How do we value people

"The people here in town appreciate what we do"

There is a very special local association in Aventoft on the Danish border. The community has 460 inhabitants, of which 414 are currently members of the social association. But that was not always so. We spoke to Hans-Werner Christiansen, chairman of the SoVD in Aventoft since 1998.

Hello Mr. Christiansen! Can you genetically explain why someone volunteers?

Perhaps not genetically. But for me it has always been a matter of course that I get involved in my environment. I was 16 when I joined the volunteer fire brigade here in town - in total I did it for 50 years, my entire professional life. Here in the country it's quite normal, it's part of village life. Volunteering creates cohesion.

And how did you come to join the social association?

When I was a young man, my brother was seriously ill. In addition to his health problems, financial worries quickly became apparent because he was soon unable to work. Neither the agricultural pension fund nor the statutory pension scheme wanted to pay, so my brother had to fight for his claims at the social court. Unfortunately, he only joined the SoVD later, the process was conducted for him by a lawyer who had no idea about social law.

It was then that I started to deal with these topics. It is important that there are organizations that help people who are not on the sunny side of life. These are above all those who are seriously ill and need help. With the employers' liability insurance association or difficulties with the health insurance company.

I joined the social welfare association a few years after my brother, that was in the summer of 1990. I didn't even become active as a volunteer here, however, until a little later. In 1992 an auditor was sought. Since I was a banker, I was approached and of course I was happy to help. That was a different time then. At the time when I started as a cash auditor, the local chapter in our country consisted mainly of older people. Six years later they were looking for a new chairman - we had just 35 members at the time. So I took over the local association for the time being. At the time, of course, I never thought that it would turn out to be more than 22 years.

Why did you stay with SoVD for so long?

As I said: I saw with my own eyes how difficult it can be for a person to be with my brother. If you are then without help, you can quickly get lost in the welfare state. That's why I think it's so good what the social association does. We help those who cannot help themselves.

But that's not all. When I took over the chair, I already had a few ideas on how to move the club forward here at Aventoft. As early as the next year there was a large demonstration in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to secure pensions - we were there too. And we made sure that something happened here in the village. For example, we have been organizing a big bike tour for young and old for 20 years, followed by a barbecue every year. There are bicycle rings, various festivals and trips. We have been organizing a carnival party for the children since 2003. The people here in the village appreciate that, which is why we have such a large number of visitors.

Isn't that exhausting? Such an honorary position costs a lot of time.

Sure, but I really enjoy it. Otherwise I would have stopped long ago! A few years ago there was actually a time when it got a bit too much for me personally. The local association grew and grew, there were more and more appointments, and I did a lot on my own. But at a certain point it just wasn't possible anymore. So I sat down with the entire board and distributed the tasks here in the association. Buying gifts, visiting anniversaries, organizing events. All the work is now well distributed, and it has been going well since then.

We get first-class support from the district association in Husum. Whether that is new information or advice from our members, the cooperation is just great. Also with the regional association in Kiel - only sometimes I would like the suggestions of the local associations to be taken up more quickly.

Is there some kind of honorary wage?

The highlights of our work are actually the reactions of our members. When we manage to get a pension against a lot of resistance, it's always a good feeling. But even the little things here on site are reward enough. For example the smiling faces of the children when we celebrate Carnival together here in Aventoft.

Then the "lockdown" because of Corona must have been a pretty difficult time for your club life, right?

Of course we couldn't do any more events. But here in the village there have hardly been any cuts in daily life. People know each other and meet each other in everyday life anyway. Clearly, in the spring, as everywhere, more attention was paid to the distance. But in contrast to the large booth, nobody here at Aventoft had to get lonely.

You have been a member of the social association for 30 years, including 22 years as the chairman of your local association. How much longer do you want to go on?

The chairmanship will be over in a year and a half, and I've already found a successor. But of course I will continue to be active on a voluntary basis, just no longer as chairman.

Would you also like to work on a voluntary basis? Then contact:

Christian Schultz
Advisor for social policy
Phone: 0431/98 388 - 70
Mail: Sozialpolitik (at)

The Schleswig-Holstein Social Association helps with social issues. We represent our members up to the social court, for example in the event of problems with the disability pension or the disability card.

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