“For just a few cents a month, every one of us can make a huge difference to the future of children in Sri Lanka!”
“Süß Help Help Help”
The SMS that reached Elfriede Süß, at her home in the tranquil Bavarian town of Meitingen during the Christmas break, set off a chain of events. Some 10,000 kilometers away on the south coast of Sri Lanka all hell had broken loose. The area had been completely devastated by a tsunami. Some 35,000 were dead and millions homeless. The alarm was raised by a monk, with whom Elfriede Süß had long been running an aid project for children. With no idea how to feed the hundreds of refugees in his monastery, he fired off a text message to his German comrade. Two days later, the 65-year-old was on her way to Sri Lanka in a plane bringing emergency aid.
Every class has its own classroom with
chairs and tables. That isn’t
something you would find everywhere
in Sri Lanka.
WACKER, too, was shocked by the extent of the destruction. The Executive Board quickly reached a unanimous decision: to help the tsunami victims, sustainably and without red tape. The WACKER HILFSFONDS was called into being to provide help in natural disasters. From day one, Tobias Ohler has been a voluntary member of the relief fund management team, as the person who holds the purse strings. “Of course, it’s vital to keep a close eye on what happens to our employees’ money,” says the WACKER Executive Board member. And the family man put his heart and soul into the task. Though he only knows the relief fund projects from reports and photos, Tobias Ohler has already learned about poverty at first hand after spending six weeks in India while still a student. And he is astonished by “how much can be done just because a few westerners give up a few euros each year.”
A Foundation for Disaster Relief
While the paperwork for establishing the foundation was still being handled at WACKER, Elfriede Süß was already rolling up her sleeves in Sri Lanka. Together with the Buddhist monk – Sadu Wimaladhamma Tissa Nayaka Thero – and many helpers, she got down to work. Some of the fishing villages were beyond rebuilding. The homeless were to get a new village, two kilometers from the sea, among abandoned cinammon plantations and jungle. The plot of land on a small hill was quickly purchased, but Elfriede Süß still couldn’t picture the homes, orphanage, kindergarten, school and training workshops that would soon be built here. “My first job was to plan the drainage for the entire village,” laughs the retired financial adviser.
Every Donation by WACKER Employees Is Doubled
When Peter Hirschmann, acting on behalf of WACKER HILFSFONDS, came to Kosgoda to assess the project, the helpers were already clearing the site. “We burned mountains of brushwood at night,” remembers Elfriede Süß. “Everything smoked and smoldered until the next morning.” WACKER is certain that good work is being performed here. The first money from WACKER HILFSFONDS went to Kosgoda in 2005.
Unlike many of the companies that donated money after the tsunami disaster, WACKER is interested in the sustainable success of the Sri Lankan aid project. The Executive Board and employees have been committed to it for eight years. Right from the beginning, WACKER matched every donation contributed by its employees.
Two School Buildings Constructed
The first donations from the relief fund were used to build two school buildings. The school, with four classes, opened in 2006. Every morning, the boys and girls gather under palm trees in front of the yellow-painted school buildings for prayers. Many of the children live locally, while others undertake a long journey to school every day. Most of their parents are day laborers, who can neither read nor write.
The WACKER relief fund also finances
learning materials, such as school books.
The WACKER donations were originally only intended to aid the construction of the school. Then, the relief fund took on the day-to-day running of four classes by providing about €20,000 annually, for five years. That covered the teachers’ salaries, books, school uniforms and a hot midday meal.
But the five years went by quickly. Many donors backed out long ago. “Who still donates money for tsunami victims?” complains the founder of “Future for Children.” Without the donations from WACKER HILFSFONDS, the school couldn’t keep going. Then, what would become of the plan to allow all the village children to complete their education, some of them even to university level?
Tobias Ohler wants to help. “It can’t make sense to construct the school buildings without helping to run them,” he says. After all, he also has to act sustainably in his day-to-day business. Tobias Ohler has a clear vision of his goal – he wants to create a continuous flow of funding for aid projects, such as the school in Sri Lanka. “I requested it urgently,” reflects Ohler.
The Cent-Donation Program Is Keeping the School Going
Now, his commitment is paying off – the cent-donation program started up in April 2012. Some 4,300 employees in Germany are currently contributing. They have consented to round down their monthly salary to the nearest whole euro sum. They donate the difference – no more than 99 cents per month, or 12 euros per year. With the cent program, too, WACKER matches each donation. This raises €50,000 annually. Tobias Ohler, who, in his normal job, is responsible for large amounts, welcomes the simplicity of the idea: “With just a few cents per month, we can finance a whole school for years. It’s a tremendous achievement!”
“It was a huge load off my mind when I heard the news that the relief fund will take on the running of the entire school,” says Elfriede Süß. Now the 11th and 12th grades can start, and even university entry is on the cards. Tobias Ohler is delighted, “It’s much more sustainable to completely finance a really good project and concentrate on that, rather than springing into action for a few months with every new disaster, and looking for something to fund.”
One of the students in the new 11th grade is 15-year-old Lakshmi. She lives in the orphanage directly next to the school. The girl with the glossy black hair wants to study medicine later, she told Sabrina Schmidseder. The WACKER lab technician from Burghausen visited Kosgoda on her last vacation, spent two nights in the village there and spoke to children like Lakshmi. She also attended a class. “It was much more orderly than when I was at school,” she says. She only understood a little of the math, but there’s one thing she grasps: “These children are extremely grateful and glad to be able to go to school here.”
The WACKER HILFSFONDS Worldwide
The WACKER relief fund was founded in 2005 and has provided unbureaucratic help ever since. The foundation supports four major projects to give natural-disaster victims the chance of a better life. 4,300 WACKER employees take part in the cent-donation program.
8 The village with its school is located amidst the jungle. Around 200 children meet here daily for morning prayers.
The cent-donation program yields €50,000 annually, after doubling by the WACKER Executive Board, for running the school in Kosgoda.
The WACKER HILFSFONDS donated €50,000 for rebuilding a school for 250 girls in Murghazar, Pakistan, that had been destroyed in 2012 following violent monsoon rains.
In coming years, the WACKER HILFSFONDS will provide €150,000 to run the school in Gressier, Haiti, with 350 children.
The company donated over €100,000 to build a school for 300 children in the village of Fujia in central China, which was devastated by a severe earthquake in 2008.