As a good corporate citizen, ALTANA supports and sponsors social projects focusing on education, science, and research. To strengthen our local environments and to be a good neighbor, we especially promote initiatives near our sites in Germany and abroad.
German Lessons from the Very Beginning
“We shouldn’t just watch, we should do something ourselves.” This was the resolution that ALTANA’s Management Board made when refugees flocked to Germany at the end of the summer in 2015, and employees in the company, too, started discussing how integration could be achieved. Those responsible at ALTANA all agreed that the key lies in the German language. Only by learning German can the refugees communicate with others in their new country and get a foothold in the labor market.
Via Aktion Deutschland Hilft e.V., an alliance of German aid organizations, ALTANA announced it was donating 250,000 euros to help fund a project to this end. The coalition’s member organizations were invited to submit proposals for suitable language programs. In the end, Malteser Werke won the day with an innovative concept called “German lessons from the very beginning.” They also scored points with their experiences integrating refugees. Back in January 2016, German classes began for the first 100 students in the Malteser facility in Hamm, North Rhine-Westphalia.
On behalf of the German federal states, Malteser Werke supervises ten central refugee accommodation facilities across the country. The refugees usually live there for up to six months after being registered, until they are officially granted asylum and placed in municipalities. Only subsequently is it actually possible for many to take a German course. Which means lost time for the newcomers, much of which they spend waiting.
“The core of our concept is to offer refugees German lessons starting on their very first day in Germany,” says Anja Müller, the manager of the project at Malteser Werke. “The first question that many ask when they arrive is: ‘Can we learn German here?’”
So ALTANA’s donation came at just the right time. Initially, the company is financing qualified German teachers for one year at six Malteser facilities in North Rhine-Westphalia and in the city of Voerde, in the vicinity of the company’s headquarters in Wesel. The money is also used to equip the classrooms, to prepare course material, and to scientifically evaluate the pilot project.
In their planning, Anja Müller and her team had to take many variables into account. Their students not only come from different countries and have different educational backgrounds. In addition, it is uncertain how long they will remain in the facility and thus in the class. Against this backdrop, the Malteser Werke developed something completely new: The classes are offered in modules with increasing levels of difficulty. Four 90-minute lessons are given five days a week. The subject matter is geared to the participants’ living environment. “We asked people at the facilities what is important in daily human interaction,” explains Anja Müller. Thus, incidental yet important content found its way into the class materials, including the particularities of German can deposits.
Although participation in the courses is voluntary, the classrooms are bursting at the seams: Around 600 students come to class each day. At the end of the first year, some 100,000 people will have acquired the basic language skills they need to lead a self-determined life in Germany. In the facilities, German is replacing English increasingly as the language spoken with others. The residents are gaining confidence and making contact with Germans outside of their accommodation for the first time, for instance, when they go shopping. Anja Müller is delighted about the program’s success: “In some communities, people were understandably worried in the beginning about who was coming. Today our fosterlings are part of everyday life.”
As the project coordinator, Anja Müller orchestrates the Malteser Werke’s language program and organizes the work of the language teachers and volunteer assistants. Müller, who studied cultural anthropology, sees the success of her activities every day. She is convinced that the German lessons boost the refugees’ confidence and encourage them to make contact with their new home country. The refugees’ eagerness to learn and their gratitude touch her time and time again. But she still has one great wish: “We need more generous donators like ALTANA. Then we could do so much more.”
GERMAN LESSONS FROM THE VERY BEGINNING
ALTANA donated 250,000 euros to Malteser Werke to fund its qualified German classes for refugees. Learning German is the key to their becoming integrated in both society and the labor market. The language concept, geared to rapid learning success, has the potential to become the standard in the preliminary refugee reception centers. The first participants have already received the recognized A1 language certificate. The project, which is supported and evaluated scientifically, benefits around 100,000 refugees in Malteser facilities.
All children have potential, but often the conditions are lacking that could enable them to really develop. Educational coaching, which ALTANA carries out since 2014 with the nonprofit Klausenhof Academy and the Elementary School GGS Innenstadt in Wesel, addresses this issue. The aim of the project is to individually promote disadvantaged children starting in second grade in order to give them better educational opportunities. It is geared to children with a migration background, children who are educationally disadvantaged, and children who live in socially adverse conditions, among others.
In this context, ALTANA is financing the personnel and material costs for a socio-educational expert. The expert’s task is to attract mentors in Wesel who will supervise and accompany the children on a volunteer basis. He or she has to train the mentors and subsequently coordinate their activities. On the one hand, those children are eligible for promotion who have particularly promising talents; on the other hand the project aims at helping children reduce deficits and thus promote the development of their personality.
The volunteer mentors do not act as tutors, but as personal contacts. They spend two hours a week with the girls or boys outside school hours. During this time, they accompany the children to music class, for example, explore the offer at the municipal library with them, or make excursions with them to natural surroundings, which are subsequently documented by the kids.
For many years now, we have participated as a regional network partner in the promotion of a new generation of scientists in cooperation with the Germany-wide foundation House of Junior Researchers. Our school ambassadors support special project weeks at two elementary schools in Wesel and at the German Red Cross (DRK) daycare center Abenteuerland, respectively. The project weeks serve to kindle the children’s interest in scientific phenomena and to train their problem-solving skills.
In addition, we traditionally invite the little researchers along with their parents, teachers, and educators to our group headquarters once a year. At our premises, they can present their experiments and research results from the project weeks in the course of an afternoon.
An NGO and a CSR manager discuss social engagement
Dr. Kalyani Mandke is an audiologist who has had her own clinic in Pune, India, for 35 years. She is also the Chairwoman of “Suhrud Mandal”. The NGO runs four schools for hearing-impaired children and has taken a number of measures to improve their future opportunities.
Shirish Dabir has more than 30 years of experience in the industry. The business graduate and lawyer has worked for more than 11 years for ALTANA’s subsidiary ELANTAS Beck India in the fields of Legal and Compliance and is also responsible for the company’s social engagement.
Dr. Mandke, how important is corporate social engagement in India?
Dr. Kalyani Mandke: In India, the gap between rich and poor is very, very wide. International nongovernmental organizations, NGOs for short, want to and can help to bridge this gap, for example, in the two central fields of education and health. But involvement at the level of ideas alone is not sufficient. Successful support work also requires knowhow and financial resources. By cooperating with companies, we can help things take a turn for the better. Let me add this: We often see that companies’ involvement starts to flag when the company is faced with major internal challenges. This has never been the case at ELANTAS Beck India!
Why is that, in your opinion?
Dr. Kalyani Mandke: Each person works for his individual happiness, for her very personal goals. But it is equally important to give something back to society. Because society enabled us to reach our goals. The two things go hand in hand. Giving people some of your time makes a difference in life. That gives helping people a new perspective, indeed even meaning in their lives.
Mr. Dabir, what are the most important reasons for social engagement, in your view?
Shirish Dabir: Dr. Mandke rightly observed that social engagement is very important to us. We use society’s resources. So it is our responsibility and duty to give something back to society in return. We at ELANTAS Beck India have been involved in certain social-engagement activities for a decade; however, we have been very actively involved now for nearly three years.
What is the focal point of your support?
Shirish Dabir: Here in Indian society, there are strong needs, particularly about getting a decent school education. Many people are trapped in a vicious circle. Families with very little money cannot offer their children a good education. Later, being poorly educated, these people do not earn enough money to pay for a good education for their own kids. So, improving educational standards is our most important objective. This should also be seen in the context of the ALTANA’s general focus on funding education and science.
And how important is health as a social objective?
Shirish Dabir: Very important! India’s Prime Minister has initiated a countrywide “Clean India Mission” to improve people’s health and hygiene. It’s a good initiative for a noble cause, because many people live in slums below the poverty line. As a result, the standards of health and hygiene are dangerously low. Helping to improve these standards is another, equally important objective for us alongside education.
Dr. Mandke, has ELANTAS Beck India set the right priorities?
Dr. Kalyani Mandke: Yes! And I’ll tell you why. Almost 20 percent of the Indian population lives below the poverty line. The illiteracy rate is around 66 percent. Having recognized this, ELANTAS Beck India is concentrating on improving education as well as health and hygiene. Focusing – that’s the right path. Because financial resources and the employees’ time and ability to help are limited.
How long should projects be accompanied in your experience?
Dr. Kalyani Mandke: Three to five years is a good time span. The fact is that you can’t get any result in just one year. And over this period of time there’s no need to worry that the activities are just a drop in the ocean.
Since 2014, companies in India have been legally obliged to be socially committed. What role does this play in the activities of ELANTAS Beck India?
Shirish Dabir: We were socially committed even before this law came into force. For example, we supported Suhrud Mandal for the first time in 2012, when we gave them the paint for painting their school building. ELANTAS Beck India has always helped whenever there were any natural disasters afflicting the country. Our employees even donate money from their own pockets in such cases. So you can see that we have always lived up to our social responsibility. The only difference to the time before the law came into effect is that our activities are now more structured and better organized.
How are you proceeding exactly?
Shirish Dabir: We have framed a policy, identified the focus areas of our support, and formed a decision-making committee. The CSR team then obtains references and further information, also locally. New project suggestions are evaluated and presented to the decision-making committee, consisting of two independent directors and the managing director of ELANTAS Beck India, for the final decision.
Dr. Mandke, what in your opinion are the success factors for cooperation between companies and NGOs?
Dr. Kalyani Mandke: The most important success factor is indeed financial support. In most cases, the companies give us the freedom to decide how to use the money. The disadvantage is that while many companies make resources available, they later lose interest in our work. But the companies and their employees could also benefit from closer cooperation. As I said, social commitment not only changes the world of the needy for the better, but also opens up new perspectives for those who provide assistance. More companies should become aware of this.
Shirish Dabir: I agree completely. Through this kind of even closer cooperation between companies and nongovernmental organizations we gain more insight into the tasks involved and can derive a lot of energy and motivation to work with more zeal on behalf of our company for such social causes.
More than 400 children attend schools of the NGO, which specializes in providing education to hearing-impaired students. School materials especially developed by Suhrud Mandal enable hard-of-hearing children to learn.
ELANTAS BECK INDIA
PROMOTING EDUCATION IN INDIA
ELANTAS Beck India and Suhrud Mandal have worked together since 2012. The ALTANA subsidiary supports the NGO financially with a total of almost 5.4 million Indian Rupees and with donations in kind such as computers.
400 CHILDREN HELPED
ALTANA practices good corporate citizenship by promoting many small and large social projects relating to education, science, and research. We show that we are a good neighbor by supporting initiatives near our sites in Germany and abroad.
People are at the center of ALTANA’s activities, both within the company and in our operating environment. We therefore support selected projects carried out by experienced partners from the field of education. The focus is on projects that promote people’s understanding of the natural sciences, mathematics, informatics, and technology. As a network partner of the House of Junior Researchers foundation, ALTANA has for many years accompanied two elementary schools and one daycare center in Wesel in order to encourage children and youth to learn about science. ALTANA also supports an “educational coaching” project that individually promotes elementary school children from socially deprived backgrounds.
“LEON IS NOW ON THE BALL“
The mentors of the “educational coaching” project assisted 18 children at GGS Innenstadt elementary school in Wesel and the Klausenhof Academy in 2018. They are convinced that “all children have potential.” ALTANA has supported the educational project, which aims to give children more equal opportunity, for more than four years.
The time had come. After six months of listening, accompaniment, and cautious approaches Leon* finally let the mentor touch his hand. “It was a great moment for both of us,” says Marianne Podszun. Because now it was clear that the necessary trust had been built. This takes a long time and requires a great deal of care and attention. Marianne Podszun is one of 18 volunteer mentors who are taking part in the “educational coaching” project at GGS Innenstadt elementary school in Wesel. The mentors are currently supporting the development of 18 children, starting in second grade, through so-called educational coaching. The children, who come from socially deprived backgrounds, are promoted and challenged in keeping with their interests and abilities.
Mentors Encourage and Challenge the Children
Eleven-year-old Leon is one of them. Shy and looking down, he stood in front of Marianne Podszun for the first time three years ago. Playing with cloth and hand puppets, she learned about what he likes. Leon likes to go for walks. And since his mentor taught him how to ride a bike, he loves that too. They cycled together along the Rhine. She’ll never forget when Leon asked her with big eyes whether it was really the Rhine.
You Can’t Build Trust Without Empathy
Leon was not the only one who was alone with his neediness. His parents were too. His father lent a helping hand, seeing an opportunity for his son. He said that Leon liked to play the drums. His mentor subsequently organized a visit to a music school – and the boy learned that it’s worth sticking with something, not giving up if something doesn’t work out immediately. “You have to have discipline if you want to achieve something. Leon is now on the ball,” says the mentor proudly. He not only started learning kickboxing, but also does his homework alone now after initially receiving help.
Not only the children but also the mentors have to be on the ball. “Going on an outing sounds easy. But you need a lot of patience, experience, and empathy. That’s very important,” says Hildegard Derksen, a socio-educational expert and project coordinator at the Klausenhof Academy. If the mentors didn’t have the ability to listen, to understand the children’s gestures and facial expressions and behavior, and to empathize with the kids, they wouldn’t be able to build a relationship with them. It is a responsible task, especially since the volunteer mentors are not therapists or family helpers, but usually retirees who practiced all kinds of professions.
You feel the volunteer work is worthwhile when you see the children seeking out intimacy and role models, says mentor Monika Ebling. “At the end of the day, you don’t leave the results with the children at the school. And the encouraging and nice moments of support for the children motivate you again and again,” she adds. The mentors not only receive training, qualifications, and further training, but also meet regularly to discuss their experiences and to get advice from Hildegard Derksen and the other mentors. Says Monika Ebling: “We get help just like the children do.”
*The name is changed