Helps history
© Calasan


For more than 40 years Help has been helping people in need


The Foundation of Help

On July 15,1981, delegates of all parties represented in the former Bundestag, as well as personalities from science and the church, met at the airport in Frankfurt am Main and founded the aid organisation Help - Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe e. V. The reason for this was the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979 due to the fact that millions of people fled the country at the end of the year. It was the biggest wave of refugees since World War II. 3 million Afghans found refuge in Pakistan and Iran, where they were living in inhuman conditions in refugee camps.

The aim of the statute, according to §2, was therefore "to help people in need, victims of natural or man-made disasters and armed conflicts, indiscriminately and irrespective of their ethnic origin as well as beliefs and ideologies".

The first CEO was Wolfgang Beitz, former Chief Executive Officer of the Otto Bennecke Foundation. The founding members Dr. Naim Assad and Uwe Janssen are still members of the General Assembly.

Germans Help Afghanistan

Directly afterwards, a plane flew from Frankfurt to Pakistan with the first aid deliveries. The people of Afghanistan suffered terribly from the war and were taken into provisional, inhumane refugee camps in neighbouring countries.

This is how Help started at that time under the banner "Deutsche helfen Afghanistan" (Germans helping Afghanistan) and collected donations for the first time to this purpose for refugees. The aid organisation in Bonn supported the Verein für Afghanistan-Förderung (VAF) with the collected money. The organisation immediately forwarded the donations to those affected with the help of the partner organisation "Union Aid for Afghan Refugees". Since then, Help has been located in Bonn as a subtenant of VAF and started with four permanent employees. This number should multiply in the future with the growing number of projects. 

Projects in Central Asia

Two years later, in 1983, Help expanded its aid services and carried out projects in Pakistan and Iran in the fields of health care and food aid. For the first time, Help employees received donations from state institutions such as the Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt) or the German Refugee Assistance Foundation (Stiftung Flüchtlingshilfe) with a total value of 309,550 DM. In addition, Help remains true to its motto "helping people to help themselves" and trains Afghan refugees in Pakistan to become craftsmen.

Even back then, the aid organisation worked in close cooperation with other aid organisations and foundations. In order to make Help more widely known to the general public and thus to motivate the German population to be more willing to donate, Help did public relations work from the very beginning. In the course of this, the ZDF magazine published a report with Gerhard Löwenthal about the aid for refugees of Help in Afghanistan.

In the following two years, the existing projects in Afghanistan  were primarily continued. In addition, Help was involved in setting up a small hospital and providing financial support to improve the health situation in the long term. Furthermore, the German aid workers financed an embroidery and sewing house project for Afghan refugee women with about 22,000 DM and thus expanded the training area.


Medical Care and Education

In 1986, the focus of Help-Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe was on basic medical care work. This was carried out in eleven refugee camps in Pakistan, noticeably improving the health conditions inside the camps. For example, people were given the opportunity to get dental treatment, because Help was sponsoring a dental clinic in the city of Peshāwar in Pakistan. Help also worked again closely with the Association for the Promotion of Afghans. In cooperation with the Otto-Benecke-Stiftung in Bonn, Help also trained young Afghans to become carpenters, tailors, weavers, cobblers and auto mechanics, which strengthened the economic situation in the country.

The following year, Help continued its efforts in medical care. Together with a Dutch partner organisation, a children's clinic and a hospital specifically for women were built. As a special measure, Help had additional supply stations built and equipped with consumables, furniture and the other equipment. An anti-malaria campaign was started to counter the outbreak of malaria in the project area.

Many of the refugees were severely traumatized. For this reason, Help set up a health centre with focus on psychiatry to help people with an injured soul. For the long-term help for self-help, the German-Aid-Klinik in Pakistan's Balochistan Province was supported by financed training material for schools, such as notebooks, textbooks or pens.

As part of their public relations work, the employees in Bonn sent out about 1,500 letters to draw attention to the situation in Afghanistan. Help also presented its work to the public in numerous photo exhibitions.

In 1988, the organisation continued as usual its projects for Afghan refugees. In order to inform the existing donors about the ongoing projects, Help published Help-Report for the first time, the predecessor of the donation mailings. It was sent both to in-house donors and to external addresses.

For the first time Help and the German Afghanistan Committee organized an action in 1989, in which German doctors carried out plastic surgery on Afghan war victims in Peshāwar. Help also provided emergency food aid and basic health care for 300,000 people in twelve refugee camps. Unfortunately, there was also a decrease in donations this year, which rose to 1,052,000 DM in the following year.

In addition to the ongoing projects, Help continued to expand its support services and started a project in Romania in 1990. Here people with disabilities were given the opportunity to work in repair shops, in agriculture or in horticulture. In addition, a livelihood partnership was established especially for young people with disabilities.


Help is Expanding

In 1991 Help-Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe starts the decade with a new project. The helpers built a clinic for mothers and their children in the Pakistani city of Peshāwar. Approximately 29,000 children and 16,000 women were medically cared for annually and received information on hygiene measures and general health issues. Help also helped rebuilding the Afghan province of Paktia by restoring an existing irrigation network and recultivating agricultural land. In this way, 300 families have been supported. Newly added is the support of Shiite and Kurdish refugees in Iran and on the Iraqi-Iranian border. Here Help provided food to the people.

In the following year, Help set new priorities, now particularly Kurdish refugees and African victims of war and drought were supported. Together with other non-governmental organisations, Help distributed food, seeds and other relief supplies such as blankets, medicines or tarpaulins in Zimbabwe, Somalia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In Bangladesh, Help has set up a tent camp and several medical stations for tens of thousands of refugees, as well as water and milk processing systems. In Russia, or more precisely Siberia, Help equipped a hospital with consumables, furniture and medication. In Tibet, Help rebuilt a school. This is where Help is still active later. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development financed this project. For the first time, Help carried out trips for journalists to the project areas as part of its public relations work. As a result, the amount of donations received, was higher than in previous years.

In 1993, the existing projects continued as usual. In Zimbabwe, Help had wells and warehouses built so that the farmers could sell their goods directly on a local basis and protect them from the weather. In addition to ongoing projects in Somalia, Help also organised emergency medical care for the people. In Slovenia, Help also took care of the Bosnian and Croatian refugees with various emergency relief measures and relief goods transports. New this year was the food programme for Mozambican refugees in South Africa.

From 1993 onwards, a person performing civilian service was employed at the Bonn head office every year until this service was abolished in January 2011.

Cultural Exchange

The years 1994 and 1995 were marked by Help's support for the Rwandan war victims. Thus, Help helped Rwandan refugee children with food and the severely traumatised female victims of the war received special support measures.

Furthermore, Help re-established health stations in Zimbabwe. Especially in the cities of Bushenge and Musassa-Ruli, Help organized medical help for the local population. This was also carried out in Somalia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Pakistan and Afghanistan. For the first time Help also organized a trip for a group of students from Bad Oeynhausen to Rwanda. Help was also commissioned to build a school in Tibet in 1995, as it had done three years earlier. As another new project Help supported the people of Azerbaijan with food supplies.


Help after the Civil War

In 1996, Help-Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe intensified its efforts for Bosnian war victims. In addition, the Rwandan population, who had been victims of genocide, received medical assistance and in particular women were supported in processing their traumatic war experiences. In the neighbour country Uganda, Help started a new project to fight against HIV and support AIDS orphans. Furthermore, Help continued to help people affected by famine and civil wars in Zimbabwe and Azerbaijan. The local employees primarily distributed food in order to ensure a safe, regular food supply, but in the context of food security, they also received seeds so that they were able to secure their survival independently during the following harvest period.

In 1997, Help continued the projects for Bosnian, Azerbaijani and Rwandan civil war victims and supported drought-affected people in Zimbabwe. Help also initiated another project to help the people of Albania to cope with the civil war. The project in Uganda to support AIDS orphans also continued. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Help and the Johanniters organized the clearance of mines. This was also reported as part of the public relations work on the TV stations ARD, WDR and Sat1. In the Afghan capital of Kabul, Help supported the reconstruction of houses and infrastructure destroyed by the civil war.

Mine Clearance, Earthquakes and a Hurricane

In autumn 1998, Hurricane Mitch devastated large parts of Central America, killing thousands of people and making many homeless. In addition to many other aid organisations, Help started a project within the framework of disaster relief in order to provide the affected people in Nicaragua with an almost humane life after the disaster. Help also helped families affected by AIDS in Zambia. There were also aid projects for displaced people in Kosovo. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Help supported the reintegration of Bosnian refugees who returned to their home country from other European countries. Furthermore, Bosnian, Zimbabwean and Afghan war victims were supported.

In 1999, the existing projects continued as usual. The year was also hit by various disasters. Help provided reconstruction assistance in devastated Nicaragua and El Salvador after the terrible hurricane "Mitch". In Turkey, Help provided tents, blankets, food and medical supplies after an earthquake.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, Help provided the basis for the return of the locals from other European countries with various mine clearance and reconstruction projects. However, refugees from Kosovo are also provided with food and clothing in Montenegro. Since September, Help has also had its own website on the Internet, so that people have the opportunity to find out more about the work on the domain.

In addition to ongoing projects such as the support of war victims and displaced persons in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, Help was also active in Chad and Albania in the year 2000 to have mines cleared. In the Russian Ingushetia, Help provided emergency aid to Chechen civil war refugees in the form of food distribution, blankets, cookware and hygiene products. There were also food projects in Zambia and Serbia.


Reconstruction has many Faces

To the new millennium Help-Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe started with new emergency relief projects for Zimbabwean flood victims as well as for earthquake victims in India and El Salvador. Further emergency aid has been provided in Ingushetia for Chechen refugees and, in particular, food aid in Serbia. Help distributed food and hygiene products and also had water pipes repaired. Mines were still being cleared in Chad and in Afghanistan where also girls' schools were rebuilt. The existing projects in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania continued as usual. With the addition of new projects, the office in Bonn also grew and larger premises became necessary. In September 2001 the company moved to Reuterstraße 39.

In 2002, Help became more involved in helping Bosnians returning to their homeland through special rehabilitation and mine clearance measures. As in Serbia and Montenegro, Help also carried out winter aid projects in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In Montenegro, Help had the sewage system in the city of Podgorica repaired and expanded.

Special assistance, for example in the form of start-up capital or business training, was provided for start-ups in Serbia. Support in the field of food aid was also very important. As many people are suffering hunger due to flight or food shortages, Help distributed food and seeds to the people in Ingushetia and Zimbabwe. In Afghanistan, pupils received school meals. New water pipes were also built. In Gujarat, India, Help assisted in rebuilding the state that had been destroyed by an earthquake the year before.

The year after Help continued to carry out its existing projects, such as mine clearance and reconstruction aid. In Afghanistan, the organisation tried to counteract the sanding of water pipes by sandstorms, had them repaired and built new ones. After an earthquake in Iran, Help initiated the reconstruction of the country. In the same year, a prominent helper supported the work of Help: The singer Herbert Grönemeyer called for donations for the alliance "Together for Africa".

In 2004, Help was especially active in mine clearance, reconstruction aid and income-generating operations in the project countries of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia. In Zimbabwe, Help built wells and distributed seeds to guarantee the population a controlled food supply, and despite the increased security situation in Iraq, Help staff repaired pumping stations and water treatment plants. A special school construction programme was carried out in Afghanistan, where emergency food aid and irrigation channels were provided and rehabilitated after harvest failures. Also in this year Help found a prominent supporter in BAP singer Wolfgang Niedecken. For the first time, public relations staff published an annual report.

Emergency Aid after the Seaquake

In 2005, Help immediately began emergency relief for the victims of the devastating tsunami in Sri Lanka and Indonesia at Christmas 2004. The tsunami had claimed 300,000 lives, and several million people had lost all their belongings. In the first few weeks after the disaster, Help quickly and unbureaucratically organised mattresses, blankets, plastic sheets and hygiene articles. Emergency aid was followed by the reconstruction of houses, schools and the cleaning of more than 700 wells. In Niger and Zimbabwe, Help pushed medical aid and built a hospital. As a result, infant mortality was significantly reduced. In Pakistan's Kashmir, Help provided immediate relief after an earthquake. In Farah, Afghanistan, Help built a school, renovated roads and water supply. In Iraq, Help built pumping stations and water treatment plants. Support for a mailing was given to Help by Anne Will and Horst Köhler.

2006 - 2010

Years under the Sign of Refugee Aid

In 2006, the activities of Help-Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe were characterised by the integration of Montenegrin and Serbian refugees. Help had apartments built to close the refugee camps. Help financed catastrophe transports and organized mobile health teams in Niger, so that child mortality from malnutrition decreased significantly. Help was also active in Zimbabwe. There, the organisation supported families who had lost their main income due to AIDS, distributed seeds and fertilizers and installed irrigation systems to provide a long-term food source. Help also celebrated its 25th anniversary that year and served as a charity partner for various sports events.

In 2007, Help increasingly supported refugees in Bosnia, Montenegro and Serbia. In the project countries, the helpers built apartments and trained the people for their business start-ups. Help provided clean drinking water for Sudanese refugees in Chad and provided hygienic conditions with the construction of latrines. Help's staff helped reintegrate Afghans returning from Iran.

After the tsunami in Sri Lanka, Help implemented a rehabilitation programme to support refugees who have fled the fighting between government forces and the terrorist organisation LTTE. The people received food, non-food supplies and shelters. In Bangladesh, there was an emergency relief operation for the victims of flooding. At home in Bonn, the public relations staff set up a charity soccer match with former Bundesliga player Carsten Cullmann, and a press trip to Indonesia was organised by ZDF with soccer world champion Rainer Bonhof.

In 2008, cholera broke out in Zimbabwe, which killed around 4,000 people. Help tried to contain the epidemic with every available measure. In Chad, Help continued to supply fresh drinking water and build latrines for refugees. In Bangladesh, an emergency relief project for flood victims was completed. In addition, Help started a project to rehabilitate schools for Iraqi refugee children in Damascus, Syria. Also. Help provided emergency relief after Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar.

In 2009, Help has been active in Serbia for ten years now. The aid organisation coordinated the construction of housing for refugees, offered them income-generating measures and rebuilt the infrastructure. Measures to secure living standards and training courses have also been established in Afghanistan, Syria and Chechnya. Climate change is also an issue in development aid, however, so that Help began using solar pumps instead of diesel pumps in Zimbabwe from that time on. After an earthquake in Indonesia, Help provided emergency shelters, drinking water and psychological care. In Pakistan and Burkina Faso, Help provided medical assistance to the refugees and their children. As a result, the mortality rate of this population group fell significantly.

Hygienic Care and an Earthquake

2010 was marked by a severe earthquake in Haiti. Help sent out a team of doctors to repair houses and infrastructure. People were also trained in other professions so that they could quickly get back on their feet. There were serious floods in Burkina Faso, Pakistan and Montenegro and Help assisted with various emergency relief measures. In the field of prevention, especially disease prevention, Help was on the road in Sri Lanka and Chad and trained the locals in hygiene activities. Help also built a hospital in Chad and equipped it with a solar system. In Rwanda, Help worked with Bad Oeynhausen schools to ensure that the needy received health insurance and provided financial support for pupils. Help also built a new school in Syria.

2011 - 2015

Nuclear Disaster and Founding of the State

Besides the ongoing projects, Help - Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe received new project countries in 2011. After a severe tsunami in March, followed by a nuclear catastrophe, the aid organisation has now also been active in Japan. The focus here was mainly on equipping container apartments and building a shopping street with small businesses. The famine in East Africa caused Help to start various projects for Kenyan smallholders. In the Sahel countries Niger and Burkina Faso, Help provided emergency aid and initiated long-term projects in food security and health care. Support for returnees and displaced persons has been available since July for those who have fled the country before the re-establishment of the state of South Sudan. On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Help, the aid organisation launched a number of activities and was represented with a booth at the Deutschlandfest and for the first time at the Protestant Church Congress in Dresden. After ten years, the company also moved from Reuterstraße 39 to number 159.

One World - Many Projects

The violent clashes in Syria in 2012 prompted Help to start aid projects for Syrian internally displaced persons, in addition to the projects that have been under progress for years in the Middle East. Protecting our own employees was also a major challenge.  

In 2013, the organisation started with a reason for celebration. EUROSOLAR awarded Help - Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe the Solar Prize for its largest solar-powered drinking water installation in Chad. At the end of May, there was a special situation for Help: disaster relief in our own country. Heavy rainfall caused the rivers Elbe, Danube and Saale to rise dramatically and caused damages in millions. Help assisted in securing the dyke and repairing social facilities in Sachsen-Anhalt and Bavaria. In the Philippines, typhoon Haiyan destroyed many people's livelihoods and Help managed to rebuild the country and gave a jump-start for a new beginning.

In 2014, Help was increasingly active in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia in the reconstruction work following severe flooding and in the Middle East. In August, the Iraqi Yazidis had fled from the IS to the northern Iraqi Kurdish region. Help helped here with food parcels and soup kitchens and took over the repair of 25 schools.

In the escalating conflict in Syria, Help provided food, medical care and education to internally displaced persons under the most difficult conditions. In a project with the Berlin Charité charity, trauma therapists were trained to help Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Jordan deal with their experiences.

In April 2015, when around 900,000 buildings collapsed in Nepal as a result of a severe earthquake, Help immediately initiated its first relief measures. For the future, craftsmen were trained in earthquake-proof construction and projects for water supply and disaster prevention were launched. In the same year, tens of thousands of people flee daily from war and terror on the Balkan route to enter the safe EU. Help supports the refugees in overburdened Serbia with food, hygiene articles and clothing.