About ADH

  • About ADH

  • Interview with ADH

Doing Good to Make the World a Better Place.

ADH - Who we are

ADH stands for “Active Direct Help” -- precisely our principle: We ensure that the help goes directly to where it is needed. Since its beginning in 2000, the association “ADH” engaged in development projects in the African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Zambia, Cameroon and South Africa. The ADH initiators, Wolfgang and Lenka Schmidt, have been with the team since 2004, active mainly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. To pursue the goal of making the project long-term and self-sufficient, we founded a subsidiary association “ADH Congo Asbl” with Congolese members and with the same goals as its parent association: recognising the need and improving the local living conditions. Because we work on a volunteer basis, we are grateful to our friends and supporters that make our work possible and help us to help!

What motivates us

We take the task of helping people in need and our responsibility for our fellow citizens very seriously. Thereby, we follow this concept: we can help only a few people, but in so doing, we can make a small part of the world a better place. We try to ensure that our projects are long-term and can continue to be successful. We make no difference between religion and creed - every person deserves a chance and that's what we want him or her to have.

How we do it

Because ADH works only with volunteers, we have minor administration costs. The responsibility lies exclusively with the operating volunteers, who can adjust their help according to the situation or emergency. We work closely with our local friends, helpers, the local population and a few Companies on our projects, because we see their support as a key to lasting relief.

Staying in touch

Through our regular documentation, we inform our membership, supporters and the public of our Project’s progress and the use of funds at our disposal. We offer total transparency so that everyone can be a part of our project if he or she so desires.

Project Mushapo

We want to help the people of Mushapo and the neighbourhood to secure a better future, and for the children, education is an important key to this. With our school project in the interior of the Congo, we facilitate the attendance of the children of Mushapo and the neighbouring villages. Next to general education, we see much potential in training for agriculture in the Congo; consequently, we integrate agricultural training in the schoolwork. Only a few relief organisations exist in the interior of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as most of them are in the Capital Kinshasa or in its vicinity. We hope that this relief project develops into a pilot project, which will encourage similar developments in other parts of the Congo and around the World.

Instead of being discouraged by the world’s big problems, we are endeavouring to make a small part of the world a better place!

We are ADH - get to know us!

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Like any other organization Aktive Direkt Hilfe e.V. consists of people which have ideals and set goals to accomplish them. In order to gain insight into ADH and its objectives in the Congo, Jens Ottinger (accompanying the Mushapo project during the initial phase in 2011) conducted an interview with the initiators of ADH Congo – the couple Wolfgang and Lenka Schmidt. Below, we would like to share the questions and answers.

What is ADH?

ADH is a small aid organization in which all its members work voluntarily. Translated into English ADH stands for Active Direct Help and that is exactly our principle. We are engaged in different projects in Africa and work directly in the field to insure that help gets to a place where it is needed most. We try to help people in need and at least positively change a small part of the world instead of getting discouraged by the big problems in the world. In the beginning we initiated very small humanitarian aid actions. With time they grew from banana boxes to whole freight containers of humanitarian relief and now we construct school buildings and organize free elementary education.

Since when do you actively engage in humanitarian aid?

We personally started with humanitarian aid in 1995 in orphanages in Slovakia and Ukraine. In 2000, we founded, together with other voluntary workers, the organization Aktive Direkt Hilfe e.V. Since that year, we are active in Africa. We helped with medical aid projects in Nigeria, provided famine relief in Zambia, distributed educational school materials in South Africa and exported three big containers with relief to Guinea, Cameroon and to the Democratic Republic of the Congo where we are active since 2003.

Why the Congo?

A lot of countries in Africa certainly represent the ones in the world most in need – and we should always be present where we are needed the most. It is difficult to describe in a few sentences what the people of the Congo in the last two decades had to suffer. The situation is best reflected in the UN Human Development Index of 2012. According to the index, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has the lowest living standard worldwide.

What characterizes your work in particular?

We are personally involved in our projects and assure that the help is used for what it is intended. Through our longtime experience in Africa and especially in the Congo we have learned to understand the needs of the people and the country quite well. The specific local conditions are always unique. Therefore, we cooperate closely with the local population and benefit from their particular skills and knowledge. With this approach we can at least directly counteract the high unemployment in the regions we operate in and at the same time contribute to a long-term success of our projects. Simultaneously, we recruit and educate responsible locals to establish close cooperation. In our opinion, humanitarian aid projects can only be successfully sustainable if they can be turned over into responsible local hands. To this purpose we have set up the organization ADH Congo in the Congo.

ADH Congo?

In 2011, we founded the organization ADH Congo to be able to operate better in the country. Through this step our work is more solid and we can avoid many issues aid organizations are consistently confronted with. Apart from us the members of ADH Congo consist of local friends and influential Congolese, who actively support the projects. We are members of both organizations. The principles and goals of ADH Congo match the ones of its umbrella organization. We help in locations where help is needed the most and in a way that it actually gets there.

Where do you see the most need for help?

In the heartland! In the isolated rural areas of the Congo only a few aid organizations are present. Therefore, we are right there. Obviously, development aid in these areas is more difficult due to poor infrastructure. However, the need for help is so much the more. With our project we want to give the people in isolated areas a chance for a better future. At the same time, we want to set an example for other NGOs that development cooperation can succeed even in isolated areas and under difficult circumstances. Our school project in Mushapo is a good example for this.


In the beginning of 2011, we visited Mushapo for the first time. The village with over 1000 inhabitants is located in the bush at the border to Angola and lacks any infrastructure. There is no electricity, no running water, there are no proper roads, no jobs, there is no money and no medical care. At that time, not even a school existed in the village. If they had the possibility to attend school at all the children had to walk for about ten kilometers to afar neighboring villages every day. Our goal was to enable the children to have a proper education in their own village as soon as possible. Already in 2012, we started to give lessons in temporary school buildings. In the beginning, we started with 120 children. In the meantime, over 300 students attend class in two solid brick-lined buildings. The construction of further buildings is planned.

Why a school?

We regard education as the most important aspect for a better future. During previous projects we realized that in the long term we could achieve the most when focusing on the neglected but mostly very capable children. Every single day, our adopted daughter Anissa shows us the underlying potential of African children when you give them a chance for development. In the Congo about half of the children do not attend school either because there is no school or their parents can’t afford it. In contrast with other schools, we therefore waive school fees.

What are the goals of the ongoing project?

The main goal is to enable the students in Mushapo proper education. For instance, we teach French as early as the first grade. Equally important are long-term developments so that the school project can one day stand on its own feet. For the financial support of the school’s running costs and maintenance we have integrated an agricultural project. Apart from proper education, we see another high potential of the Congo in systematic agriculture especially in the heartland where the greatest need is. For a sustainable development of the whole project we gradually include the local population and concurrently create new jobs. Although we can’t change the world, still our work significantly improves the quality of life of the people in Mushapo and the surrounding region. We hope that our project will evolve into a pilot projects to advertise other similar developments in the Congo and in the world.

Speaking of the world: Why not Europe?

At the time when we decided to go to Africa in 1999, Europe didn’t feel to be the right place for us. It seemed as if in Europe everything was already done. Help is so urgently needed in Africa as poverty is present almost everywhere. In between the years 2000 and 2012, we had been visitors in Europe and also felt as such. In Europe there is also much need for help of course. However, it differs significantly as material basic needs are mostly covered even in Europe’s poorer countries. Still, everyone has to cope with his or her own problems and seeks to be loved and valued. Loneliness, intolerance, alcohol and drug related problems, illness and lack of love for instance are problems that need to be addressed globally.

And material poverty?

It is one thing to read about poverty in a newspaper or to watch it on television. But when you live in a country where you are constantly confronted with it, it is something else. On the contrary, when you see the unnecessary dissipation of resources and extravagancy in rich countries you sometimes could cry. A global balance between luxury and the basic needs of people in poverty is absolutely essential. The foundation of life like food, water, electricity, adequate clothing, at least minimum education and a work opportunity can’t be taken for granted everywhere. It is not only poverty itself that hurts but also to see the contrast between two worlds of over- and underdevelopment. We want to do the most we can to counteract extreme poverty and change at least a small part of the world.

What keeps you going?

We draw our strength and endurance from our personal relationship with God. For us, God is not religion but true, active, altruistic love. Only through love we can solve the world’s problems permanently whether in the family, society or in helping the poor. Certainly, loving actions are also performed by people who do not believe in God. In our opinion, all people that help others and show altruistic love are guided by the love of God – whether it's in Africa, Europe or any other part in the world.

How do you evaluate the situation in the Congo?

It is not hard to talk about the various problems of the Congo, but we also would like to mention the country’s positive aspects and its great potential. We are astonished by the joy and endurance of the people who struggle to survive every day. The people’s strong belief in God certainly contributes a big share to their positive attribute towards life despite all the problems extreme poverty entails. Stuck in Kinshasa’s daily traffic jam during midday heat you can hear laughter and joyful chants from the nearby minivan taxis. A great potential of the Congolese is their creativity – as necessity is the mother of invention. We know some people who achieve great things with outstanding inventive talent provided by only the simplest means. Our friend Joseph from Maduda for example actually makes small inventions and assembles new machines from broken ones when proper spare parts are missing. People like him with proper school education are the ones the Congo needs to progress.

What do you mean by “progress”?

In order to achieve a better living standard in the Congo many things have to change rapidly. We aim to actively support shaping this change. Many people cite the proverb that our work is merely “a drop in the ocean”. However, even the smallest step helps us to progress. Even though seen from a global perspective we can only affect small things, we still change the lives of some people fundamentally. The Congolese people clearly possess the potential for positive developments and as stated in another proverb “constant dripping wears away the stone”.

How do you proceed at the moment?

We cooperate closely with our team members in Europe and Africa; everyone contributes his or her part for a positive development of our projects. For our constant presence in the Congo we take turns with our Dutch team member Jos Voorn so that ADH can overlook the progress on-site. But also outside the Congo there is a lot to do. We want to promote the work of ADH in Europe and to provide the people with a vision to socially engage themselves. We organize our projects from our new base in Prague und search for the necessary support. In this context, fundraising is very important as without donations our projects could not succeed.

Besides with donations, how else can people help you?

Ha. Not everybody has to design a multilingual website like you Jens. However, people can support us in revising our website. For instance, they can take over important translation tasks and translate website content to French, English or Czech. We try to keep our friends and supporters frequently informed about the work of ADH via monthly updates, annual reviews and videos and also in personal talks. However, we have to extent the circle of supporters to cover the increased deficit for current projects. This multilingual website contributes substantially to this necessity. In order to further promote the work of ADH in the Congo, radio and television are equally important media. In 2013, for instance, we received a lot of positive reactions on the coverage about ADH in the ZDF show Mittagsmagazin. Also the annual broadcasts on München TV are a great help. As a small aid organization however we can only manage such promotions with organizational support. But there are various possibilities to help us help. Our close circle of friends and supporters, for instance, regularly organizes charity events for ADH. Every single supporter is an active and important part of our work without whom we would fail to accomplish our different projects. We equally appreciate active cooperation, financial support and selective donations in kind, that we can purposefully use for our projects.

For what are you most grateful?

We are very grateful for the fact, that ADH successfully completed all projects in the past and to know, that together we positively changed the lives of the people affected by relieving their physical distress or give children education. Establishing an aid project in a country like the Congo is already a challenging endeavor. But doing so in the country’s heartland you need several miracles. We are very thankful for the separate puzzle pieces that play an important role to create a positive overall picture.

We are thankful when our team members are well, as good health is important, especially in operations in the Congo. We are also very grateful for the friends, helpers, supporters, companies and team members which support us in various ways and who make the work of ADH possible in the first place.

Thanks for all your help!

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 An early focus on the sustainability of a development project is critical to the long-term success!

Our objective – sustainability


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