Volunteer of the week: Stefan Henkel, Gießen, Germany

8.12am on Tuesday morning at the comprehensive school in Gießen. Stefan Henkel has just been riding in an ambulance – he was on a night shift again. Now he’s sitting next to me and we’re waiting for the children. ‘Is there any coffee back there in the cafeteria?’ I don’t know and go to find out. ‘No, don’t worry about it. You don’t need to go and look. I’m fine,’ he says.

Stefan Henkel is 21 years old and in his sixth semester. Before his degree, he was already a paramedic. He is one of the medical students in Gießen, who have been there since the first school visit. At crucial moments Stefan rescues school visits, even if it means turning up at a school straight after a night shift, just like today. ‘Somehow we manage it,’ he always says. He is a team member, who’s always been there in difficult times. By now, he’s spoken to more than 1,000 school children. Voluntarily. Why?

Stefan, what motivates you?

‘As part of my work as a paramedic, I have seen a number of patients, suffering from smoking-related illnesses, who still smoked despite their serious health problems. Because so many don’t manage to quit, even after they’ve become ill, preventative education is hugely important to me.’

What have you experienced in the classroom?

‘The meeting that left the greatest impression on me, was one with a student, who wanted to tell me that smoking was actually completely healthy – if it wasn’t, why would so many people do it?’

What do you like about your work with EAT?

‘The good team atmosphere and working with people in different semesters and with vastly different experience levels – that way you learn something new from your colleagues with each school visit.’

The children have now gathered in the hall. You could hear a pin drop when Stefan begins his presentation. The children seem to recognize that a passionate medic is on the stage for them. It turns out that there is still no coffee after the presentation, just a thoughtful audience with lots of questions.

Thank you for the interview and for the great work over the last few years.

More information: www.gegentabak.de/uni-giessen

Stefan Henkel is our #Volunteeroftheweek