05302020

German charity takes coronavirus aid directly to homes


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Throughout the world, the coronavirus pandemic is hitting for poor families especially hard, even in rich countries like Germany.

Pastor Bernd Siggelkow, left, and social worker Sina Wollmann of the Christian charity the Arche, or Ark, deliver food, toys and hygiene products to Irina Khilsky, second from right, and her children Sofia, right, and Danylo in the Hellersdorf suburb of Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, March 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

A small Christian charity that provides help to about 1,300 poor families across Germany is now delivering food, diapers, soap and children’s games to their doorsteps.

Normally, children would be visiting one of the 27 centers run by the Arche, or Ark, where staff offer free lunches, tutoring and a sympathetic ear.

With social distancing measures in force, those centers have been shut down. Now staff are experiencing heartbreaking moments when they drop off aid packs at families’ homes, said spokesman Wolfgang Buescher.

Pastor Bernd Siggelkow founder of the Christian charity the Arche, or Ark, carries bags with donated goods for poor families up the stairs of a center of the organization in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, March 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Pastor Bernd Siggelkow founder of the Christian charity the Arche, or Ark, carries bags with donated goods for poor families up the stairs of a center of the organization in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, March 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Younger children struggle to understand that they can’t run out and embrace the charity staff they used to play with every day.

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Lockdowns are forcing children to stay inside often-cramped homes, amplifying tensions that already exist. Food bank closures mean families have to spend of their limited money on basic supplies and without access to social workers, instances of violence and abuse are easier to miss.

Those previously living on the poverty line are now struggling even more, said Buescher. The group estimates that without food banks and school lunches, families now have to spend, on average, $275 more a month on essentials.

Social worker Rebekka Rauchhaus of the Christian charity the Arche, or Ark, pulls a cart as she walks through the district Hellersdorf to deliver food, toys and hygiene products to poor families in the Hellersdorf suburb of Berlin, Germany, Thursday. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Social worker Rebekka Rauchhaus of the Christian charity the Arche, or Ark, pulls a cart as she walks through the district Hellersdorf to deliver food, toys and hygiene products to poor families in the Hellersdorf suburb of Berlin, Germany, Thursday. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Staff are trying to provide one-to-one tutoring to older children using video chatting apps to ensure they don’t fall too far behind on their school work.

But there’s a limit to how much help they can provide from a distance, when some families of nine are living in an 800-square-foot apartment.

“You can imagine what’s happening there,” said Buescher.

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He accused the German government of ignoring the plight of poor families.

Sali, center, receives a birthday present from social worker Rebekka Rauchhaus of the Christian charity the Arche, or Ark, while his mother Janet, right, stands beside him at the doorsteps of their apartment in the Hellersdorf suburb of Berlin, Germany, Thursday. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Sali, center, receives a birthday present from social worker Rebekka Rauchhaus of the Christian charity the Arche, or Ark, while his mother Janet, right, stands beside him at the doorsteps of their apartment in the Hellersdorf suburb of Berlin, Germany, Thursday. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

According to official figures, about 2 million children in Germany live in poverty. The child protection organization DKSB estimates the real number is more than twice that.

“Politicians aren’t interested in them,” said Buescher.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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