At Badger we are grateful to be able to support Save One Child’s Life – Rette ein Kinderleben - a German based charitable organization that began twenty five years ago. REK promotes the values that matter to us. We support REK as a company and a number of individual Badgers have chosen to sponsor a child as well. This organization has shown clearly that just as the longest journey begins with one step, so too, the greatest change can begin with just one child.
The idea is as simple as it is profound. It starts with one child from among the poorest families in the crime-ridden favelas of northeastern Brazil. These children need shelter and food, but to overcome the tragic circle of poverty, more is required – consistent schooling, medical and dental, care, as well as comprehensive help for the family. As the child matures, vocational skills are also required.
Since its inception, REK has saved more than twelve thousand children. Many have become breadwinners for their families. Through one child, the destiny of the family – and entire villages – can be changed.
How It Began
The roots of the organization were not a plan to change Brazilian society, but a vacation turned tragedy. Two German couples were traveling in Brazil when one of the couples was killed in a robbery gone awry. The attacker was a poor Brazilian father of eleven children who had lost nine of his children to starvation. This tragic crime was motivated by his efforts to save his two remaining children.
In response to the loss of their friends, Theo and Margot Menzner sought out two orphans and assumed financial care for their future. As their story spread, many German friends came forward wanting to help and more children were sponsored. Within two years, Theo designed and built the first permanent home for these children in need. In the ensuing twenty five years, many children have received care that has transformed not only their families’ lives, but is also transforming the political and civil structure of entire villages.
Although many organizations seek to serve children and do a worthy job in the world, REK is unique in several ways.
Today REK has twenty eight homes in six counties in northeast Brazil. Most of these homes were designed by Theo Menzner. These comfortable houses, built around an inner courtyard, are surrounded by enforced walls to protect the children and assistants from criminals. Most of the homes are run by young women, called assistants, who were, themselves, raised in an REK home. Assistants receive continuous training.
Many of the children live with their own families – coming to the REK home each weekday morning. The littlest children spend the day at the REK home in a nursery or kindergarten program. The school age children attend local schools, but receive a healthy breakfast and lunch at the REK home. They return in the afternoon for help with homework, tutoring as needed, creative activities, games, and play. After supper, they go home to spend the night with their families.
Some of the homes have dormitories for the children who either have no family or are not able to live with their family because of distance or other circumstances. The police often bring children found on the streets to an REK home, as the government does not provide services for these children.
Because a good education is so foundational to opportunities in life, REK makes this a priority. REK staff make certain that children attend school, have help with their home work, and receive extra tutorial support as needed. Following graduation, REK provides six weeks of vocational training to help the students to become competitive job seekers. This training includes learning to prepare gourmet cuisine, hair dressing, sewing, computer proficiency, and other useful skills.
When a child is admitted to REK, the parent or parents must commit to learning to sign their own signature in order to be able to vote. In a country with a high illiteracy rate, this simple act is the first important step toward political empowerment.
One of the family benefits of REK is desperately needed food coupons. To receive this benefit, parents must be willing to attend educational sessions that cover a wide variety of topics from hygiene and basic self care to learning to participate actively in the political process through voting and understanding their rights and responsibilities as citizens. Employees of REK accompany the parents when they go shopping for food with coupons to monitor and educate parents to assure that their precious food coupons are wisely spent.
Medical and Dental Care
Care of the physical body is also a priority at REK. Prior to enrollment in this program, many of the children have suffered from the effects of malnutrition, parasites, tropical diseases, and poor dental hygiene. REK makes doctors' appointments available and owns a “clinic on wheels” which provides for the medical needs of the children and their families. Three dentists who work full-time for care for the children and their relatives in state of the art dental clinics of REK.
The children in the REK homes have a tremendous need of healing from the suffering that they have experienced due to deprivation, abuse, and abandonment. At REK these “criancas” – as children are called in Portuguese – rediscover joy through imaginative and interactive play, art work, gymnastics and much more. The children play musical instruments together, dance together, and even present performances. In these most basic activities of childhood, the children learn to trust themselves and others.
Low Administrative Overhead
Although REK serves more than two thousand children and their families, the organization employs only five administrative staff in the central office in Limburg, Germany. Ninety-two percent of the dollars donated to REK go directly to the children and support the programs that the children attend.
Life in Brazil is difficult and dangerous. After twenty-five years in existence, REK has not only changed the lives of many children, who are now adults with skills and jobs, but also the fortunes of their entire families. It has impacted whole villages as the citizens have become educated, civically involved, and in some cases even elected officials who were helped out of poverty through this program. These officials recognize the importance of political reform in helping the poor.
How Sponsorship Works
Each child is supported by a sponsor. Sponsors may be individuals or groups of people. The sponsor’s monthly contribution at this time is $65.00. This amount covers the child’s direct care – paying for meals, clothing, medical care, school fees and supplies, tutoring, transportation, and food coupons for the child and family. A small portion, about 8%, is needed for administration.
Save One Child offers the sponsored children and their sponsors the opportunity for a personal relationship. Thus, every new sponsor receives descriptions and photographs of the sponsored child, the child’s family, and the living situation. Sponsor and child are encouraged to exchange letters and pictures as often as they wish. Translations are included. Packages and extra donations will improve the family’s situation and are welcomed, though not expected. For sponsors who wish to visit their child and their child’s family and home, REK arranges an annual guided two-week group tour.
If you would like to explore the possibility of sponsoring a child, please contact:
Barbara von Zabern
Temple, NH 03084
Rette ein Kinderleben, e.V.
Children at an REK house, 1998
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