Child abuse: sounding the alarm for emergency aid

AWO Düsseldorf cares for children that are victims of abuse in North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. The project’s sponsor and employee of Air Liquide Deutschland, Sophie Bönnemann, for whom this cause is particularly important, talks to us about the Air Liquide Foundation’s support for the project.

Can you tell us more about AWO’s mission?

Arbeiterwohlfahrt (the Association for Workers’ Solidarity), or AWO, is one of the largest non-profit welfare organization in Germany. It provides support for socially disadvantaged individuals, including children who are at risk with a growing need for protection. The Düsseldorf office becomes authorized by the Court of Justice in case children are mentally and physically abused within their families, to provide care for these children and place them in foster homes. Removing a child from their family is an extreme decision and one that the Court only makes as a last resort, because the family of origin still provides the best framework for ensuring the child’s well-being.

Why did you choose to support this association?

The Foundation wanted to support a project with societal benefits in Germany. Olivier Sonntag – Human Resources Director Western Europe – and me met with the legal guardians of AWO Düsseldorf and understood the scale of the requirements. We were told horrible stories of abuse: even babies can be victims. I was deeply moved by the plight of these children and very surprised to learn about these family crises that take place so close to home, and about the violence that can happen even in a developed country in Northern Europe such as our own. Two legal guardians are currently responsible for 66 children ranging in age from 18 months to 18 years. They place them in foster homes, monitor their situation, make sure that they are safe and, when necessary, provide transportation.

What is the scale of the Foundation’s support?

Thanks to the Foundation’s grant, the association was able to buy a second vehicle and both guardians can now drive children to their appointments with doctors or psychologists or to the home of the person responsible for the child. This car allows the association to maintain a link with the child’s environment, meaning it is better able to support these children at a time when government funding does not cover the full cost of their care. The name and telephone number of the association were printed on the car. This free advertising has paid off since several people have already called to apply as foster parents. These children desperately need help and the Foundation recognized the importance of this work. Air Liquide employees should know that their company is involved in development projects and that it is able to give something back to society.

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To find out more

AWO’s Website: www.awo.org

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Vehicle handover to Michael Kipshagen (Director of AWO Düsseldorf) by Arno Sander (Air Liquide Deutschland General Manager) and Sophie Bönnemann, sponsor of the project (Human Ressources Department, Air Liquide Deutschland).

Next to the car: the two legal guardians of AWO Düsseldorf.

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