Questions to FriendCircle WorldHelp

Origin, philosophy, choice of regions and sustainable help for self-help

Question: You are pursuing the concept that every donated Euro reaches the children and needy people all over the world, and especially in India. How do you finance your travels?

Founding members: Everyone taking part in a tour of FriendCircle Worldhelp is responsible for bearing his own travel and accommodation expenses. One of the basic principles of FriendCircle Worldhelp is that any kind of charity begins in the family. If, after fulfilling your family duties you still have free resources both financial as well as in terms of energy and time, you are welcome to join us. 


Question: You make your work transparent. That's good, but does this not cause huge costs?

Founding members: In fact, all printed material we produce to make known the work of FriendCircle Worldhelp, costs money. These expenses are covered by sponsors, i.e. companies and businessmen, sometimes also individuals. They support our idea, for which we are very grateful. By newsletters and other media we inspire and win many new friends for our work. Furthermore, people get a practical idea of how their donations are spent.


Question: What is important to you and why do you do it at all?

Founding members: We are born into a country and in a time when we can say that most of us are doing well materially. That was not always the case. Just remember the years of war, where also here people were suffering a lot. Our philosophy is that we humans want to reach out to those who currently have a very hard life.


Question: How did it all begin?

Founding members: Already as a child, Alexandra Schmitz wanted to support lepers and children suffering from poverty in India or other developing countries. In July 2009, she made her dream come true and flew for 6 weeks to Kerala to help in a home for children and homeless. Although from today's perspective Kerala is one of the richest states in India, with a very high literacy rate, Alexandra learnt a lot for her future trips. In November 2009, she undertook a second trip together with her brother Michael Dykta to Maharashtra, Mumbai, where she as a teacher supplied children in the slums with food, and her brother as a doctor carried out first wound treatments. Two months later, Alexandra flew with her husband Frank Schmitz to northern India, where, among others, for the first time blankets were distributed on a larger scale to freezing people. Since then Alexandra has been traveling two to three times a year for a several weeks‘ stay to India together with a small group of friends to supervise the ever-expanding projects.


Question: You say that for your work you get a lot in return.

Founding members: It's amazing how many people in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and now even in Spain help to ensure that the work continues by financial support, specific fundraising actions, and assistance by knitting items for freezing people, loving comments and letters. All this contributes that the work of FriendCircle Worldhelp not only grows and prospers, but it also gives us the strength to continue our activities gratefully and with full commitment and enthusiasm. The response of those who benefit from our help is overwhelming.


Question: India is an emerging economic power. There are also many rich people. So why India?

Founding members: As everywhere in the world there are rich people in India. However, the worldwide majority of hungry people - about 200 million – live in India. With an estimated 11 to 18 million street children (impossible to conduct a census!) India is also at the top and with a population of 1.25 billion people (2011), India is after China the second largest nation on earth, accounting for one-sixth of the world population. However, the land available with about 3.2 million square kilometers is very small proportionally. Africa for example has a total land area of about 30.3 million square kilometers and a population of just over one billion people. Among other things, this means for us that we can reach more people with less travel expenses.


Question: Your projects mainly concentrate in the north and east of India. Is there a reason for this?

Founding members: The poorest states are those in eastern India : Bihar and Orissa. In both states FriendCircle Worldhelp is active. Many needy people flee from the countryside to the cities due to crop failure or lack of prospects with the hope to find work and a better life, which in many cases ends in disappointment. We feel it is important to strengthen the people in the villages, by e.g. supporting the prevailing agriculture. In the north of India there is a relatively large gap between rich and poor. Despite the higher gross national product of some states the situation of people experiencing poverty changes only little. In addition to the hunger, especially in winter people there are struggling with temperatures as low as 0°C while in the southern part of the country the climate is tropical and temperatures more or less permanently hot or warm. Especially children living on the street and elderly people who sometimes get no warm meals for several days get sick very quickly. Tuberculosis, hepatitis, pneumonia, asthma, flu, etc. often end fatally. Moreover, many needy people from poorer states are moving to the northern states hoping for a better livelihood for their families. With hard work such as bicycle rickshaw driving men can earn around one Euro per day. They keep half of it for their own livelihood and send the other half to their families. Sometimes they can visit their homes only every two years since on one hand they cannot afford a loss of earnings and on the other hand the train ticket is too expensive.


Question: You are also supporting individual homeless people and street children. Does this not mean ‚a mere drop in the ocean‘?

Founding members: From an overall perspective we have to say: yes, it is. However, no one would call it  "a drop in the ocean" when offering food to your mother, or a relative or giving a blanket when they are cold. So why not do the same thing to other people just because they come from another country? Once we get to know somebody, there is a relationship. At least we can then no longer say that it is not necessary to help.


Question: In India you are carrying out some large projects. Why then do you visit other countries such as Tanzania. Is this not inefficient?

Founding members: Our currently largest and longest-term projects will continue in India. However, we visit other countries in order to gain more experience. In the future FriendCircle Worldhelp intends to cooperate with other organizations in areas of conflict.


Question: Not all your projects are sustainable. What criteria do you apply in your choice?

Founding members: We distinguish between short-term, medium-term and long-term support. Of course, wherever possible we give priority to projects that help people permanently and give them the possibility of self-help. This is done e.g. by creating the foundations such as enabling children to attend school, offering medical treatments such as surgery, agricultural projects such as drilling wells, the construction of aqueducts, planting of trees, construction of sanitary facilities in leprosy villages to ensure basic hygiene, etc. There is often an urgent need for short-term or medium-term help. When people threaten to starve, then you will first give them food, and only then can you think of how in the future they can see for their livelihood themselves again.


Question: You are selling a range of products such as hand-knitted items. What happens to the proceeds?

Founding members: For the projects on site each volunteer contributes a flat rate for travel expenses within the country. However, since the distances between the projects are enormous despite relatively low rates, the costs for taxi and train are rising. Also the transport costs of aid material, for example to leper colonies, are considerable. Moreover, for projects located far away it is necessary to grant our Indian companions / translators, etc., without whom the work of this magnitude would not be possible modestly-priced accommodation and meals. All this costs money and is co-financed by the tireless work of our knitting ladies producing socks or other unique pieces. The sale of these hand-made handicrafts for this purpose requires the permission of our knitting friends. All other knitted items like "caps for India" are distributed to children and needy persons below the poverty line exposed to the cold winter in India. Other trifles such as scarves are sold to support the work on site.


Question: What do you like most about your work?

Founding members: Our work is immediate and practical - from person to person. It does not matter to us, in which country the needy child or needy person is at home. It is a kind of globalization on human level. But of course our first concern is for nations with many people affected by poverty.


Question: I would like to help. What can I do?

Founding members: Many of our friends demonstrate great commitment and develop creative ideas of how to spread and disseminate our work. They help promote the good cause with school projects, theater performances, concerts, festivals, flea markets, etc. Your contribution will be highly appreciated!


Thanks for your questions.


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