Story

Henkel employees help families fulfill the dream of owning their own home

Corporate Volunteering: Building houses with Habitat for Humanity in Romania

Culture Dec 6, 2022

In this story, you will learn:

The sound of hammers and saws is in the air, blue skies, beaming faces. Welcome to Cumpana, a small town near the Romanian coast of the Black Sea. For a whole week, 20 Henkel employees helped to build two houses for families in need. They volunteered as part of the corporate volunteering project "Baureise" (building trip), which Henkel runs in cooperation with the nonprofit organization Habitat for Humanity.

Sina Pfanschilling is one of 20 Henkel volunteers who set out from several European countries on the journey to Cumpana this October. For some time now, the Media Relations Manager wanted to get involved in volunteer work again. With a full-time job, this is not easy. But this fall, the opportunity arose.

Together for social causes  

"The program offers the chance to dedicate 100 percent of your time to a social issue that is close to your heart, with the support of the company," explains Sina. She experienced first-hand how two houses took shape within a week – also in part thanks to her own physical labor and always aware that she was not doing this for money, but for people in need. "That gave me a lot of energy and motivation," says the Media Relations Manager.

Sina Pfanschilling, Media Relations Manager at Henkel

The program offers the chance to dedicate 100 percent of your time to a social project with the support of the company.

Since 2012, Henkel and the Fritz Henkel Stiftung foundation have been supporting the organization Habitat for Humanity, which helps families in need worldwide by building houses. The company provides support not only in the form of financial support and donations of building materials, but also through on-site employee support – the so-called "building trips". In the past years, Henkel employees around the world have supported many of these social projects, for example in Romania, Northern Macedonia and the U.S.    

A new home for a family with three children

Elena Campos has also embarked on a trip to build houses. In the beginning of September, Elena, who works in Global Marketing for Adhesive Technologies, spent a week in Poduri – a village in the central-western part of Romania. There, together with twelve other Henkel volunteers, she was part of an international team working on the construction of a house. Two smaller bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen and living room and a small attic: The new home for a family with three small children. "It's quite touching. In this project, you really do something meaningful, not so much for yourself, but for others." That's how Elena describes her emotional state.

Only families whose income is significantly below the average income of the respective country can apply for a house at Habitat for Humanity. In addition, they agree to support the construction and pay a small refinancing fee to Habitat for Humanity over 20 years, which flows into a fund. This money is then used to finance new projects. This is also the case in Cumpana. There, apartments for four families are being built in two houses. When it comes to interior design, the families have a free hand. One father, for example, wants to convert the attic. He wishes for his two children, aged 6 and 10, to each have their own room. So far, the family lives, cooks, and sleeps in one room, all in the space of 20 square meters.

Volunteers from all around Europe

A total of more than 100 volunteers in Cumpana have helped to make the dream of owning a home come true for the families. In addition to the 20 Henkel employees, the team included volunteers from other companies and from Habitat for Humanity. Led by local construction workers, they painted and screwed roof beams, plastered walls, installed windows and much more. In Poduri, the group was smaller: 13 Henkel employees and ten women from the Netherlands from Habitat for Humanity. 

The contact with the families, their hospitality and gratitude will remain in Sina's and Elena's memories for a long time to come. They think back very fondly on how quickly the teams grew together. "We traveled to Romania, got to know each other there and built a house together. Different languages, different cultures, and yet everything fit together wonderfully," says Elena, attributing this to the common goal and shared motivation.

Sina agrees: "We got along very well. No matter from which country, whether old or young, man or woman, whether from production or administration. You can't get more diverse than that, it was a firework of team spirit." This underscores once again how much diversity contributes to better performance and success. Elena has already given presentations about her experience in Romania. By doing so, she wants to motivate her colleagues to get involved in social projects, as well.

Corporate volunteering: Bringing sustainability and social equality to life   

For both Sina and Elena, it is extremely important to work for a company that promotes social commitment and corporate volunteering. The collaboration with Habitat for Humanity on the "Baureise” project is one of the many examples that underlines how the company is taking sustainability and creating a viable future for generations to come seriously. For good reason, Elena emphasizes: "Corporate volunteering not only creates added value for society, but also for the company and its employees." 

Elena Campos, Global Market & Customer Activation, Aviation, Space & Rail Adhesive Technologies at Henkel

Corporate volunteering not only creates added value for society, but also for the company and its employees.

"Pioneers at heart for the good of generations": this is the corporate purpose that unites everyone at Henkel. And the trip to build houses fits in perfectly with this. With their social commitment and knowledge, the volunteers help to create a future worth living for future generations. Sina is convinced of this. This is especially true for the children, she says, who are now growing up in new, well-insulated, mold-free homes – and may have their own room where they can study for school without disruption.

The pioneering spirit aspect is also reflected in the project, Elena emphasizes. A pioneer is agile, innovative and willing to gain new experiences, she says. This is exactly what the volunteers are doing. They were looking for a challenge by exchanging their jobs for a week of construction work. And not all of them had the required manual skills beforehand, so they were entering unfamiliar territory.

For the two Henkel employees, the week in Romania was a formative experience that enriched their lives in many ways. When Sina took one last look at the houses shortly before leaving, she was certain: "This is by no means the end of the story. I want to continue geting involved in social projects despite my full-time job." This sentiment probably echoes what many volunteers at Henkel feel who have gone on a trip to build houses or volunteered in other projects .