Grow and Learn
They could not have been any happier: The primary school pupils of Collège Verena had spent many long hours preparing dances, music and flower-covered decorations for this day. And, now, it had arrived at last. In April 2015, the knowledge-craving children were finally able to celebrate their first school day in a brand-new building – following a devastating earthquake and nearly five years of construction work. REWE Group provided continuous support to the project in Haiti organised by the children's charitable group Kindernothilfe – as part of its social involvement in education.
Education is the foundation that enables people to live independent lives. Even though the number of primary school pupils is rising around the world, 58 million children still had no opportunity to attend school in 2012. Thousands and thousands of places around the world are in dire need of school buildings as well. As a result, many children have to learn in shacks – or even under trees.
In response to this need, REWE Group is working to create the fundamental conditions that will provide access to education. As part of this work, it is supporting the construction of school buildings in developing regions of the world.
An Earthquake That Destroyed Everything – but Hope
The education situation is particularly dramatic in Haiti: About 500,000 boys and girls – at least every fourth child of primary school age – do not attend school. In particular, children from impoverished families have problems breaking out of the vicious circle created by poverty.
It took just 60 seconds in 2010 to change everything in the most destitute country of the Western Hemisphere: The most devastating earthquake in Haiti's history killed 250,000 people and destroyed the homes of 1.5 million people. School buildings were not spared either: The "École Fort National" that was operated by Kindernothilfe and the Salvation Army of Haiti in a slum in the capital of Port-au-Prince had to be pulled down as a result of the earthquake.
Nonetheless, classes resumed in a building located in neighbouring Collège Verena just 30 days after the disaster: "REWE Group's support was critical here. It enabled us to resume regular classes shortly after the earthquake struck. Above all, though, this aid helped us to protect and care for the children as well as to have food on hand, says Jürgen Schübelin, Head of the Latin America Section of Kindernothilfe. Amid the rubble, helpers fired up the field kitchen once again and encouraged mothers each day to cook for the 1,500 pupils.
With Kindernothilfe, REWE Group had a strong, experienced partner at its side, an organisation that had been working for nearly 40 years in Haiti. The children's charity based in the northwestern German city of Duisburg works around the world to promote education and children's rights.
A New Beginning Made Possible by Employees of REWE Group
After careful planning and the removal of the rubble from the old school, construction of the new building of Collège Verena, a facility that now serves as an educational home for the children of Fort National as well, was begun in July 2012. But the work encountered some major challenges, including powerful tropical storms and heavy rains that brought construction work to a standstill. Other problems were posed by the country's difficult security situation, political unrest and strikes at transport companies.
But REWE Group and its dedicated team kept attention focused on the difficult situation in Haiti. By 31 May 2015, a total of 2.95 million euros had been donated to the project by the nearly 330,000 employees of REWE Group and from employees of the cooperatives – and the project continues to move forward to this very day. Many of these individuals launched their own fund-raising drives to help Haiti – during summer parties, in stores, at trainee events and during carnival and Christmas festivities.
An Earthquake-Proof School Centre for 1,500 Children
On 14 April 2015, children, teachers and representatives of Kindernothilfe and REWE Group were able to dedicate the new, earthquake-resistant primary school that is now known as "École Primaire REWE Group" during a big party.
The construction work on the school centre is still under way: Once the second phase of construction is completed possibly in mid-2016, the children will also able to attend a new secondary school – equipped with computer and work rooms, a chemistry lab, a canteen and an athletic ground.
A key factor in the success of the largest relief project in the history of REWE Group was and is its long-term commitment: "Many will help out here today and some place else tomorrow," says Jürgen Schübelin of Kindernothilfe. "But to remain committed to something for more than five years and to say that 'We are dedicated to this', is truly something remarkable."
Giving Education a Home
Each year, more than six million travellers sample different cultures, enjoy adventures with their families or head off on battery-recharging holidays – all with the help of DER Touristik. For this reason, the subsidiary is "Committed to the World" ("DER Welt verpflichtet“) and works on behalf of environmental and social issues in a programme that bears the same name.
As part of the initiative "DER Bildung ein Zuhause geben" (Giving Education a Home) conducted in 2014, the company supported the construction of 12 schools in 10 countries where education is not always a given, including Kenya, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. "We were able to provide a classroom seat to 1,900 children in 2014," says Sören Hartmann, CEO of DER Touristik.
Children Dream of Classrooms
The response has created an incentive to do more: "The children and the entire community are really happy about both new classrooms," says Frederick Omondi, who oversaw the construction of a school in Magunga, Kenya. "Many still think it is all a dream."
The work is continuing in 2015: The remote Nghia Thang region of Vietnam does not have enough school facilities to educate all children. To create the facilities it needs, two new classrooms and an athletic field were added to the existing school in 2015 with the support of DER Touristik. In addition, the project partners are building the school's interiors and a kitchen. Children in Kenya, Namibia and the Philippines were also able to enjoy new rooms, furniture, restroom facilities and instruction material in 2015.
Foundation Partnership Guarantees Long-Term Impact
As a way of systematically coordinating and combining its activities, the travel company set up a non-profit organisation called DER Touristik Foundation e.V. in 2014. The association directs every cent of donated money to the charitable projects. Partnerships that have been forged with relief organisations like the foundation Reiner Meutsch Stiftung FLY & HELP ensure that the work has a long-term impact. In this alliance, FLY & HELP carries out school-construction projects with the help of local communities in the travel countries, oversees the progress and provides long-range support once a project has been completed.
Protecting Children and Teenagers from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism
The Travel and Tourism division of REWE Group also works to prevent children and teenagers from being sexually exploited by tourists. As a member of the German travel association Deutscher ReiseVerband e.V. (DRV), DER Touristik works with ECPAT-Germany to actively promote children's rights and to fight sexual exploitation. In one example of this commitment, contract hotels must pledge that they will not encourage or even tolerate any type of sexual exploitation of minors. Day-long seminars are conducted to inform employees of the hotel chains Club Calimera, PrimaSol and lti hotels about the issue and prepare them to handle potential emergencies. At the end of the seminar, the hotel employees receive information written in their native language that they can use to inform their colleagues in a principle known as train the trainer. During the reporting period, 14 seminars were conducted in seven destinations, including Tunisia, Spain and Egypt. In addition, a training session in animation was conducted. Trainees and travel agency employees of DER Touristik attended a one-day training session in September 2014. The well-established „Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct“ generates company-wide attention about the issue.