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A lance for volunteering

Thorsten Böth is an economist out of Wuppertal. He is the head of the German Red Cross in Solingen

Since his schooltime, Thorsten Böth was interested in economic coherences. His desire to understand economy, both in the entrepreneurial establishment of a company and in the context of the society as a whole, led him to the clear choice to study economy. "It was my aim to gain respective qualifications for multiple professional fields through studying", said Böth. Through his engagement in the faculty of economy in Wuppertal he soon gets a job as a student associate in the deanery. As a result he gets important insights into administrative structures. "I had to manage general adminstrative tasks, event and room planning, a very exciting experience", he explains, "but the most exciting thing was that I wrote the minutes during the meetings of the faculty council. This was very interesting as a student because I was allowed to work on a trustful task for the dean." Later, Böth worked at the academic chair of Controlling as a student employee.

First Experiences in volunteering

He already engaged into volunteering in these times. Böth volunteered at the Bundesverband deutscher Volks- und Betriebswirte (bdvb), organised workshops, invited speakers and is loyal to the regional association since today. "Even today I lead the regional association of the bdvb and I operate as a mentor for the student association of the University of Wuppertal."

After his time as a research assistant and his doctorate at the academic chair of Controlling his path led him into the professional world. "I worked as a project manager and as a product manager. After that I worked as an economist for the office of the prime minister for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia for several years." He applied through a personal consultation as a district manager for the DRK Solingen. Since the end of 2016, he operates in this function.

Director of the German Red Cross Solingen

The German Red Cross works together with several volunteers - therefore the volunteer work is of huge importance. "We are around 150 permanently employed and 400 volunteers at the German Red Cross", does Böth explain. The activities of the DRK are diverse, since it is an aid organisation and a welfare association. Besides the accident ambulance, the ambulance service, the transport service for disabled people and the blood donations, the DRK offers first aid courses and a 24-hour emergency call service which about 1,000 users can use at any time. Additionally the DRK conducts three nurseries and offers courses for families, children and seniors. "And beyond that the area of our emergency services are very important for us. In case an emergency occurs two thirds of our units of the city of Solingen are stemmed by our volunteers." Böth repeadetly emphasizes how important the engagement of the volunteers is for the social solidarity. He openly addresses the junior problem. "Nowadays it is generally difficult to find volunteers. We notice that people who want to contribute to society become less and less. We do gain new volunteers, but it gets more difficult to find young people."

The Corona-Pandemic changes everything

Since the 13th March, the day on which public schools and nurseries were closed down - did the work of the DRK Solingen change as well. "We immediatelly conducted a risk analysis and took precautionary measures", does the economist explain. External people have no longer access to the ambulance station. Additionally all parents and children are not allowed to enter our nurseries (except for the emergency care)." Instead, the non-profit organisation e.g. distributes filter masks in hospitals on behalf of the health ministry NRW. Böth, who is in regular exchange with the city administration and the mutual operation force of the aid organisations of NRW, continues: "We drive on behalf of the health ministry in mobile sampling teams to test on Covid 19. We support the public clinical center with DRK-aides in the emergency stations, due to the additional burden through Corona." But even the people who are in need of care in the own four walls are being kept an eye on. "Therefore the welfare associations of Solingen established an emergency hotline for stand-alone people that are not able to help themselves." Economically the DRK is faced with a financial challenge, just like many other organisations. "Many services broke down. 100 rides of our shuttle service for pupils and seniors are cancelled. We are not able to offer first-aid courses in our district association, because the distance rules can not be observed. Many courses for children, family and seniors are cancelled. This implies huge revenue losses, with constistent personell costs", he explains.

Raising the desire to help

In order to gain people who lend their support to the community through volunteering also during these times, "we have to raise the desire within young people to help others", ascertains Böth, who sees the negative trend in young students of the university, as well. They often intially ask: What do I have from that? Volunteering besides the studies is something extremely important, as Böth assesses, who works part-time at the academic chair of Controlling of the Schumpeter School of Business and Economics at the University of Wuppertal. "You have to do both,", he says, "not only attaining technical expertise, but additionally looking out to conduct innovative and social projects in teams besides the studies."

The recruitment of volunteers who support the German Red Cross is part of Böth's daily business. And even there glimmers of light exist over which the dedicated economist rejoices. "Last week, I acquired a natural scientist who has a PhD, for serving during the blood donations.

Uwe Blass (Interview on 20.04.2020)


Dr. Thorsten Böth studied economics at the Ruhr-University Bochum and at the University of Wuppertal. He took his doctoral degree at the University of Wuppertal. There he worked as a research assistent at the academic chair of BWL/Controlling and as a project manager at the Institut for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Research. After that he operated as a product manager at the Technical Academy of Wuppertal. At the state chancellery of the federal state of North-Rhine Westfalia he was responsible for the investment management of a state organisation. At the end of 2016, he transferred to the German Red Cross and became the district director.

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