More than Just a “Kite” - Wacker Chemie AG


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More than Just a “Kite”

When Günther Reithmeier first came to Ghana around 12 years ago, some children simply ran away from him. They would shout “Obruni” meaning “the white man,” expressing how apprehensive they felt when confronted by this pale-skinned person. At the time, Reithmeier was visiting Offinso to fulfill a dream: the plan was to build an integrated school where physically handicapped children would be taught alongside children without disabilities.

For Günther Reithmeier the “Kite” project is a dream come true: he built an integrated school in Ghana where physically handicapped children are taught alongside children without disabilities.

The “Kite” project was initiated by a young woman, a member of the St. Konrad parish council in Burghausen – Reithmeier is still involved with the council, as he was back then. Yvonne Ambros spent one and a half years in Ghana doing missionary work and was a co-founder of the “Kite” project there. In Offinso they decided on the ambiguous English word “kite,” which means a thinly covered wooden frame tied to a string that flies in the wind, but also a bird of prey. To the people of Offinso, the name represents both the speedy and direct help the disabled children receive and the window of opportunity that an education gives the children, equipping them with the wherewithal to create a future that is as free as a kite in the wind.

Yvonne Ambros asked Reithmeier to help her raise 5,000 DM so that construction of a school building could begin on land that had previously been purchased. His response was true to the typical WACKER employee mindset: “What will it be like in 10 years' time?” he asked, and added: “I will gladly get involved in the project, but it must be sustainable.”

It soon became evident: construction would cost not 5,000 DM, but at least 260,000 DM. As an engineer, Reithmeier assisted with the building work and, with the help of the other members of the charity association, managed to raise enough money for the school. Along with Reithmeier, Dorothee Wokusch was at the forefront of the undertaking, while Christine and Franz Wimmer, two other WACKER staff members, joined in later on. In August 2003 lessons began with 20 children attending. Now there are around 800 pupils at the school, which also offers boarding facilities for disabled children complete with a physiotherapy practice and a dining hall.

Günther Reithmeier is head of Technical Services at WACKER in Burghausen.

Together with his association, the head of Technical Services has invested around €450,000 in the school project and has visited Ghana eight times so far. Now when he arrives in Offinso, the children no longer run away; they crowd around him. Sometimes “Mr. Gunther” also joins in a soccer game with the children and plays with Evans, a one-legged boy who nimbly supports himself on his crutches when he aims for the goal post. “You can achieve a great deal with simple means” says Reithmeier.

And this doesn't only apply to the “Kite”project in Ghana, but also to “FranzisKo” in Altötting, a second project Reithmeier is passionate about. Here he takes care of children from the region who have special socio-pedagogical needs – sometimes this means going swimming with the children or baking German gingerbread with them during advent.

If you'd like to know more about Günther Reithmeier's projects please visit these websites for more information: www.kite-ghana.de und www.franziskushaus-altoetting.de .