Child's Play 2008: Germany

(Dies ist die englische Version eines ursprünglich deutschsprachigen Artikels.)

Child’s Play 2008 is on. Gamers in many countries of the world give money or buy toys, games or other gifts for child hospitals and stations and their little patients; partner hospitals in the US, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Egypt are delighted about all the donations.

The Question

But where’s Germany? This question popped up in my head more than once during the summer. Why aren’t there any German hospitals participating in Child’s Play? In July, I’ve asked Kristin Lindsay (Penny Arcade’s project manager) about this, and preventively offered my help as “voluntary liason officer”.

Her answer arrived after a few days: “We currently have no partners there simply because none of us speak German. If you’d like to help out to get your local facility involved, that would be fantastic!”

The Job

In a nutshell, the volunteers are needed to make the initial contact between Child’s Play and potential partner hospitals. CP doesn’t know about these local facilities. How should they? They need local gamers, i.e. us, just like in all the other countries. Die people in charge in these clinics have questions, and it helps building trust in the idea when there are local contacts answering these questions in the local language.

From a legal point of view, the volunteers are not really involved. When a facility decides to become a so-called partner hospital, then there’ll be a legal agreement with the US charity itself. Child’s Play only works with so-called non-profit organizations, tho, this can be either the hospital directly, their volunteer guild or the hospital foundation, whichever is applicable.

We, the volunteers, come back into play later, if at all; for example when the clinic may require assistance in building a wish list. The business side of the charity, i.e. sales and shipping, is handled by Amazon.

The Story

About a week later, early August, I went to the hospital Munich Neuperlach. After my appointment I’ve asked around and found the social services office, where I was told that the clinic didn’t have a pediatric station. Bummer! But the friendly head of the office gave me names and phone numbers of people in two other, applicable local hospitals, Munich Harlaching und Munich Schwabing. Excellent!

Well, I didn’t quite expect to see people falling over each other to hear my case. Nonetheless I started doing my rounds on the phone. My two contacts were friendly and helpful, but not the people responsible for dealing with charities. Over and over I was given new names of other clinic personnel which would take care of “requests like yours”, and after a few detours I’ve ended up talking to people who at least could give me some information and the right names. It just didn’t really help right away: “The person you want to talk to is [XYZ], but he/she is sick/on vacation/on a business trip”.

During the next two months I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone. I’ve talked with nice hospital employees who appeared to be seriously interested, who asked for more information. Some of them had questions I couldn’t answer; luckily there was Kristin Lindsay. :) I’ve relayed Kristin’s answers in German to my contacts. I’ve called them on a weekly basis, asked for news and whether a decision had been made yet. But bureaucracy being what it is, this took some time, so I’ve called them again… and again… and again.

In short, I’ve done what I’ve “signed up for” when asking whether they would need a local volunteer.

End of Season One

But then, end of October, all of a sudden it was over (at least for this run). The administration of the Munich Municipal Hospitals told me in a short mail that while they found Child’s Play to be an interesting charity, they’ve ultimately decided against participating. A pity.

In the end there was nothing left to do for me but to thank them for the notice, and reminding them that 2008 very likely isn’t going to be the last year of CP.

Well, and that is the reason why there are no Child’s Play hospitals in Germany in 2008.

Debriefing

Personally, I think it’s a sad outcome, yes. I ponder whether I should’ve contacted more than just two clinics. The chances for success would’ve been much higher, of course. But this was the first time I’ve done something like this, and I had no idea what to expect or how much work it would entail. I figured I’d rather start out small, and increase the numbers in the next year. The sky’s the limit, sure; but trying to deal with 10 facilities at once in the first run, and running the risk of failure, of letting people down, of screwing with the reputation of Child’s Play – that didn’t look like a solid plan.

Child’s Play 2009

Next year I’m going to start out earlier in the year. Also, I’ve decided to change my approach: I’ll “outsource” the search for applicable and interested hospitals.

I’ll outsource them to you.

Do you know a German children’s hospital or a clinic with a pediatric station which might be interested in a contact to Child’s Play? Just ask the administration or the social services people – just tell them about CP. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say most clinics in Germany have no idea the charity exists. If they’re showing interest, you’ll have three options:

Please keep in mind that I can’t promise anything, except that I’ll answer each request.

And with a bit of luck we’ll have more success in 2009, so the press might talk about something else than “OMG MURDAR SIMULATOR GAMSE”. :)

The Fineprint

I am not affiliated with Child’s Play. I do not speak for the organisation, and I am not their representative. All I am is a freelance volunteer who thinks the idea of having Child’s Play partner hospitals in Germany is a really neat one. All statements regarding legal conditions and practices have been made to the best of my knowledge, but still they might be poppycock.