Education never stops

Beijing, January 22, 2015. The Freudenberg Group was awarded the "Best Responsible Brand" at the China Charity Festival held in Beijing today. It is the third time that Freudenberg has won an award for its school project in Sichuan. Six years have passed since Freudenberg rebuilt the primary school in Haijin near Jiangyou following the horrific earthquake in the Sichuan region. The first students have now left the school, but the financial and personal support from the Freudenberg Group's Haijin project team continues. The project is funded by the Freudenberg Help e.V. charity set up for the primary school project in 2008, donations from Freudenberg Business Groups and individual employees, as well as special activities. Ultimately, though, it is the commitment of the many volunteers that makes the aid project a success.

Children do not stop growing after six years – their development continues. That is why the assistance provided by the Freudenberg Help e.V. charity is continuing, and the charity is also helping students in Haijin as they move on to the next stage in their education. This ensures sustainable assistance for underprivileged children who not only lack the financial resources, but who often come from disrupted families as a result of migrant labor an where the only relatives to care for them are their grandparents. "Expanding the project was the express wish of the colleagues who have been involved in the project in so many different ways over the past few years," says Rolf Köhler. The former General Manager of the Regional Corporate Center Asia retired 18 months ago, but is still wholeheartedly involved in the project.

Among other things, the charity pays for school meals for underprivileged children at the primary school. Once the children have moved on to high school, Freudenberg Help e.V. contributes to the cost of boarding. The aid project is currently supporting 20 children. But as Köhler knows, the financial support is not the most important kind of help. "The children must have the feeling that someone's there for them." Thanks to the many volunteers, the charity can provide that kind of support, too. "We visit the children regularly at their schools to find out where our support is needed." As Köhler explains, help is required in many different areas: For example, one child needs to see a doctor and is prescribed new medication; another is being raised by the grandmother who needs a wheelchair; a third urgently needs shoes.

Aid continues

Even though the rubble has now been cleared away and most of the visible damage caused by the earthquake has been repaired – underprivileged students in Haijin still need help. "On average, we select one to two students in each first grade class," Köhler explains. The charity also sponsors outstanding academic talent. "The funds are still available," says a very satisfied project manager. Donations in China and from Germany via the charity are guaranteed.

Win-win situation

One highlight for children and volunteers alike is the annual Summer Camp which also welcomes the high school students back to their old school. Each year 60 Freudenberg employees volunteer to travel to Haijin in their own time and at their own expense to teach the children for one week. Lessons include English and traditional Chinese culture as well as subjects related to the interests and expertise of the volunteers, such as a scientific experiment on the fundamentals of electricity. "The creativity is endless," Köhler says. "And the children love it."

The same applies to the volunteers. "It's a shame we can only spend a few days with the children," says Ricky Gu from Klüber Lubrication. His colleagues agree that it's "great fun" to work with the "wonderful students". Guonan Jiang from Wuxi NOK-Freudenberg Oil Seal explains: "I gained much more from the children than I gave." That's why the stream of volunteers continues to grow. "The number of applications still exceeds the number of teaching places we have available for volunteers," Köhler explains. Many return again and again to Haijin, because – in the words of Fornia Kwan from Freudenberg & Vilene Int. Ltd. in Hong Kong – they "can't wait to see the children again." And the children know this promise will be kept. Over the last five years some 300 Freudenberg employees have worked at the Summer Camp.