Why do nurses say they save lives

St.Gallerin is the new face of anonymous telephone advice for the desperate

St.Gallerin is the new face of anonymous telephone advice for the desperate

The St.Gallen nurse, midwife and sex pedagogue Judith Eisenring has been heading the office of the Eastern Switzerland emergency helpline 143 since December. Voluntary work in the collective shaped and motivated the farmer's daughter.

At first glance, helping a heavily pregnant woman in a village in Nicaragua and running a telephone consultation with 4 employees and 60 volunteers in an office in Eastern Switzerland does not seem to have much in common. But for Judith Eisenring the work is similar and the drive is the same, most important of all her life, as she says: "It's about commitment and solidarity." Short pause, thinking. "And I like to take responsibility - from A to Z."

If her commitment as a nurse in 1987/88 in Nicaragua for the revolutionary Sandinista was a possible A, then - thirty years later - the management of the office of Dargebotenen Hand Ostschweiz is probably the Z. Here Judith Eisenring, born in 1963, can share her life and work experience, Most recently, she worked as a vocational trainer in the obstetrics and gynecology department at Wil Spital, where she was able to play a key role. "I have the energy and the desire to hit the pimple again," she explains. And emphasizes that they want to work close to the needs of the volunteers who work on the phone, who listen and advise day and night, free of charge, on a voluntary basis (see second text).

At the peasant family's table
there was always room for guests

Voluntary work, or care work, as it is called today, has "always" been important to Judith Eisenring - "working together with others for the cause", living community, solidarity that "does not mean a helper trip". For years, the nurse and midwife has been committed to the aid organization Medico International Switzerland, which supports “basic health care for everyone”; as project manager (e.g. for Cuba) and for some time as co-president. Only in 2016 did she take care of pregnant women, mothers and children in a refugee camp in Piraeus for three weeks of vacation. Such involvement without fuss is laid out in her biography: In the parental farming family in Jonschwil, a household with three siblings and an aunt, "someone at the table was never a problem, but a welcome enrichment".

Needless to say, everyone in the yard lent a hand. Judith, the second oldest, is learning to be a nurse, moves to St.Gallen, works at Spitex and learns a lot about old age and loneliness in the city. And she meets marginalized people, “often interesting people”, including one who “slips to bed” in the old town apartment through the broken roof. It was her incentive to contribute, says Eisenring today, “so that people in old age can live independently at home for as long as possible”. In the alternative scene that was flourishing at the time, she found, “hungry for the world”, socio-political and artistic inspiration. And project-related lasting friendships: Examples of this are the “Schwarzer Engel” cooperative pub and the group that has been organizing the Rojinegro prize competition for Central America for 30 years.

In Nicaragua, euphorized by the revolution, but very poor, it is about the survival of mothers and children. Back with these experiences, earning money in a private clinic in Eastern Switzerland is “a culture shock”. After the “Ablöscher”, she worked in the collective (“Stadtladen”) for a few years until she regained a foothold in the healthcare sector - as a midwife with professional experience, she completed additional training in sex education and sex counseling. When looking after young families, she realized that little is said about sexuality, "although the topic is so important in all phases of life". The self-determination of women remains a central work issue: "It works because I like women in their autonomy," she says, and adds with a laugh: "Of course, this applies to all people, including men."

Persistent cyclist,
Swimmer and culture lover

In conversation with the fresh manager of the Dargebotene Hand, there is no talk (any more) of utopias; Instead of dreaming of a great world improvement, it is committed, metaphorically speaking, to preserving the world in a small way - or small worlds. Eisenring, who was a candidate for the St. Gallen city parliament on the list of the Political Women's Group (PFG), now “prefers solidarity work than realpolitik”. Still interested in politics, she welcomes impulses for social change, which mostly come from marginalized groups. But she is realist enough not to gloss over her organization as an "island": "We have performance agreements, we have volunteers from all walks of life and are dependent on donations, we are in the middle of society."

Where does the woman with the short, silver-gray hair and round horn-rimmed glasses get her inexhaustible energy? She is an «endurance athlete», she says. Every day on the bike, which she once rode as far as Istanbul, and often while swimming, in all waters from brook to sea. "I have to go in, being by the water is torture for me." Her enthusiasm for culture also persists, which is also livened up by her long-term partnership with the cultural mediator Jacques Erlanger. She recently danced to the Afrobeat of London's Sons Of Kemet in the Palace and was carried away by the Icelandic film “Woman At War” in the Kinok: “The 50-year-old protagonist, who stands up for her sense of justice with all her strength and down-to-earthness, was immediately mine Heroine."

"Society's emergency telephone" for 60 years

The change in the office of Dargebotene Hand Ostschweiz and Principality of Liechtenstein comes in the current 60th year of the organization: Judith Eisenring succeeds Nicole Zeiter, who has been the director since 2012. The organization and communication consultant steered the advisory service back into calm waters after temporary turbulence and personnel problems. The board of directors, chaired by Urs Zürcher (Wil) and made up of three delegates from the volunteer staff, as well as the patronage committee, which has been replaced by - no less prominent - ambassadors, have also been renewed.

After Zurich, St. Gallen was the second regional office of the Dargebotene Hand: It all began in the summer of 1958 with a chair, an old pasta box and a telephone, as stated in the annual report. The founding generation had "left their secure jobs" for their commitment and had already recognized after a month that 24-hour operation was essential. In the first year there were 4,191 calls, more than half of which were from men.
60 years later, there are 19,000 calls, which resulted in 14,200 conversations (2017). The technology (most recently internet telephony) and the financing of the regional office have changed over the decades: in addition to the churches and private donors, the public sector is now also involved (the cantons SG, TG, AI, AR, GR, GL and FL) and fundraising is becoming increasingly important.

However, the offer, which is based on the idea of ​​solidarity, has remained the same: With their voluntary work, more than 60 volunteers provide round-the-clock advice 365 days a year. Wherever possible, it is about helping people to help themselves, for example in coping with the most common everyday tasks. Two thirds of those seeking advice are women, the majority of the age group between 40 and 65. Everyone is welcome at any time, or as Nicole Zeiter writes in the annual report: “We are and will remain a low-threshold, anonymous and free contact point for everyone, the universal emergency number for people who no longer know. " In today's environment of digitization, acceleration and “optimization” of many areas of life, the need for a conversation at eye level has not diminished, on the contrary. However, it has become more difficult to find volunteers. (mel)

24-hour advice service Telephone 143. Dargebotene Hand Ostschweiz / FL in St. Gallen: 071 223 14 15. www.ostschweiz.143.ch