By Dirk Gerlach, CEO of ZOA Germany, and Jessica Blum, communications manager
The abbreviation ZOA stands for Southeast Asia (in Dutch), the region in which we started our work in 1973. That year, three students from Groningen (Netherlands) came up with the idea of collecting money for Vietnamese boat refugees. This went so well that they soon began sending out field workers. It did not take long before they were able to expand their activities to Laos and Cambodia.
Today, more than forty years later, the original movement has grown into the ZOA Netherlands Foundation based in Apeldoorn. On 25 September 2017, ZOA Germany was founded as a non-profit limited liability company in Rheine. Since 2018 the German office is located in Bonn. The ZOA Foundation and ZOA Deutschland gGmbH are programmatically linked. ZOA focuses on supporting vulnerable people affected by violent conflicts and natural disasters in fragile states by helping them to lead a dignified and resilient life. In 2019, ZOA supported over 1.4 million people with the help of over 1,000 employees worldwide.
Inspired by her Christian faith, ZOA provides emergency relief, future-oriented hope, and long-term recovery to people impacted by conflicts and disasters as they work towards a world where people have hope and live dignified lives in peaceful communities.
ZOA International’s CEO Chris Lukkien explains: ‘’In a world that is ruled by statistics and where big numbers count, ZOA wants to put its focus on the individual, acknowledging that we are all uniquely created.’’ The organization’s current strategic plan, titled ‘Every Life Matters’, emphasizes that ZOA places people at the center, both in the service delivery and within the organization.
ZOA operates in more than 15 countries worldwide. The field staff are mainly local residents who directly provide assistance to the most vulnerable victims of displacement. The countries in which ZOA is present are Afghanistan, Burundi, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq, Indonesia, Liberia, Myanmar, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and most recently: Colombia. In her projects, ZOA serves displaced communities in Syria and Iraq, uprooted people in war-torn South Sudan, displaced Yezidis in Northern Iraq, and vulnerable women in Afghanistan, to name a few.
One project is specifically focused on empowering women in Afghanistan. After the expulsion of the Taliban, the first hurdle on the road to peace has been cleared for Afghanistan. Nevertheless, it is still difficult for many Afghan women to earn an income which is necessary to feed themselves and their families. An economically strong Afghanistan needs strong women. Therefore, ZOA supports them with self-help groups. Through savings and credit groups, they learn, under the guidance of ZOA employees, how to set up a business together. They do not receive money from ZOA, but deposit money or goods themselves. ZOA provides them with all the necessary knowledge about finances and management.
Empowering people to help themselves is one of ZOAs main goals in their global development work. Its aim is to create sustainable change that is only possible if beneficiaries are given hope for the future and the tools and help necessary to help themselves.
For more information visit ZOA Germany’s or ZOA International’s website.