More than 600 volunteer staff Climate conference depends on volunteer help

Bonn · Indispensable helpers at the Cop23 ensure that everything runs smoothly in many different areas. Language skills are especially needed.

More than 600 volunteers are supporting the Cop23 World Climate Conference. Their tasks are wide-spread and sometimes it’s just small jobs they are called to peform. But these too are important for the functioning of the complex and international conference. Despite demanding working conditions and shifts, the volunteer jobs were much in demand: nearly 5,000 applications were received by the UN Climate Change Secretariat.

Probably one of the oldest helpers is Rita Schlüter (64) from Hennef. She was assigned to the information stand in the Bonn Zone, which in peak periods can attract more than 5,000 visitors. "It can be pretty stressful," she says. She and her colleague Eva Schaaber are currently working on the colorful water bottles, which are handed out to all conference participants free of charge. "But we are very happy to do this," says Schlüter.

She had volunteered because she was looking for meaningful volunteer work after her retirement one and a half years ago. "Environmental and climate protection have always interested me. And it is important that my generation, which has nothing to worry about, is committed to it." She wants to keep up the work after the conference. "Here I hope to make contacts and find projects in which I can participate."

Explanations in Fijian

Directly affected by climate change is Jojvini Krickelberg, 45, from Fiji who has been living with her German husband in Bad Godesberg since July. "My family lives there and we are afraid of what the rising sea level will do to my homeland," she says. Krickelberg is the only volunteer from the island nation holding the presidency of the Cop23. "That makes me very proud." It also makes her the perfect ambassador at the information stand in the WCCB. In English, Fijian and Indonesian, she explains to visitors how they can use public transport and where to find which conference rooms.

In comparison, Bonn students Hendrik Cremans (31) and Kerstin Casaretto (23) have a rather monotonous task: they distribute the headphones in front of the conference rooms, where the six UN languages;​Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish are transmitted to the participants. "It's not exciting, but it has to be done. Otherwise the conference doesn’t work," says Cremans, a student of Latin American Studies.

He and Casaretto are helping because they wanted to be part of stopping climate change. "And besides, I learn here many things that I need for my geography studies," says Casaretto. Both are on duty for the entire two weeks. For them and all volunteers, duties are assigned by the organizers.

Scottish biochemistry major becomes ICT helper

Her studies in biochemistry probably moved the organizers to assign Scottish Carolyn Ryan to ICT, part of the team responsible for everything related to computers and printers. "I don’t have that much of an idea about these things, but it’s manageable," says the 23-year-old, who is doing her master's degree in Bonn. For example, one woman kept clicking on the Cop23 logo although there was no function behind it. “That was funny then when I explained it to her.”

In contrast to the volunteers staffing the other areas, the ICT team does not wear light blue jackets, but instead dark blue vests. "We are immediately recognizable and often people approach us." The work clothes, which include two white polo shirts, can be kept by the volunteers.

Volunteers of the aid organizations are dressed not in blue, but in red. The Red Cross (DRK) and other aid groups operate from the Medic Center in the Bonn Zone. Berlin paramedic Jörn Schmarsow (54) has taken extra vacation so he could be at the conference. “There is a partnership between the German Red Cross in Berlin and Bonn; we support each other at major events,” he says. Even though he is only needed when something bad happens, he is whole-heartedly here. “We can help do our part to make the conference a success,” he says.

Orig. text: Nicolas Otterbach. Translation: ckloep

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