. In the past, for example, sports clubs have received financial support to purchase jerseys, schoolchildren have been provided with school planners or financing was provided for a Cradle to Cradle project.