Hamburg street paper Hinz&Kunzt was recently awarded the prestigious Federal Cross of Merit [Bundesverdienstkreuz], for its work with homeless and vulnerable people in the city. But editor Birgit Mueller was determined her vendors should share in the honour, as their motivation to succeed is a true testament to the paper’s motto: ‘Get up, don’t give up!’ Benjamin Laufer met the proud recipients of the medals.
By Benjamin Laufer, for Hinz&Kunzt
Selling Hinz&Kunzt is not an easy job, yet every day our vendors find the strength, determination and motivation to keep going. They are a true testament to our motto ‘Get up, don’t give up!’
Recently, our editor Birgit Mueller was awarded the prestigious Federal Cross of Merit for her tireless work with homeless and vulnerable people through Hinz&Kunzt.
We wanted our hard-working vendors to share in this honour. In a glorious break from tradition, they attended the award ceremony in our Hamburg office in February.
Despite their perseverance and achievements, the homeless people we work with will never have the chance to get a Medal of Honour. But we believe people who bravely carry on despite adversity also deserve recognition, so we have awarded these inspirational vendors their own Medal of Honour on behalf of them all.
Hristo once earned a good income as a professional soccer player in Bulgaria but, a few years ago, he lost everything. He arrived in Hamburg with just a few euros in his pocket. Here, no form of work was beneath him. He eventually found work as a bottle collector. Hristo never complained when times were hard. In the meantime, he is a soccer trainer in Hamburg. He would never dream of giving up – we applaud him for it!
Anke is a true fighter! She takes everything life throws at her. No matter how hard it gets, Anke believes things will get better. Despite enduring the cold winter months in an emergency hostel and suffering a pancreas infection, she remains optimistic. “I’m not going to be homeless much longer,” she says confidently. And she hopes she can inspire other homeless people. She described getting a Medal of Honour for her perseverance as “Super cool!” Awarding medals was something she had previously only seen on TV. “Being allowed to wear this makes me so very proud.” Yes, Anke, us, too!
Life is hard for Adam, who is originally from Poland. Every day for the past three years he has been plagued with severe pains because he has five screws in his knee that should have been removed long ago. But Adam has no medical insurance and cannot pay for the operation. “Without insurance, I can’t go to the doctor,” he says, sadly. He often takes comfort in alcohol when he has to leave the winter emergency shelter in the mornings. Still, this tough man is a real softy, always helping others wherever he can. Chin up, Adam!
Sigi personifies perseverance. He was once homeless and sold Hinz&Kunzt before working within our organization for 22 years. He has had many ups and downs in life. For a long time, he was deeply in debt, but persistently paid it off bit by bit. He was an alcoholic, but stubbornly and successfully fought his addiction. After he had a nasty accident he went through months of physical therapy. Sigi always gets back on his feet – with an attitude and energy that demands respect. He is the best example for finding a way out of any difficult situation. We are proud of you, Sigi!
Uwe’s job as a vendor is important to him, who was once addicted to gambling. “For me, everything has become better since I have been with Hinz&Kunzt,” he says. He began with us in 1993, and found his family here, he says. His second family are his customers in Hamburg’s Town Hall Passage. There, he is on a first-name basis with several politicians and is seen as being the ‘voice of the people’. He is very proud to see his picture on the street paper cover. “When people in Hollywood see me, I’ll be offered a movie contract!” he jokes. Let’s hope so!
Flummy has been living on the street for 10 years, and he’s only 34 years old. “Ten years of tears, sweat and blood,” as he describes it. Despite the pain in his back, he sleeps on the cold, hard ground every night, with a camping mat his only protection. And yet he still thinks of those who are less fortunate. “Actually, the people who have died on the street deserve a Medal of Honour,” Flummy says. It’s precisely this way of looking at things that inspired us to give him one, and commemorate the many deaths the streets have claimed.