At first, Karolina Kartus just wanted to get to know her new home Vienna better. It started with volunteer work in a refugee area and has grown into the new social business “Social Held“: a platform between organizations and volunteer workers.
How to settle
“I don’t think it matters which city it is. It’s more about being exposed to something new.”, Karolina moved to Vienna four years ago. She was born in Poland and previously lived in Warsaw, Berlin and Milan. For her, the first few months in a new city are the most exciting: you don’t just travel, you live and discover the city with different eyes than you would as a tourist.
These new impressions and changes have also shaped Karolina: “Living abroad definitely makes you more open-minded, otherwise you wouldn’t survive. You have to rebuild your life somehow.” She believes, moving is one thing. The other is to really experience a new place and get the most out of it. It has become clear to her that she will stay here for a while, settle in, get to know the country, the culture and its people. “Once you live there, you have a lot more opportunities to do that”. For Karolina, it was volunteering. She wanted to get to know new people and use her free time for a good cause. She started giving English lessons to two boys from the refugee area. As a result, she not only got to know the two boys and their stories, but also a lot about the Austrian school system with which she would otherwise have never come into contact.
It turned out to be more difficult than expected. The search for the right organization, the contacting and the organization of the activity took some time. The branch is still very much dependent on word of mouth. Most organizations are recommended by friends. Information on regional non-profit organizations can also hardly be found on the internet. This problem inspired Karolina and her partner Aga Król to found their company.
Social Held helps to help
For a month now, interested volunteers are able to meet organizations on the website of “Social Held“. Here it should be as simple as possible: volunteers create their profiles and indicate their available time, interests and skills, and get the right organization for their needs. Conversely, the website offers organizations a digital space to present themselves. Individualization is particularly important to the founders: digitally or locally, only once a month or a week, light activities or professions. From the marketing specialist, the learning and trust buddy to the food provider in homeless shelters. There are many ways to get involved socially. “The most important thing is that both sides benefit, not just one.” Karolina never had the feeling that she was working without reward. Sometimes she even feels guilty because she can gain so much from her work.
The Corona crisis has already shown what solidarity and commitment can achieve. With the #Nachbarschaftschallenge, thousands of volunteers helped their fellows in the risk group with shopping to reduce the risk of infection. “Social Held” now wants to continue to inspire these voluntary helpers for voluntary service, because it is also needed beyond the crisis.
Volunteering has also arrived in the business world. With “Corporate Volunteering”, companies enable their employees to use a working day for social engagement at the company’s expense. It’s not just about a good company image. Employees can also gain new experiences in different areas, develop personally and learn something outside their company walls. “In volunteering you have to come up with something out of nothing. You are outside your usual corporate structure and therefore have to be flexible.” The movement grew particularly large in the United States. The European pioneer is Scandinavia.
With “Social Held” Karoline and her partner Aga want to promote social engagement in Vienna and expand their portfolio of organizations. “Volunteering is for everyone. I’m sure everyone can find something that is fun and fulfilling.”