From small aid agency to global advocate for children

From small aid agency to global advocate for children

On 11. May 1959, the Children's Fund was founded and started with five sponsorships in India. The Christian charity has supported more than seven million children and young people in the 60 years since – and is now celebrating an anniversary.

When Kenyan rapper Peter Mweke performs his songs, he also shares stories from his own life: How he ended up on the streets of Nairobi at the age of five, stealing and sniffing glue, or how, at twelve, he was sent to prison for three years. Then the turning point: The social worker of a church center supported by Kindernothilfe takes him in. He goes to school, learns to play the guitar and writes his own lyrics.

Today, the 25-year-old can make a living from his music and supports other children so that they don't end up on the streets, the "hell on earth". Mweke's experience is one of many success stories made possible by Kindernothilfe's global commitment. 60 years ago, on 11. May 1959, the idea of sponsorships for needy children in other countries was born, which eventually led to the founding of the Christian relief organization.

Work in 33 countries

Today, Kindernothilfe works with nearly 400 organizations in 33 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe to support girls and boys on their way to a self-determined life. In the 60 years of its existence, it says it has supported around 7.1 million children and young people in 5.300 projects by local partners. Currently, it serves 1.9 million children in nearly 700 projects. Behind the numbers are moving individual fates.

The spectrum of aid ranges from school attendance to nutrition and health in villages and poor neighborhoods to protection against violence, exploitation and sexual abuse. The aid organization also provides humanitarian support in the event of earthquakes or floods. "For me, every child has a right as God's child to grow up in stable and protected conditions," says Kindernothilfe director Katrin Weidemann. "This is what we stand up for."

In 2017, the charity collected a good 68 million euros from donations, sponsorships and other contributions. Of this, almost 83 percent went directly into projects and a good 17 percent into advertising and administration. Its serious financial management has earned Kindernothilfe a reputation as a "relief organization with glass pockets"; since 1992, it has received the coveted seal of approval from the Central Institute for Social Ies every year.

Continuity and growth were only possible because the work was always being developed further. The concrete help began in 1959, when committed Christians set up the first five sponsorships in a Duisburg living room to finance a place in a dormitory for poor children in India. "What I did was intended for me by God," says one of the founding fathers, 92-year-old Luder Luers.

At that time he gave up his horticultural business and went to India. Today, he is pleased that many of the children he once sponsored have become doctors, teachers or lawyers and are now taking responsibility for other children themselves. "This multiplies the aid," says Luers.

Sponsorships come under fire

Of all things, sponsorships, the heart of aid work, came under criticism in the 1980s: in the left-wing development scene, they were considered "paternalistic" and outdated. When the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted in 1989, Kindernothilfe broadened its spectrum and, in the 1990s, transformed itself into a children's rights organization by building up lobbying and advocacy work, seeing itself as an "advocate for children" at all levels.

"Children should not just be a target group, but actors who help develop projects themselves," says board chairwoman Weidemann. In 2017, for example, the aid organization asked in a campaign with other organizations 2.000 working children worldwide, how they themselves see their lives and what should change.

"Children's rights must not remain dreams" is the motto of the anniversary year. In addition to stakeholder participation, Kindernothilfe also relies on self-help groups to fight poverty.

Women learn to generate their own income by saving up microloans themselves, for example by baking bread or raising chickens. They thus improve the life of the whole family and also the village community.

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