We are so impressed by how many of our au pairs donate their time and talents to community service work. This week’s spotlight is on Andrea Hinkel. Andrea is an au pair from Germany living with her host family in Pennsylvania and second runner up for the National 2016 Au Pair Community Service Awards. She shared the following about her volunteer work as a firefighter.
*BEEEEEEEEEEEP* The pager triggers “LOWER MERION….” In a hurry I slip into my sneakers, run to the shed and bike to the fire station. The adrenalin makes my blood rush in my ears. I slip into my gear and make it on the Engine. There is a building on fire in our township. Maybe we have to go in. On the way to the incident scene my pals and I put on the air packs. When we arrive we see immediately that we will function as the supporting team. There are already 5 other trucks from the surrounding villages. After the incident there are over 10 of them. Teamwork.
To me becoming a firefighter was never a question; firefighting means family. My dad is one, just as my brother. I have always been looking up to these people who sacrifice their spare-time and health being available up to 24/7 to run into a burning house to save lives. Being willing to hurry towards the firehouse at unthinkable times, never knowing what to expect and being willing to help anyways. I respect the spirit of these men and women very highly.
I used to go to the fire station every week as a “junior firefighter” since I am twelve. With other young people, I learned in six years a lot about firefighting without actually going to calls. When I turned 18 and finished my training I became an active firefighter in Germany. I feel happy to say that I became a firefighter in another country at 19.
One of the moments most memorable is driving around the whole day during Christmas time with Santa on top of the Engine and giving out candy canes to children in the suburb. In a technical rescue drill last week, we tried to open a car without the hydraulic tools we usually would use. Instead we used manual tools and hand-operated hydraulic tools as well as a Sawzall. We had not opened all doors of the vehicle after 90 minutes. It was a very insightful evening to get an understanding on how stable a car actually is and how the development of new tools can actually save lives.
Being a firefighter means to me being always willing to learn, practice and improve myself. It is also the thrill to never know what to expect and when one’s been needed. It is a fact that German firefighters look up the American way of firefighting. Not only the strategies, also when we get a new tool back home, usually the Americans worked with it already for quite some time (e.g. thermal imager).
I feel thankful, that the Penn Wynne Fire Company – Station 21 welcomed me that warmly. I learned a lot since I am here, and I am glad that I will be able to share all of it with my fire department back home. The best gift would be if my experience would make a difference.
Contact us to view profiles of au pairs like Andrea and to learn how Au Pair in America can be a rewarding cultural experience and child care solution for your entire family.