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Combating poverty together – Swiss Post becomes an official partner of the SRC

Swiss Post has now been working together with the Swiss Red Cross (SRC) for 25 years as part of the “2 x Christmas” campaign. Assistance for people affected by poverty is being boosted with Swiss Post now on board as an “official partner”. Markus Mader, Director of the SRC, tells us in an interview what he hopes to get out of the alliance.

Stefan Kern

Rich Content Section

Markus Mader

The partnership aims to alleviate poverty in Switzerland. How does the SRC help people affected by poverty?

The SRC provides subsidiary support in the form of individual assistance, complementing state help. When all other options have been exhausted, we pay one-off health insurance premiums, medical bills or rental costs. We want to prevent situations where people on the poverty line go without treatment because of large medical bills or slip into poverty because of the cost of treatment. People should not have to choose between receiving necessary medical treatment and having enough food. People affected by poverty should know that they can get low-threshold access to health services. However, a large part of our work to combat poverty is carried out by our cantonal associations through their individual support services. We at the SRC office are involved at various levels.

What does that mean?

We not only provide direct support to people who are affected by impoverishment, but also generally work to alleviate poverty in Switzerland, for example in the Swiss Conference for Social Welfare (SKOS)Target not accessible and the Charter on Social AssistanceTarget not accessible. We have also been a member of the Alliance EnfanceTarget not accessible since 2020, because early support is key to preventing poverty.

Since 1997, the SRC has been implementing the “2 x Christmas” fundraising campaign together with Swiss Post and others. What experiences can the intensified partnership build on?

Thanks to our work together for the “2 x Christmas” campaign, we can build on that solid cooperation characterized by mutual trust for the benefit of the most vulnerable. Swiss Post has contributed many new ideas for further developing the format of the “2 x Christmas” campaign. But we are also building on the experience of the COVID stamp that Swiss Post issued as a special stamp during the first lockdown in 2020. Half of the proceeds went to the SRC.

Are there any other points of contact with Swiss Post?

We want to break new ground in fundraising together with Swiss Post, whether in printing, mailing or even with cross-media campaigns. A workshop is being planned on this. The aim is to link Swiss Post’s core business with our core business and to learn from each other.

Unlike in other countries, poverty is not always visible in Switzerland. A good or bad sign?

Rather a bad one. Here in Switzerland, people are ashamed of being poor. They try to hide for as long as possible the fact that they are unable to make ends meet – and they put off dental treatment or visits to the doctor for an extended time, for instance. Many are also ashamed to go to social welfare for help. We know that there are many more people entitled to social assistance than are actually benefiting from it. The coronavirus crisis forced many people who had been living just above the poverty line into an existential crisis, making poverty more visible.

How has solidarity in Switzerland changed – especially during the past two “coronavirus years”?

People in Switzerland are generally very supportive. There is a community spirit in the country. Besides, a large majority is doing well or very well. Per capita donations in Switzerland are many times higher than elsewhere. The “division” of society predicted by many has not occurred, but inequality has grown further. However, the tensions were largely overstated. And currently, with the Ukraine crisis, we are seeing strong solidarity again. In crisis situations, people show even more solidarity. A remarkable number of parcels were donated for the “2 x Christmas” campaign in 2020/21, right in the middle of the coronavirus crisis.

The reality of poverty is not always in plain view

Around 8.5 percent of the permanent resident population in Swiss private households live in poverty and have to get by on CHF 33 a day (figures for 2019/2020). This money has to cover food, clothing, communication, energy consumption, household maintenance, healthcare, transportation costs, recreation, education, personal care, association dues and hobbies. Approximately 722,000 people were living in such conditions in 2020. Poverty in Switzerland is not always visible, but that makes it all the more important as an issue (source: Swiss Federal Statistical Office).

written by

Stefan Kern

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A girl hands over a parcel at the post office.