Interview
13/12/2023

Helping Hands @Burda: Alice Hölder

Many Burda employees are involved in voluntary or social work, taking on responsibility and helping other people in their spare time. We would like to present this heartfelt commitment here to inspire other employees.

How did you get the idea to volunteer?

I didn't go looking for my heart's project, it found me. I have been travelling to Nepal since 2011, making friends and falling more and more in love with this beautiful country and its people. In 2015, I was exactly four weeks back from another fulfilling stay when the news hit me: Nepal was in ruins. An earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale had destroyed homes and entire villages. 10,000 people had died. Hundreds of thousands were made homeless. I knew immediately that I could be affected. So the very next day I started raising money to support the relief efforts of my Nepalese friends Sampanna and Uttara. Day after day, they travelled to the devastated villages. They built shelters and distributed food.

And then you set up an association?

Not right away. In the years following the disaster, I worked with Sampanna and his wife Uttara as local partners on a variety of projects: We rebuilt the houses of two families, provided clean drinking water for around 7,000 people and, because every life counts for us, we made it possible for patients in need to receive medical treatment. It was particularly important to us to give children from the poorest backgrounds the chance of an education by funding their schooling. They are the future of their country. But they can only shape it if they can read and write. In the first year it was ten, in 2016 it was 15 and in 2022 we will have enabled almost 1,000 children to attend school.

Yes, what started small grew - sometimes over my head. At some point, I realised that I wanted to found an association with like-minded people. In January 2018, "Dautari - Friends for Future e.V." was registered as a non-profit organisation. At the same time, Sampanna and Uttara founded an NGO in Nepal. Since then, our partnership has been on a firm footing.

What did you set out to achieve and are you satisfied with the result?

Dautari means friend. The name should be our programme. We want to stand up for the right of people to lead self-determined lives in freedom and dignity. During the Corona crisis, for example, this meant saving them from starvation. Many people in Nepal work as day labourers. During the severe blockades, they had no way of earning a living! In 2020, we spent €39,000 on our emergency food aid, feeding almost 10,000 people. Later, we provided protective equipment for medical staff and ran a nationally acclaimed awareness campaign. I was deeply touched and motivated by the willingness of our donors to help people in need!

What is the best thing about helping others?

Working for Dautari makes me grateful for life! When I see the need in Nepal, my own problems become very small. It makes me realise how lucky I am to have been born in a rich country. It gives you strength, courage and self-confidence to see that you can make a difference. But the best thing is always the smile on the faces of the children we support.

Which story has touched you the most?

It is definitely our Sudip. I met him during my first project visit to Nepal in 2016. He was one of the first students we sponsored. He arrived a little late for our meeting and, as there was no chair available, he immediately sat on my lap. In the following years, he would hang on Uttara's, Sampanna's and my coat-tails every time we visited his village. In May 2018, he did not turn up for school. He had disappeared. After persistent enquiries, we were told that his single mother had died of AIDS. A taboo in Nepal Her child was forced to watch her suffer almost to the end! As for little Sudip's whereabouts, we were told that "some organisation" had taken him away. It took us three months to find him in a rather neglected Christian orphanage. But they would not hand him over. Only when Sampanna told them about his mother did they allow him to go with Sudip for an HIV test. When the test came back positive, the orphanage quickly put the boy's few belongings outside the door. Uttara and Sampanna became Sudip's guardians and placed him in a home for children living with HIV, where he receives free medical care (by Western standards), as is common in Nepal. I visited him there in 2019 and found a traumatised child who did not speak. When I visited in 2022, I was greeted by a happy boy who immediately wanted to show me his room and play ball with me! When I left, he hugged me and whispered: Please come back. I promised him we would never let him down.

How do you reconcile volunteering with your job at Burda?

Immediately after the earthquake, my then boss was very generous with my working hours. I was flexible and could always communicate with my partners in Nepal, even in the office, and find local help for them: Where can I get more baby food and bandages? Where can I get tarpaulins? As I don't work on Fridays, I have time to invest in the project that's closest to my heart.

Do you receive support?

Yes. In 2018, I received the Burda Honorary Service Award and prize money of 5,000 euros for my efforts. In addition, my colleagues organise bazaars at irregular intervals where they sell beauty products they have received for testing at a low price. In mid-June, I held a book sale in a conference room in the Media Park. I was allowed to use the room for free! The proceeds from such events are donated to the Dautari account!

What is the best way to support your mission?

With donations! At the moment, I am also looking for a colleague to proofread my 2022 Annual Report. And if anyone could help me update our website, I would be very grateful.

Do you have any other projects planned for the future?

We will never stop working for the people of Nepal!

How and where can outsiders get information if they want to help? (Tips/Info box)

You are welcome to support us at dautari.de.

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More Impressions & Downloads

Alice in 2017 together with schoolchildren who enjoy educational lessons © HBM

By 2022, the association has enabled almost 1,000 children to attend school © HBM

Alice at the inauguration of the water reservoir, which gives around 7,000 people access to clean drinking water © HBM

Our Burda colleague has been travelling to Nepal since 2011 - here you can see her on her first visit to a monastery © HBM

Volunteering and work are more than compatible - Alice was honoured for her commitment with the Burda Honorary Service Award in 2018 © HBM

With the prize money for the Burda Honorary Service Award, she was able to continue supporting her favourite project © HBM

In January 2018, "Dautari - Friends for Future e.V." was entered in the register of associations as a non-profit organisation. Dautari means friend. The name says it all © HBM

Nepal was also affected by the coronavirus crisis. In addition to food and medicine, the association organised a national awareness campaign © HBM

The emergency food aid was able to feed almost 10,000 people during the coronavirus crisis © HBM

Alice was very touched by Sudip's fate. She promised him she would never let him down © HBM

Alice together with patient Furba in Nepal © HBM

Sampanna and Uttara founded an NGO in Nepal in 2016 and have been working together with Dautari ever since © HBM

Sampanna and Alice 2016 © HBM

Alice together with Santoshi and Sachina © HBM

Alice regularly visits her project to provide support on site, like here in 2022 © HBM

Samir's house was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake - Alice and Dautari helped rebuild it with © HBM

2019: Alice with Samir in the emergency shelter © HBM

A group project: the reconstruction of the Santoshi family home © HBM

Children are the future of their country. But they can only shape it if they can read and write © HBM

Well taken care of schoolchildren at lunch © HBM

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