KISS Neighbourhood Assistance – time remains valuable
Tabea Zimmermann Gibson is the Chair of the KISS Cooperative in Zug. She has been engaged in this local neighbourhood assistance project for many years. In the interview, she talks about why such services are needed and how everyone in our society benefits.
Ms Zimmermann Gibson, what's the idea behind KISS?
KISS is supported neighbourhood assistance with time credits. KISS stands for "Keep it small and simple": A fairly small group of people who know each other well (small) gives and receives mutual support in an non-bureaucratic way (simple). The goal is for people who are old or in difficult life situations to be able to stay in their familiar environment and be well cared for by volunteers. KISS's tasks are clearly distinct from nursing and lie in support and care. The work may consist of various household and administrative tasks, or just walking or talking with each other. There are also group activities such as language meetings, KISS coffees and lunches. Isolation is greatly reduced by this approach.
How did you come to participate in KISS?
I saw an advertisement for a KISS information event that appealed to me right away. As expected, the event proved very interesting, because it illustrated KISS's wide scope. When Susanna Fassbind, the speaker and one of KISS's founders, appealed at the end of the event for people to come and talk to her if they wanted to help to build a KISS cooperative in Zug, I did it without further thought. So I've been on board from the beginning, and as Chair I'm very proud of my cooperative.
What is your commitment in concrete terms?
For example, I help an elderly cooperative member who needs help to set up her tablet, or I do transport service for an elderly cooperative member who can't do it himself any more. My own assignments are fairly sporadic due to time constraints. As Chair, my main engagement with KISS is primarily behind the scenes.
What does a helper's assignment normally look like?
A lot of tandems – that means two-person teams who help one another – run for a period of one to two assignments. But we also have a number of tandems that have existed for a long time, in some cases even since our cooperative was formed four years ago. For example, there's a tandem with a member who has slight dementia, and the two of them go for a walk once or twice a week. There's another tandem member who is blind, and his tandem partner regularly collects him and takes him to lunch at her home. Many of these regular assignments develop into friendships and activities outside KISS.
How is a tandem formed?
People say what assignments they would like to do at the introductory interview with the KISS coordinator. That's noted in our database. When a cooperative member then notifies us of the kind of support he or she needs, our coordinator checks the matches suggested by our program and links up a tandem that complements each other not only on paper, but also on the human side. Our members can approach our coordinators with questions or about changing needs at any time – that's supported neighbourhood assistance. When the tandems go well, they have very little contact with the supervisor – they're most likely to meet at a KISS coffee or lunch. We support independence on every level.
What do you like about your tasks?
I like the fact that as a volunteer I can decide on my assignments myself: what, when and how much I do. I also like the contact with the other cooperative members, which enriches my own life. I'm happy to be part of helping elderly citizens to be and remain independent and reducing isolation for many people. Because KISS helps senior citizens to stay at home longer, it also takes some pressure off the public purse. KISS also supports women: every second female pensioner has no pension fund and only has the OASI basic pension to live on. In that case, it is a great relief to know that all services are free of charge for our members. Finally, KISS makes voluntary work visible with the time credit software. It's important and right to demonstrate what is done by volunteer work in Switzerland day by day, for the benefit of all.
Are you feeling the first effects of the coronavirus crisis?
Absolutely. Since the middle of March, we've seen a major increase in enquiries, assignments and members at the KISS cooperatives. Our quick, non-bureaucratic help is very much appreciated. It's evident that we can help at this point to ease the burden on official contact centres and institutions. Not least, it's also evident that the social network constantly maintained by KISS is more important and more valuable than ever in emergency situations.
Tabea Zimmermann Gibson
Place of residence:
Involved in KISS since: