A new center for social interaction for elderly and disabled people through international teamwork

21 HR professionals from Performance Chemicals Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland had been looking forward to have their regular EMEA HR meeting in the Swiss alps this year. Possibly they had expected that there would be some time left for hiking in the mountains but instead they were invited to roll up their sleeves and make a contribution to the local community of the small town Bramboden, located an hour’s drive from the Sempach location in the same canton.

When discussing the preparations for the meeting with the local hotel owner, HR Manager Manuela Hodel expressed their intention to dedicate a day of the conference to an activity supporting the community. This question was not asked in vain as the hotel owner quickly came up with an old school building. Due to the reduced number of children in the village and the high costs it had been decided to close the school many years ago. Since then it had been standing empty and unused. Recently the idea was raised to renovate the school building and make it available for social events organized by various non-profit organizations as well as to other institutions that provide physical exercise for older people living in the countryside.

A start had already been made with the renovation of the building through funds collected by the local authorities. Yet, still a lot of work had to be done and a community project for the attendants of the HR Conference was born. Support from the Community Program was ensured and, in order to obtain professional advice, the Technical Service Team from Performance Additives was contacted. They were gladly willing to not only provide support by means of their knowledge and products, but they also involved a colleague from Decorative Paints who came along to instruct the HR professionals how to apply the paint correctly.

The renovation work was organized in three groups: one group to perform the required repairs and the plastering job in the garage, realizing a newly repaired floor which can be used without the risk of accidents. The second group was responsible for the interior painting, and the third group renewed the entrance wall of the village. Here a very creative solution was found by first collecting stones from a nearby river which served to renew the wall with plants and stones.

It was hard work but at the end of the day the project could be successfully finished, thanks to the collaboration of people from seven different countries, working for different BUs and departments. The volunteers were quite pleased with what they had accomplished, providing elderly people living in the country the opportunity to have more social interaction. In addition the place is now also accessible for disabled people as the sanitary facilities have been renovated according to their needs. Nils Hornstrom from Sweden concluded all participants' feelings by saying: "it was a great experience working with our colleagues in an exceptional environment with new challenges. Inspiring to see how all took part in mud digging, painting and stone-carrying with engagement and durance. We were all proud of what we accomplished and hope that the village will have great use of their community hall."

The community of Bramboden was so excited to see the beautiful result that they rewarded the HR volunteers with a spontaneous yodeling concert in the evening. This was the icing on the cake, as Roland Bachmann from Technical Service Performance Additives commented: "Despite the often heavy rain, everybody was unbelievably motivated to work on this community project. We were rewarded in the evening with the sound of an original ‘Swiss alpine band’ and a beautiful view on the landscape."
What else can anyone wish for!