50 years – 50 voices on the anniversary

In 1969 the association “Social and Development Aid of the Kolping Society” was founded and laid the foundation for the professional development cooperation of the international association. 50 years later this association is called KOLPING INTERNATIONAL Cooperation e.V. and still carries the project work of KOLPING INTERNATIONAL.

Our work is also supported by many personalities who shape the association. They are part of the success story. On the occasion of our anniversary we asked them to tell us what they personally associate with KOLPING INTERNATIONAL or what they appreciate about the work they have done so far. And also what challenges they see for KOLPING INTERNATIONAL in the coming years.

What if?

A visiting professor in China asks some students: The future lies ahead of you, what will it be like? A student answers somewhat irritated: Our future lies behind us, not ahead of us.

Personally, I strongly share this view. What, if some people had decided differently fifty years ago. Some people had not been courageous enough to found KOLPING on other continents. I do not dare to imagine.

For 30 years I had the chance to be part of the think tank, to create, decide, make my contribution. I wish KOLPING INTERNATIONAL many more courageous decisions, so that the future lies behind us time and again.


Bernhard Burger, Managing Director of Kolping Switzerland from 1989 to 2018 and Managing Director of KOLPING INTERNATIONAL from 2007 to 2017

“50 years KOLPING INTERNATIONAL – an important step in the right direction! During my travels to coffee producing countries, I experienced time and again the imbalance between countries of the South and the highly developed countries of the North. Coffee farmers do physically demanding work but rarely receive fair payment. The KOLPING coffee project TATICO has been a part of KOLPING INTERNATIONAL for 25 years now. Together we share the vision that our society can only successfully shape the future if fair trade and fair acting become a matter of course. Nationalism, border fences and populism don’t abolish inequalities between North and South. The solution to the problem also lies in our consumer behaviour. We make many buying decisions every day: one of them could be for everyone of us to consider paying a worthy price for the merchandise to the poor countries, a price that returns hope and dignity to the hard-working small farmers there. Stinginess at the sales counter consolidates inequality. Partnership-based cooperation needs strong partners – on the spot, at national and international level. We are looking forward to the next 50 years of cooperation with KOLPING INTERNATIONAL and congratulate on the jubilee!”

Klaus Langen, Managing Director Langen Kaffee

“The 50th anniversary is a commitment to fraternity and companionship.In Peru it is about going where few can go, it is about being in search of our sisters and brothers in Christ who are most in need. The results are visible: building up self-esteem and citizenship, knowing your rights, earning more money to live better, teaching rural women to read and write; these are positive contributions that go beyond simple transfers of funds. We will continue with the spirit, mind and heart open for this service.”

Charo Dueñas Jaén, Executive Director KOLPING PERU

„An important insight for me within my ad honorem activities is the development in the International Kolping Society from sponsorship work to partnership work. A condition for this development was and is the developmental education work which always aims at encounters between giver and receiver at eye level. Partnership can only be practised if it is not a ‚one-way street‘. This is true for the development of projects, for visits with each other, and the dialogue between partners.“

Werner Sondermann, board member of KOLPING INTERNATIONAL Cooperation e.V. until 2017, president of the Association of Kolping Education Centers Germany e.V.

„For more than two decades my work at the German Commission Justitia et Pax has connected me with KOLPING INTERNATIONAL. Hubert Tintelott, long-term General Secretary, and his successor Markus Demele have virtually made the topic ‚Decent Work‘ into a trademark of Justitia et Pax. In international workshops, Christian and secular organizations were animated to jointly commit themselves in favour of decent working conditions. For a long time we have been dialogueing with German trade unions in a structured and results-oriented way. And in the framework of cooperation with the International Labour Organization (ILO), Justitia et Pax has strengthened and bundled Catholic voices. None of this would have been possible without the expertise of KOLPING INTERNATIONAL.“

Ulrich Pöner, head of department Universal Church and Migration in the Secretariat of the German Bishops Conference

“The work done by KOLPING INTERNATIONAL is admirable, visible in the commitment and dedication of its Board members and staff members to make the world a better place. I am deeply grateful for the work of this team which helps so many people around the world without even knowing them, with an active love that changes lives and stories, which raises the dignity of those who need it most, which inspires hope in building a more just and fraternal society. I pray to God, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary and Blessed Adolph Kolping, that KOLPING INTERNATIONAL will continue to be enlightened by Faith, Hope and Charity so that this beautiful work will be expanded and can promote even deeper and more significant changes in society and in the lives of many other people all over the world.”

João Ederson de Oliveira e Silva, Managing Director Kolping Brazil

“As former National Secretary of Kolping Austria, I have seen and appreciated our projects in Brazil and Kenya. Kolping Austria has collected a lot of money for these projects. It is true: Do not give a hungry person a fish but a fishing rod and teach him to use it, but then give him access to the pond! Kolping members in the advantaged regions: Help people in disadvantaged regions to deal with what they find in a productive and solidary way. Give them what they need, and continue to care for them. What does the Little Prince say? You become responsible for what you have become familiar with. KOLPING INTERNATIONAL is the door through which your ideas, your help will be used sustainably and with great responsibility and professionalism in the sense described above.”

Clemens Schepers, former National Secretary of KOLPING Austria

“70 countries in one morning! With a clear conscience! At KOLPING this is easy: One visit to the Adolph Kolping Vocational Training School in Munich and a meeting with the students is all it takes. How can such an encounter be successful? Only with a big heart and a broad horizon. To be more specific: With an understanding for the situation of the people in the different regions of the world. KOLPING INTERNATIONAL accomplishes this for me with the solidarity shown: We are a global family, there is an understanding of similarities despite differences and the challenge to live together and to stick together over small and large distances.”

Msgr Christoph Huber, Regional Praeses of the Kolping Society of Bavaria, Diocesan Praeses of the Kolping Society Diocesan Association Munich and Freising

“People in Africa need jobs and chances so that they can build a future in their countries of origin. With its focus on vocational training and economic independence, KOLPING INTERNATIONAL makes a significant and important contribution and my wish for KOLPING INTERNATIONAL is that it remains active in these areas in the coming years and, if possible, commits itself even stronger, because with growing populations in Africa the challenges in this field will become even greater in the future.”

Volkmar Klein, Member of German Parliament, Member of the Committee for Economic Cooperation and Development

“We should help people in need. Help works most sustainably when it empowers people to make their own contributions. Through help for self-help, KOLPING INTERNATIONAL provides the help that I think is right and that I have supported from the beginning. I have more than I need and will continue to support KOLPING INTERNATIONAL.”

Statement by Georg Karbach, donor of KOLPING INTERNATIONAL

“A life of hardship and the special challenges people had to face during Adolph Kolping’s lifetime and the answers he came up with show that great things may come from small beginnings.  Following the example of our founder, Kolping brothers and sisters meeting for the International Kolping Day in Salzburg/Austria in 1969 decided to take on new responsibilities and to break new ground even though at first sight this looked like they were leaving behind the boundaries of traditional Kolping work. In the past fifty years, this initiative generated a remarkable number and variety of activities worldwide. Our primary concern, however, must be to strengthen the connecting idea of being mindful of the dignity of the human person, in particular the dignity of the underprivileged, of the weak, of those who are a bit slow and of those who we seem to have lost. If this idea unites us and continues to be our driving force, all people – no matter where they live in this world – who still feel a connection with KOLPING will have a great future.”

Christine Leopold, President of KOLPING Austria

“As Diocesan Praeses of the Kolping Society Diocesan Association of Paderborn (1965 to 1972), and with the support of the General Secretary Gerd Ritzerfeld, I submitted a motion at the International Convention of the International Kolping Society in Salzburg in 1968: “The International Kolping Society shall provide development aid on its own”. This motion was adopted by a large majority. A small commission was formed, of which I was a member at the time. It had the task to plan a project with the Kolping Family São Paulo under the slogan “Campaign Brazil”, which was to serve in a special way the education and further training of young people. For this purpose, a trip to São Paulo took place in March 1969. The association “Social and Development Aid of the International Kolping Society – SEK” was founded on 20th August 1969 to put the development aid projects of the Kolping Society on a legal basis.
When I took office as General Praeses in 1972, the Kolping Society was represented in 14 countries – mainly in the German-speaking areas of Europe. At the end of my term of office (2002) the Kolping Society existed and worked in 60 countries around the world. In the worldwide Kolping Sociey we have jointly put the words by Pope Paul VI in the encyclical “Populorum progressio” into practice: “Development is the new name for peace.”

Prelate Heinrich Festing, former General Praeses of KOLPING INTERNATIONAL

“In order to see easily and clearly, what KOLPING INTERNATIONAL has done until now, we must determine the purpose at which it aims to. It is “help people for self-help” and this is the special feature so that people can distinguish us from other organizations. Our target is to help people to have a sustainable life on their own feet so that they are able to have a worthy life, in line with their dignity. Nowadays, apart from the improvement on mentality and spirituality, the improvement on materiality is also very important. Generally, KOLPING will give people the fishing rod and teach them how to do it. That is exactly the point of sustainable development.

Besides, if talking specifically about Vietnam, we are very strong on mentality and spirituality. Our social activities made KOLPING well known, so more and more believers want to get involved in Kolping. These actions are the most concrete evidence according to Blessed Adolph Kolping’s words.”

Paul Nguyen Huu Nghia Hiep, Secretary of the Vietnamese Kolping Association

Dr. Jörg Lüer

“KOLPING INTERNATIONAL is a concrete answer to the international social question. KOLPING acted globally long before there was any talk of globalization. From this practice beyond the comfort zone grows credibility. Now that it is even more important to act internationally in view of climate change and the increasing globalization of economic and working conditions, KOLPING INTERNATIONAL’s experience is an important resource and a valuable encouragement.”

Dr. Jörg Lüer, Managing Director of the German Commission Justitia et Pax

“As National President of the Kolping Society of Germany, I have been impressed by the Association’s international character from the very beginning. The democratic structure of KOLPING INTERNATIONAL worldwide and the active shaping of civil society are exemplary. These experiences are also very important for my work as a European and foreign policy expert.

The many different projects, which have a different focus in Africa, Latin America or Asia, show how diverse and colourful the work of KOLPING is worldwide. In the past 50 years, it has established an enormous amount of expertise on how to eradicate poverty effectively – and how to inspire people to work for their community and the common good. By the way, women are a key to the success of many projects. This is why “empowerment”, i.e. the strengthening of girls and women is a special concern of my heart. Through access to education and protection of their human rights, we enable women and girls to lead financially independent and self-determined lives which is also beneficial to their families and ultimately to society as a whole.”

Ursula Groden-Kranich (CDU), Member of the German Bundestag and National President of the Kolping Society of Germany

“15 years ago, I rendered a one-year volunteer service in a Kolping children’s village in Argentina. During my time there, I had the opportunity to get to know the work of Kolping Families and the Kolping Youth. My Kolping Family in Germany supported me a lot during this voluntary service. Two years later, I visited the Kolping Association in Ecuador and since then I have been accompanying the partnership work between Ecuador and the Kolping Diocesan Association of Munich and Freising. For me, KOLPING INTERNATIONAL symbolizes solidarity, reliability and a global connectedness in which the Kolping members work side by side for a better society. All this makes the KOLPING INTERNATIONAL a strong community, and I am proud to be a part of it.”

Jennifer Becker, representative for International Partnership Work in the Kolping Diocesan Association of Munich and Freising

“At Kolping International development cooperation is carried out by people who care about others. They see where there is a shortage and where distress needs to be relieved. 50 years of engagement for the poorest of the poor means to build up sustainable institutions and structures, to raise funds, to organize encounters, to exercise restraint, and to give a voice to those who are not heard in many of their home countries. However, it also means to come to agreements with those in power, time and again, and to struggle for democratic developments.  Justice, peace and the preservation of creation are guidelines on the way to the One World. Thanks to everyone at Kolping who commit themselves reliably to achieve this.”

Karin Kortmann, Vice-President of the Central Committee of the German Catholics (ZDK)

“KOLPING stands for Christian charity and solidarity. For 50 years now the association has been implementing this guiding principle also in developing countries.  Thanks to the projects of KOLPING INTERNATIONAL people in more than 60 countries can increase their income and quality of life.  In many projects, women receive particular support.  In my function as President of the Catholic German Women’s Association, this is especially important to me.  We know:  Women play a key role in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  That is why I am happy about our joint commitment for more education, access to health services and participation for women worldwide.”

Dr. Maria Flachsbarth MdB, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development

“KOLPING INTERNATIONAL is much more than a registered association, much more than an association or an organization. KOLPING INTERNATIONAL is a worldwide vibrant network for the creation of a socially just society on the basis of Christian faith and Catholic Social teaching. And Blessed Adolph Kolping himself was one of the co-founders of the Catholic Social teaching. From the bottom of my heart I thank all those who, for 50 years now, have participated in spinning the net of KOLPING INTERNATIONAL and have committed themselves with power, heart and brains, so that work in dignity is possible, without exploiting anyone or putting lives at risk.”

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, Archbishop of Cologne

“The internationality of the Kolping Society never ceases to fascinate me. What impresses me the most is the personal encounter with our partners, in particular with Kolping sisters and Kolping brothers from completely different cultural backgrounds.

True partnership for me is to make the joys and sufferings of others my own joys and sufferings. This requires mutual respect and intensive exchange.”

Representative for international partnership work, Diocesan Association Hildesheim

“In 1990 I travelled to Mexico for the first time when I was part of a work program. Since then my enthusiasm for the cordiality of people in Latin America has never left me. What I appreciate about partnership work is that we learn from each other – based on faith – and that we get to know one another’s culture and try to share. This is an important and substantial contribution to understanding between peoples. The gap between poor and rich is even more apparent in the partner countries than in ours. Help for self-help based upon the ideas of Blessed Adolph Kolping is therefore a motivation and responsibility at the same time. Especially climate change is a big challenge: weather-related disasters, bad harvests, droughts – it’s about caring for God’s creation. How can we manage altogether to conserve habitats without giving rise to movements of refugees. And we must not think in a one-way process: what exactly can we do in our Kolping Families and what can be done by our partner Kolping Families? “By sharing both joys and sorrows, one grows together.” Our partnership work is based on this quote by Adolph Kolping.”

Markus Brügger, Representative for international partnership work, Kolping Diocesan Association of Paderborn

“On 1 May 2005 I became a Kolping member, immediately after my return to Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where I lived as a refugee for six years. Since I joined Kolping, life in my household has improved very quickly. Below are my most important achievements: I was able to pay the fees for secondary schools and the university for all my children, renovate my house and start livestock to support my family. Today Kolping Rwanda has about 4,000 members – a strong community of spirituality and development.”

Managing Director KOLPING Rwanda

“Congratulations on the 50th anniversary of KOLPING INTERNATIONAL. I greatly recognize and appreciate the work done! Blessed Adolph Kolping would be a great supporter of KOLPING INTERNATIONAL today. For him the words: “When the need is greatest, God’s help is nearest”, were always crucial. God’s help is not an automatism, but is mediated by faithful, committed Christians. Today there is especially great need among young people in Africa and Latin America. They need schools and vocational training, jobs and trust in the future. KOLPING INTERNATIONAL is committed to them and brings them God’s help. All the best for a successful future!”

Dr. Ludwig Schick, Chairman of the Commission for International Church Affairs of the German Bishops‘ Conference and Archbishop of Bamberg

“Responsibility for our fellow human beings does not stop at national borders or at the borders of continents. Christian charity is boundless. Kolping International has been setting an exemplary example of this for 50 years and makes with its work an important contribution to the worldwide fight against poverty and to sustainable development cooperation.

For this I would like to thank with great respect all those who have been active in the worldwide network of Kolping International in the past and today. Congratulations on your beautiful and important anniversary! I wish you much power, success and joy for the years and decades to come.”

Armin Laschet, German Politician and Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia

“The relationship between the Association for Development Cooperation (AGEH) and Kolping started with the founding assembly of the AGEH on 25 November, 1959. The first development workers, mainly men, were Kolping brothers. Craftsmanship, technology, vocational training. Pragmatic and hands-on. Later, experts of the AGEH supported national Kolping Associations all over the world. Cooperation based on partnership became practice. Work camps for young people were added to enthuse them for international social issues. We are looking forward to new co-operations and wish God’s blessing for the next 50 years.”

Dr. Claudia Luecking-Michel, Managing Director of AGEH

“In the tradition of Blessed Adolph Kolping, Kolping International has been empowering people to engage in church and society for five decades. They contribute voluntarily in their own places to social coexistence and to the common good, in a special way in the field of poverty reduction. Very impressive for me was the great help of Kolping International after the severe earthquake in Ecuador in 2016. Within the framework of the close partnership of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising with the Church in this South American country, Kolping International was able to provide extensive help within a short time. Such solidarity work creates community and changes the world. Thank you and Treu Kolping!”

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, President of the German Bishops‘ Conference and Archbishop of Munich and Freising