No mobile phone or laptop – pull on your work gloves and grab a shovel: In August 2021, staff from the Aon office in Munich helped build a round pen at PATRIZIA Child Therapy Augsburg (Ziegelhof therapy centre). The corporate volunteering programme was particularly warmly received by the circus group: because of its solid floor, the ring is also suitable for wheelchairs.
Building the round pen was challenging
Preparations for the round pen started in May 2021 – in July, the Aon employees found themselves ankle-deep in mud: There had been such heavy rain, the ground was waterlogged, and they had to call the day off. And even in late August, the Aon team had to lay soft paving slabs in the pouring rain. This still didn’t dampen their enthusiasm: “Just the fact that we’re creating something meaningful for the kids here is the best motivation we can have,” says Benjamin Tron, customer service manager at Aon.
On the two days, seven employees from Aon’s Munich office lent a helping hand. . As well as spreading gravel, they laid curbstones, distributed chippings, and laid hundreds of soft paving slabs. For many of the volunteers, it was the first time they’d been involved in social work, and it was a major change. “Otherwise we sit around a lot in the office. Here we can get a bit of exercise and fresh air, and the nice bit is we also see something happen at the end, something you’ve achieved together,” says Ann-Kathrin Kisting, Deputy Regional Manager for the South Region at Aon.
How the idea came about
Aon signed on as a member of the PATRIZIA Foundation Sponsor Circle in early 2021, to support the goal of providing children with an education. The company also wanted to work more closely with children, preferably in tangible terms by becoming involved in a project.
“Coincidentally, there was an urgent need for a paved round pen at PATRIZIA Child Therapy Augsburg, particularly for the circus group, so the project lent itself to corporate volunteering,” explains Katrin Halboth of the PATRIZIA Foundation. As well as providing help by rolling up their sleeves, Aon also supported the foundation with a donation of almost € 7,000 for the material and organisational costs.
Training ground for the circus group
The circus group at the Ziegelhof is made up of between eight and ten children, some of whom use wheelchairs, and has been working towards regular circus performances. But until now it could only practise in the stable area. Having a cordoned-off area and a wheelchair-accessible surface, as is the case with the ring, allows wheelchair users to practise special tricks independently with the animals. This means the children can share their experiences on an equal basis.
“For wheelchair users, being able to work with the horses really boosts your ability to do things independently and decide things yourself, so for the children and young people it’s a tremendous leap forward in enjoying life,” explains Beate Averdung, the pedagogical director at the Ziegelhof. The round pen will also reduce the number of overlapping bookings in the indoor riding arena caused by parallel therapy sessions. Important time trying things out by yourself in animal-assisted therapy can now be organised independent of hall bookings.
More information from a partner during lunch
During the event, the Aon volunteers also learned about the valuable work being carried out by a local partner of the PATRIZIA Foundation, Bunter Kreis. Over lunch, Astrid Grotz, board member of the Bunter Kreis foundation, told the volunteers how the aftercare facility has been helping the families of seriously ill children for 30 years. The children suffer from chronic and severe illnesses or cancer, and the help they require ranges from medical and social care for premature babies at home to self-help groups, patient training, animal-assisted therapy and children’s hospice services. “We always think about the whole family, so they can succeed in life – despite the heavy burden,” says Astrid Grotz.
A good team-building exercise
The stories galvanised the resolve of the Aon team members to build the round pen. After lunch, they buckled down to work again to get the ring finished, even though the rain had become heavier by then. The corporate volunteering campaign is not just good for the children at the therapy centre – it’s also fabulous for team-building among the staff at Aon. “We’re making something together here, we have to communicate a lot with each other, and it’s lovely to see how we can pull in the same direction and all make a difference together,” says Sarah Vanessa Veit, sales assistant at Aon.