The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979 resulted in three million people fleeing to the neighbouring countries of Pakistan and Iran. On 15th July 1981 members of all the political parties represented in the German parliament and personalities from the world of academia and the Church founded the organisation "Help – Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe e.V." (Help - assistance towards self-reliance) and called for donations using the slogan "Germans help Afghanistan". The first chairman was Wolfgang Beitz, the former managing director of the Otto-Bennecke Foundation. The founding members Dr. Naim Assad and Uwe Janssen are still part of the members' meeting today. Directly after the association was founded, a Federal fighter plane took off from Frankfurt Airport with medicines and was accompanied by members of the Executive Board to Islamabad to care for Afghan refugees. It was followed by 20 lorries, loaded with tonnes of protein supplements, blankets, tents, medicines and artificial limbs.
Help has been assisting people in need for 35 years
Germans have been helping Afghanistan since 1981
Help has always had its headquarters in Bonn and cooperates here with the "Association for Afghan Refugees" and on site with "Union Aid for Afghan Refugees". With donations and sponsorship by the Federal Government, Help started to provide medical care and distributed food and milk to children. Staying true to its slogan of "Assistance towards self-reliance", Help trained Afghan refugees in Pakistan to become tradesmen and ran courses for women to become nurses, seamstresses and do embroidery. Other areas of focus were basic medical care, sponsoring clinics and plastic surgery.
Emergency aid and reconstruction since 1990 worldwide
Help has been active worldwide since 1990. Firstly in Romania, then also in Africa, south eastern Europe and other countries in Asia. After natural disasters and armed conflicts, Help is always expanding its range of aid to new project countries. Triggers for aid were for example the wars in Bosnia and Iraq, droughts in Africa, earthquakes and tsunamis in Asia. The initial immediate aid is usually followed by a longer-term commitment to the reconstruction of all areas of life through health care and water supplies, ensuring food and livelihoods, education and training. The objective was and is to strengthen the independence and resistance of the societies affected. Our programme: "Save people - create a future".
A distraught father and his young daughter disfigured by war
"In the middle of the 1980s I was a Help manager in Pakistan. Plastic surgeons from Germany operated on the victims of war in Peshawar. An Afghan doctor pre-selected which of the many patients could be helped.
Dr. Göser, our "Man on site" had been leading the work carried out by Help since 1986 and did an excellent job. I was with him in the practice when a father came in with his small daughter. The little girl did not look good. Half her face was badly burnt and scarred. A fire bomb had hit her house in Afghanistan and the child couldn't escape quickly enough. After that the family fled to Pakistan and sought urgent help. It was clear to us: This girl had to be helped otherwise her whole life would have been destroyed. A normal childhood, marriage, family would be impossible and full of suffering. The father was so grateful when we told him that we could operate on his child. He kept shaking our hands and was extremely happy. The little girl gently stroked my arm. It was one of the most moving moments during my work for Help. When I still work for Help today, then it's also because I can't forget this poor little girl."
Angelika Josten-Janssen, Member of the Executive Board / Managing Director of Help from 1984 to 1989