The disused site in the Berlin district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg was previously a scene of total desolation. But that's now about to change. Between residential buildings and Mercedes-Benz Bank, Maria D'Apice stands ready with some 100 other colleagues to embark on an exceptional effort. The Italian has worked at the Mercedes-Benz Bank Service Center in Berlin since June 2013 and is responsible for claims handling within Retail Management.
Today, however, Maria D'Apice has teamed up with other volunteers from Mercedes-Benz Bank to lend vigorous support to this year's Day of Caring project: Renovating an abandoned playground near to Mercedes-Benz Bank. The goal of all those involved is, by the end of the day, to transform the site into a children's paradise, a playground that once again meets the necessary safety standards.
At the so-called Day of Caring, employees are given the day off work by their employer to allow them to join forces on behalf of a socially beneficial project. Daimler Financial Services launched the Day of Caring in 2006 in a bid to promote charitable projects in the immediate vicinity of its sites. The motto is to give help where it is needed. To date, there have been thirteen Day of Caring across the whole of Germany, including nine projects in Berlin. Worldwide, there have now been over 80.
Tom Schneider, Managing Director of Mercedes-Benz Bank Service Centers, explains: "The Day of Caring is an integral part of our corporate culture. We attach great importance to working as a team and not just to making a financial contribution when it comes to helping in the neighborhood. This time, we're looking forward to making the children's eyes sparkle."
The site of the former playground is in a desolate state; the ramshackle play equipment was dismantled years ago on safety grounds. A sign is the only thing to indicate the existence of a former playground. Many Berlin playgrounds are in urgent need of maintenance to guarantee their compliance with the relevant safety standards. Despite a considerable effort by a local residents' initiative, it has so far proved impossible to get the site back on its feet. That is what prompted this year's Day of Caring project.
This is Maria D'Apice's first "Day of Caring". Keenly observed by local residents and interested passers-by, the industrious helpers get down to work. Having been assigned to individual work groups, the Mercedes-Benz Bank employees set about removing loose paving stones and weeds, constructing paths, filling sandboxes, erecting and painting swings and other play equipment, and a host of other things. All in all, the project consumes, among other things, a truckload of sand, five cubic meters of bark mulch and some 800 small paving stones. Having been subjected to rain early on, the industrious helpers work up a proper sweat in the now brilliant sunshine. There is excellent provision of food and refreshment from the local residents' initiative and from the nearby Vivantes care home. Entirely in keeping with the tradition of the Day of Caring, the refurbishment of the playground has evolved into a genuine "neighborhood project".
Maria D'Apice is delighted to see so much involvement: "I'm very impressed by the willingness and commitment of all those who took part in the project. Everyone gave of their best and did not stop working until their task was done."
The satisfying result is a playground straight out of a picture book - newly marked and paved paths, gorgeously painted swings and play equipment, benches with seat cushions, as well as table tennis tables that are once again fit for purpose. Work was then brought to an abrupt end by the sudden onset of rain. The final touches are applied by gardeners who have assisted the hard-working helpers the whole day long in an advisory capacity.
Monika Herrmann, the lady mayor of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, has nothing but praise for the team's efforts: "We're extremely pleased that this playground has now been brought back to life. We extend our warmest thanks to Mercedes-Benz Bank."
Just in time for the start of the summer vacation period, the children from the neighborhood can now spend their free time at the playground, which now once again meets all the relevant safety standards.
Come the end of the day, Marice D'Apice and her colleagues, full of pride and enthusiasm, can look at what they have achieved. The project was an exciting experience for all those involved. And everyone wants to be back for the next Day of Caring.