Thomas Anders + Rhenser Mineral Water jointly-founded Child Protection Association, Koblenz
Rhenser Mineralbrunnen GmbH is promoting the Koblenz Child Protection Association again in 2011 on 4 million bottles, with advertising partner Thomas Anders.
Company owner Dr. Hans-Achim Daschmann expects the advert on bottle labels to produce donations for the Koblenz Child Protection Association and also to make fellow citizens reflect on and assist in the fight against child poverty and violence.
A successful singer, TV presenter, composer and producer - since November 2008 you have added another assignment to your repertoire. You are now patron of the German Child Protection Association in Koblenz. How did this come about?
I think it's a good thing to start in your hometown area if you want to get involved with the community. Since I live in Koblenz, it's important for me, first and foremost, to be concerned about the worries and hardships in this region.
For years it was constantly instilled into us that life is really hard for children in Africa and third world countries. And this really is true. But, as a result, we have already forgotten that there are also plenty of needy children living among us. I have consistently been involved with children and supported various organizations.
The patron of the German Child Protection Association in Koblenz approached me last year and explained that she wanted to cut back on her obligations because of age and illness. She asked me whether I felt like continuing her work. This was quite a natural move for me. I've been patron since November 2008, and represent an organization which constitutes a psychologically competent contact point for children of all age groups.
First of all, it's about fundraising. How do you go about this
I would never go up to someone and say "there are so many problems and so much misery, please give me some money. Or how much do you want to give?" No, never. My strategy is a policy of small steps. I'd like to raise awareness in my fellow humans and draw them into a conversation. I don't want to take advantage of anyone. And nor is it necessary to do so.
Most people with whom I come into contact are really unaware of the social situation in Germany. They have tears in their eyes when they hear of the dramatic prevailing conditions and the level of suffering. I always attend meetings of the Child Protection Association. No names are mentioned there, but cases are discussed.
And then you learn that children don't have anywhere to go after school to do their homework, or anything to eat. Despite the economic crisis and recession, our association still has enough money to provide support in this area. You shouldn't just make sure that your own child is well cared for, but should also spare a thought for other children. We all live in the same world
The Child Protection Association doesn't just help those in need, it also provides psychological advice in case of domestic violence. What is the situation in Koblenz in this respect?
No different to other German cities. It's a mistake to believe that violence is only found in poor families, in a socially-disadvantaged environment. For example, we had one case where a man was working at a public authority, and therefore formed part of the middle class, and beat his daughter. Cases like this are shocking.
The difference between the socially-disadvantaged classes and the middle and upper classes lies in the fact that the middle and upper classes have a better structure and are better covered as a result. Basically, less violence is attributed to such people. But the illusion is deceptive. More discussion is centred on the lower classes and more attention is paid to them. They are under the spotlight more. Here too, I see my job as raising people's awareness, keeping my eyes and ears open, looking behind the scenes.
We have set up a helpline, 24-hours a day, where children and young people who have been affected can unload their problems at an expert office. In Koblenz alone we get around 10,000 calls a year. And all this has to be paid for and managed. This requires funds which I'm trying to help raise; at special events and other appropriate occasions
Do you also tell the Youth Welfare Office if you become aware of abuse?
If the Youth Welfare Office intervenes, the family structure is fundamentally destroyed. The Child Protection Association represents a kind of preliminary stage and support before proceeding to the Youth Welfare Office. Trained psychologists provide advice and support to children and young people without causing any damage to the family. Recently, for example, we had a case in which the mother's new partner had allegedly abused the daughter.
Or another case: in a nearby sports club, a sports teacher was suspected of having continuously carried out abusive acts on his protégés. Accusations have been made and our psychologists are now providing all possible support. If enraged parents were to call the Youth Welfare Office, legal steps would be taken immediately. The accusations could no longer be withdrawn.
If the child then suddenly turns round and says "it wasn't like that at all, I was only angry with him”, which unfortunately also happens, for a wide variety of reasons, the person involved is still stigmatized. The public prosecutor's office asks for a hearing. The entire bureaucratic machinery keeps running until the public prosecutor closes proceedings. A reference is held on file.
This is quite a difficult story. You can't just call the Youth Welfare Office in without further ado. This is one reason why the Child Protection Association is so important! Our psychologists are able to filter out, in a very subtle manner, whether or not anything happened, and then to respond accordingly. We don't just help children and young people, a lot of teachers also maintain very close contact with our Child Protection Association.
Have you already recorded achievements in your short tenure?
Certainly, I have already regularly banged the drum and we have already raised funds. I also have a lot of ideas for my home city of Koblenz and want to get things moving there.
Moreover, I've also been able to win over other celebrities, though this is not always an easy task among colleagues. A lot of celebrities have taken on roles as patrons and everyone is fighting for his own cause. It's a shame.
Nor is it always easy for me to organize work for the Child Protection Association. We need around 50,000 to 60,000 euros a year in donations. I'm fighting to raise these funds
Katrin Hampel conducted the interview with Thomas Anders for Stargebot