Hamburg, 11/01/2017 | Story | Social Responsibility The Winners of the Volunteering Award 2017

In summer, all employees of Olympus in Europe, Middle East and Africa who carry out voluntary work were encouraged to apply. The winners of the Volunteering Award 2017 have now been selected: Sarah Johansson, Christina Smedberg and Cindy Last were able to win over the judges thanks to their social projects.

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Sarah Johannson

Olympus employee Sarah Johansson

Once again this year, Olympus is recognizing employees who carry out voluntary work in their spare time. Employees from right across EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) had the opportunity to apply for financial support for their favorite project. Sarah Johansson (Olympus Deutschland), Christina Smedberg (Olympus Italia) and Cindy Last (Olympus Surgical Technologies Europe) are the 2017 winners. They were selected in places one through three respectively in recognition of their social commitment. The total prize money of 10,000 euros will now be split between their three charitable organizations.

1st place: Integration through sport at Mini Giants

Sarah Johansson is Product Manager at Olympus Deutschland and, in her spare time, loves to put on her boxing gloves; “Boxing has been a hobby of mine for almost twelve years, and the best thing about the sport is its integrative character.” This idea inspired Sarah and two friends from the Hamburg Giants (Germany), a boxing club in the first Bundesliga in Hamburg, to come together and form the Mini Giants, a project for children and young people that fosters social integration through sport.

"It is not medals that count here though, but rather a sense of community and self-confidence"Sarah Johansson

The aim of Mini Giants is to help young people of all nationalities, from around eleven to 16 years old and with difficult life circumstances, to find their place in the social community. “That is our main priority for what we want to achieve through boxing. It is not medals that count here though, but rather a sense of community and self-confidence – both of which can be acquired through sport. In addition, we also help the Mini Giants deal with the typical problems that arise during puberty, especially for those with poor family relationships. For example, when things aren't going well at school and the support is lacking at home, we offer tutoring,” explains Johansson, co-founder of Mini Giants. Given that the project is still in its infancy, it is clear how the 5,000 euro prize money is to be spent; “We have to get our project’s name out there. Amongst other things, that involves creating a logo and a website. It's also vital that we extend our sponsorship network, so that we can offer the children regular training camps or private lessons. The prize money is therefore valuable seed capital for Mini Giants.”

2nd place: United against cancer at LILT

Christina Smedberg

Second winner Christina Smedberg

“Every Saturday morning, I get to know people who make a huge impression on me and show me their vitality and resilience,” reflects Christina Smedberg, Assistant to MD at Olympus Italia. This is when she meets with cancer patients and has the chance to speak to them on a personal level. Christina is a volunteer assistant at LILT (short for “Lega Italiana per la Lotta contro i Tumori”). The organization provides support for cancer patients as well as for their relatives, cooperating with various hospitals across Italy in the process.

“Every Saturday morning, I get to know people who make a huge impression on me and show me their vitality and resilience.“Christina Smedberg

Christina works for LILT in Milan. In the Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, one of the country’s most important hospitals and cancer centers, she cares specifically for patients who have lung cancer, either just before or just after they have an operation. “I talk with the patients, listen to them, and help them to process the experience they are going through. People can share their worries and fears with me and we often also experience positive moments and smiles together” explains Christina. Not everyone is allowed to have direct contact with the patients, however: A screening test with over 500 questions and a subsequent psychological interview are required beforehand. What will the 3000 euro prize money be used for? “The money will be destined to the Social Services area of LILT that helps many economically and socially needy cancer patients at their homes, when they, due to the disease, are in a financially difficult situation or have problems to leave the house. Often even a direct cash contribution for primary necessities is handed out to them by the dedicated volunteers.” says Christina Smedberg.

3rd place: for more warmth in winter – Antikältehilfe St. Pauli

Cindy Last

Cindy Last, employee at Olympus Surgical Technologies Europe

The association Antikältehilfe St. Pauli mostly provides support in the winter months for homeless people in Hamburg’s St. Pauli district, best known for its nightlife area around the Reeperbahn. “We give homeless people and their four-legged friends tents and sleeping bags, clothes, and hot food,” explains Cindy Last, who works in Fiber Processing for Olympus Surgical Technologies Europe, and has been involved with the association since 2016.

“Other than giving them donations and medical care, we are also able to lend people a sympathetic ear.“Cindy Last

The charity's activities involve a lot more than this, however; “Other than giving them donations and medical care, we are also able to lend people a sympathetic ear. We speak to them as equals and encourage them to interact socially.” Cindy Last is also particularly active in contributing towards the organizational side of things. This entails planning fundraising activities or portioning dog food, for example. The prize money of 2,000 euros is urgently needed. “For this coming winter, we still need lots of material as new goods, like underwear, socks, and toiletries. But we also need to produce some marketing materials to make more homeless people in St. Pauli aware of the work we’re doing,” reveals Cindy Last.

Diverse social commitement

“All the projects that have been presented this year successfully highlight the commitment of our employees. It is most interesting to see the diversity of our colleagues’ volunteer work. To support this commitment, Olympus is giving away an additional 200 euros to every project submitted,” says Juliane Hüppe, Department Manager Human Resources Development at Olympus Europa and Initiator of the Social IN Committee, which selected the winners. “The decision was primarily made on the basis of who contributes the most personally to their project, steps outside their comfort zone, and supports a great project in an effective way. These criteria were particularly well met by all three winners.

The Social IN Comitee

Within the framework of its corporate philosophy, Social IN, Olympus attaches great importance to responsible entrepreneurial activity, and therefore also supports projects that employees are committed to on a voluntary basis in their spare time. The selection of Volunteering Award winners is made by the Social IN Committee. It comprises eight CSR executives representing the various divisions and regions of EMEA. The committee is responsible for the strategic development of CSR at Olympus and takes care of achieving sustainable effects in the community.