Roche Mannheim assists refugees

As home to around 6,000 refugees, the Benjamin Franklin barracks in the north of Mannheim currently resemble a small town. A lot of things, including sleeping bags, tables and winter clothing, are in short supply. The biggest shortage, though, is of ways of moving the goods that are already there. Roche was quick and efficient in assisting, with no red tape.

One cold and dismal day at the end of 2015, a Unimog could be seen slowly making its way down Waldstrasse followed by an inconspicuous green van. The Unimog contained a sit-on forklift, a smaller pallet jack and an electric pedestrian pallet truck; the van carried a Roche delegation led by Andreas Speier, Head of the Mechanical Workshops at Roche Mannheim and organiser of the aid convoy. After a short trip, the vehicles stopped at the Benjamin Franklin barracks. Once used by the Americans, the barracks have now been converted into one of Germany’s largest refugee centres. Here and there, residents could be seen walking on the grounds, stealing shy glances at the new arrivals, who continued their journey after a brief chat.

Next stop: the storeroom

The former supermarket is piled high with pallets of nappies, washing powder, bed linen and similar items. “All we’ve had to transport everything until now is one pallet truck. Roche’s help has come at just the right moment,” explained Thomas Kersten, who is a Master Sergeant in the military reserve force. It was he who launched an appeal through his network, which made its way to Speier via RDG Head of Site Development Henning Franke and Site Manager Martin Haag. The various lift trucks changed hands for the symbolic price of one euro, and the new owners were briefed on how to use them. “The trucks might not be brand new, but they’re fully functional. We gave them a full checkover before we brought them here,” said Bernd Hack, Head of Materials Handling Equipment.

In addition, Roche Real Estate Services Mannheim GmbH has donated stored furniture. “Up to now we’ve even had to work on trestle tables and benches in our offices,” explains Sergeant Kersten before asking for more help. “We’re delighted to get anything we’re offered, whether it’s materials, interpreting services or do-it-yourself skills.”

“Making friends of strangers”

Anyone at Mannheim or Penzberg who is interested in helping refugees can get involved in one of Roche’s many projects in this area, which are all now part of the “Making friends of strangers” initiative launched in early 2015. The aim of the “Making friends of strangers” projects is for employees to make refugees feel welcome and help them forget their cares by spending a few happy hours with them, for example playing sport, visiting a museum or working on language skills. Many employees are involved in the projects as volunteers. Roche also contributes to professional integration by offering internships and training places.

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