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interview 3 min. read

I like being socially engaged

Friday 16th December 2022
The end of the year is not only a time for summing up and reflection. It is also brimming with opportunities to open our hearts and to do some good. Here at MakoLab, though, we have a year-round urge to work for the common good! 😊 That kind of prosocial approach is clearly demonstrated and actively promoted by one of our MakoManagers, Rafał Głowiński, Head of our Connected Car Delivery business area. To find out exactly what he’s involved in outside of work, read our conversation with him!
How long have you been a volunteer firefighter and where did the idea of signing up for it come from?
I joined in 2012, thanks to a very persuasive neighbour! To start with, I wanted to sign up as a support member, in other words, someone who isn’t qualified to go out with the firefighters, but provides general support for the voluntary service. That December, my wife and I went to the fire service’s New Year’s Eve party. I was grumbling, semi-jokingly-semi-seriously, that support members kind of have a miserable role. The head of our volunteer division was listening. He pulled out a piece of paper and said, “Well, what a fortunate coincidence… because I just happen to have application form with me”. And that’s how I formally became a fully signed up member of the Voluntary Fire Service in the January of the new year. There are around sixty people in our unit. We also have a young firefighters team of sixteen people aged between thirteen and eighteen.
What do you have to do to become a volunteer firefighter?
You have to apply and then you go through a series of training courses. The longest one covers the basics of firefighting and it’s run by the state fire service. If you have a ‘day job’, you need to be prepared for the fact that you’ll mainly be going out with the fire service in the evenings and at night. There are also a lot of activities like securing large-scale events, rallies, marathons and races, as well supporting charitable campaigns like Noble Gifta or taking part in state and church ceremonies. Volunteers receive a symbolic payment for every hour that they’re out. It’s the equivalent of taking part in an emergency, but the additional activities are purely charitable. It demands an awful lot of your personal time. Money’s most certainly not the object in this case.
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Right. So, what do you think? Why do people sign up?
Plenty of people are definitely in it mainly for the adrenaline. Being part of a fast-moving emergency, the high temperatures, the danger to health and even to life and knowing that you can save someone else certainly provide that. It’s also worth mentioning that our fire brigade is brilliantly equipped and the equipment we have the chance of using in action and on exercises isn’t widely available on a daily basis. One example would be vehicle cutters. Personally, I think the voluntary fire service is also a mainstay of tradition. We have a showpiece role, we have dress uniforms and flags. Our unit’s been around since 1880. That’s a tradition which is well worth nurturing. Sadly, there’s a crisis as far as attendance at events other than emergencies goes.

I try to get involved in everything. It’s kind of my activism. I’ve also got this mission… to show children that it’s not only the world of consumption that matters, that there are other things in life that are important, too. The reason I explain to them why I do what I do is because I’m hoping to build the idea of nurturing tradition and a prosocial approach in them. I believe that it’s worth tending to a tradition that masses of people have given their health, lives and hearts to.

Firefighting is a most respected profession. People respond really excellently to us. Taking part in events is an opportunity to meet new people who are sometimes seriously wacky in the best possible way. Being involved with the fire service in additional activities is a way of discovering things you’d previously had no idea about. I remember when we were providing the lighting for a night-time game of chess in the park in Pabianice2 . Plenty of people were taking part and, as it turned out, it wasn’t static or boring in the least for anyone who was watching. It was a version of the game where the competitors ran about between the chess pieces, an entertainment organised pro bono publico by a man who was promoting chess among young people.
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On average, how much time to you devote to being a volunteer firefighter?
My wife maintains that the service is my second home! I do actually spend a fair amount of time there, There was a moment when the secretary at the time asked me to help reconstruct the chronicles of the voluntary service for the past fifteen years. It turned out that a former volunteer had kept a journal. The minutes of committee meetings and AGMs are also available. And so it came to pass that I became the chronicler! I’m now in my second year as a member of the committee and I’m involved with keeping records and the chronicles and with looking after the remembrance room.

As far as chronicling’s concerned, I’ve got an interesting story. When the Germans were retreating from Pabianice and the surrounding area in 1946, they set fire to the firefighting service… to the equipment, the documents and the other archival items. So the first chronicle we have dates from 1945, when the fire service was reactivated.

But someone did save an album from the conflagration. It contained photos of the founding members. And, in September this year, thanks to the efforts of the committee members, it finally made its way to us, after spending seventy-seven years in private hands. The fire did its work on the dust jacket, but the photos inside are untouched. At the moment, it’s waiting for conservation work. We also have some portraits of the founders that were taken to safety before the fire. Sadly, the very first flag went up in flames, but we have some other interesting objects. My aim is to exhibit our tradition in our space. Right now, I’m at the stage of digitally archiving all our historical documents. My plans include regenerating our website. I’d like to make all the chronicles from 1945 onwards available online.

Of course, I still go out with the service and take part in the firefighting. That happens about twice a month on average. Sometimes, it can take two to three hours. But things like clearing up after a torrential storm or a hurricane can take longer. I get a phone call and, as long as it’s doable, off I go. There’s no ‘must’ about it, but that’s why you sign up. To take part.

Here’s an interesting story. One of the many things I’ve done as a member of the voluntary service happened a couple of years ago. I found myself organising a workshop for MakoLab’s evacuation coordinators! Some twenty to thirty people were involved. It was really important to me that they had the chance to learn how to use the equipment in our offices… stirrup pumps, fire blankets and extinguishers… in case there’s ever a fire and the building needs to be evacuated. They had the opportunity of putting out a fire under controlled circumstances, they practiced unreeling a fire hose, they watched an equipment demonstration and they had a first aid lesson where they practiced on dummies.
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Who would you recommend joining the voluntary fire service to?
I think it’s a place for people who want to serve their community. You have to be aware of the fact that it involves you at times when your family needs you. And like I said earlier, the culture and tradition of the fire service is made up of other aspects, as well. Being a volunteer firefighter isn’t just about going out on emergencies or doing the heavy lifting for Noble Gift deliveries. There are practical considerations, too, like living close to the unit, because the time it takes you to get there is really important. There’s also what I’m devoting myself to at the moment. If someone has a talent for working with documents or a flair for writing, if someone enjoys keeping a journal… well, all those skills are rare in the firefighting community, but there’s a very real need for them. There are units that don’t have so much as a scrap of a chronicle. That kind of documentation is a unique record of what happens in a local community and chroniclers are worth their weight in gold.
How about you, Insights readers? Is being socially engaged something you strive for? Maybe you have your own, exceptional way of offering help and support? As we see it, every single form of doing good is worth nurturing… and not only at set times of the year, either! 😊
1 Noble Gift is a nationwide campaign which brings real help during the Christmas period to people battling hard times. The gifts can range from small items to white goods and furniture – ed.
2 A central Polish city situated around six kilometres south-west of Łódź – ed.

translation by Caryl Swift
Kamila Braszak
Kamila Braszak
Employer Branding Specialist

MakoLife, Employees, MakoLab Team, People, Hobby

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