foundation history

foundation history

In 2004/5 the initiator of steps for children, Michael Hoppe, was in Kenya, South Africa and twice in Namibia. He was looking for a suitable project location to implement his vision of sustainably helping children in need. Erika von Wietersheim, a German Namibian, introduced Michael Hoppe to Okakarara.

How steps for children came about - told by Michael Hoppe
In 2002, after more than 30 years as an independent entrepreneur, I ended my job as German and international managing director of my companies in order to start a new phase of life and do something meaningful. Until 2004, my desire to do something for children and adolescents in need grew. During this period the idea for a children's project came up in countries that need support. The first project sketch was made, which included an orphanage, a school and a soup kitchen. The part of the world in which the project was to take shape has not yet been determined; even then I developed the still existing visions and basics.
Learn from others - an excursion to Africa
... - an excursion to Africa Since I had only had entrepreneurial and not social projects so far, I wanted to learn from others first in order to avoid beginners' mistakes. What do the needy really need? How do I create sustainability and help people to help themselves? I looked for answers to these questions in similar initiatives. Friends and experts kept pointing out projects in Africa - a continent still unknown to me! At the end of 2004 and beginning of 2005 I went on my first excursion through Kenya, South Africa and Namibia. There I got to know several projects for children and young people in practice and spoke to hundreds of people. I visited slums and slums and for the first time in my life saw people suffering from AIDS die on the street. All of this strengthened my desire to stand up for children in need due to HIV / AIDS. On this trip I met Erika von Wietersheim in Namibia, who was to become the first chairwoman of the steps for children trust that was later founded. Growing up in Namibia, she founded a school for the children of the farm workers on her farm.
The concept of “income-generating projects” emerges

Many of the projects I visited in Africa were partly well organized and equipped, but in the long run they always depend on new donations and support from third parties. Some were about to expire because donors in distant Europe or America had turned away. In order to avoid this problem, I developed the concept of income-generating projects.
According to this, the parties involved do business locally by offering goods or services that secure their own income. The social projects (eg a preschool or soup kitchen) are then also paid from this income. Both modules, the social on the one hand, the income-generating on the other, make up the overall project.

First contact with Okakarara
April 2005
After the concept of income-generating projects existed in theory, it should now be put into practice. In April 2005 I traveled to Namibia again and visited Okakarara with Erika von Wietersheim near the Waterberg. A local led us through the community, showed us the poor neighborhoods and introduced us to the traditional Chief Kambazembi. There was great interest in a social project in the community.
The traditional chiefs in Okakarara welcome the project
August 2005

On my second visit to Okakarara in August 2005, Pastor Assaph Kandjeo visited me. He had heard of my plans and shared my vision of doing something for children in need.

Assaph had been thinking about such a project with a few other parishioners for two years; So far, however, the necessary money and support have been lacking. After lengthy discussions, we agreed that we would have to present the project idea to the traditional chiefs in order to get advice from them and receive their blessing. So I presented our plans to the Chiefs Kambazembi and Tjikuua, their advisors, the Regional Councilor and about 20 parishioners.

After many questions and internal discussions, Chief Kambazembi announced: “We welcome you and your project to Okakarara. The imprint that your foot leaves here in the sand will never be blown away by the wind. ”I thanked him and asked the community for a larger plot of land to realize the project idea. After about four weeks I received the notification that the community wanted to provide us with 60.000 square meters at the entrance to the town.

So the decision for Okakarara and the first project (soup kitchen and preschool) was made. Everything was fine: I had found a church in need that wanted and supported the project, in addition there was a pastor with the same vision and a city councilor who provided the necessary land.

Pastor Assaph and I put together a task team made up of four members of the congregation who planned the pre-school and soup kitchen.

A village for children is being designed
November 2005
After accepting the plot, I consulted Erika for a long time about the basic design for the project. It was clear that there would be many individual modules, today's "steps", and that each module should be headed by a person responsible. During my next visit to Windhoek in November 2005, I got to know the couple Gertrud and Jürgen Schmotz, who lives in Windhoek and the other half in Augsburg, through Erika von Wietersheim. Back in 2004, with the support of the Augsburg friends in Namibia, the two founded a sewing room and youth center in Okakarara. Two women mainly sewed bags here, most of which were sold in Germany. The sewing room was located in the Red Cross building and was managed by a local employee when the Schmotz couple were not present. Gertrud and Jürgen expressed interest in integrating their sewing room into my overall project as an independent and independent subproject (step). The Schmotz couple also helped with the preparations for the soup kitchen and preschool.
The sudden start of the project
December 2005
In December 2005, Assaph and the task team surprised me with the wish to start the project earlier. They had realized that the transfer of the property and the planned buildings would take a long time. However, there were already 30 preschool children in Okakarara who were to begin their education. In addition, in the Rot-Kreuz-Haus, where Gertrud and Jürgen Schmotz had been operating a sewing room since 2004, there was conveniently one room for the preschool and one for the kitchen.
The foundation and the support association are launched
January 2006
In December 2005 I founded the steps for children foundation in Hamburg and provided it with enough money for the investments of the first year. In order to cover the running costs in the long term, the sponsoring association steps for children was also founded in Hamburg on January 21, 2006. Almost 50 founding members took part in the founding event.
The trust steps for children is founded
Beginning 2006
With the help of a lawyer, I was able to quickly complete the founding documents for the Trust steps for children in Windhoek in early 2006. The founding members were Erika von Wietersheim as chairwoman, the German-American Dr. Lucy Steinitz and Festus Tjikuua, a Namibian born in Okakarara, who studied engineering in Hamburg. The three formed the (founding) board. Together with me as the initiator and representative of the only project financier up to that point, namely the steps for children foundation, and the Schmotz couple, we represented the decision-making body for the project in Namibia.
Beginning of March 2006 - start of the project in Interimshaus I
March 2006

In the second week of March the time had come: Jürgen Schmotz helped to bring school furniture to Okakarara and also packed a used carpet and paint. There was also a vicar from the Evangelical Church and Sonja Schneider-Waterberg, a teacher of my daughter from the Sophie Barat School in Hamburg. Sonja had already helped me with translation work and other project preparations in Hamburg and was now considering spending a Sabbath year with steps for children in Okakarara.

Jürgen, Sonja, Assaph and the vicar painted the walls together, attached shelves, set up the school furniture and unpacked the dishes. Done: the children could come!
Two projects were now housed in the same building, the sewing room by Gertrud and Jürgen Schmotz and steps for children.

Purchase of Interim House II
September 2006
In September 2006, I found out that a larger house with extensive grounds was for sale. With Sonja and Assaph I visited the seller on her farm. After exciting negotiations, we agreed on the price and the constraints. In November 2006 Jürgen Schmotz, meanwhile again for his winter half year in Namibia, was able to sign the contract in Okakarara for the sellers and the board members in Windhoek. The house now belonged to the steps for children trust, financed jointly (together with the first mobile house to be built later) by the steps for children foundation and its sponsors and the Augsburg Friends of Namibia and its sponsors. Immediately after signing the contract, we started the extensive renovation, conversion and construction of a toilet house. Our goal was to move into the house at the beginning of the new school year: Two new teachers were able to start teaching on time in mid-January 2007. Only the seamstresses had to work in the bedroom for the time being, because the mobile house planned for them was only due to be completed in March 2007.
Partners & employees
Mid 2006

After the collaboration with the sewing project initiated by Gertrud and Jürgen Schmotz had become closer and closer, we decided to act together under the name steps for children from mid-2006. The friends of Namibia in Augsburg, who are behind the Schmotz couple, also participated in the purchase of the new house and, from November 2006, in the running costs.
The German teacher Sonja Schneider-Waterberg decided to spend her Sabbath year with steps for children in Namibia. From August 2006, she became a valuable aid in the project and a mediator between the cultures. In August 2007, she extended her contract by two years. Together with Assaph, she forms the local management today and continues to take on new tasks. For example, she gives tutoring and is the direct supervisor of the sewing women, is involved in the training of the preschool teachers, is responsible for accounting and reporting, and is now the contact for almost all employees, visitors and volunteers

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