Poor marks at school, problems at home: for most youngsters, these are problems that can soon be remedied, but unfortunately that does not apply to everyone. Every year, around 2500 children and adolescents in Germany believe the only way out of their situation is to run away from home. Many of them go into hiding in large cities, where they hang around railway stations. The Off Road Kids organisation endeavours to help these youngsters. Since 1994, it has also been able to count on the support of Deutsche Bahn. Dr Rüdiger Grube, Chairman of the Management Board and CEO of Deutsche Bahn, is Chairman of the Board of Directors and patron of the organisation.
When faced with the question of where to go, the only answer for these youngsters is the street. “And that is the opposite of what we perceive as normal. The streets are where all these things happen that we cannot and do not want to imagine,” says Markus Seidel, Founder and Chairman of the Board of Off Road Kids. The Off Road Kids outreach social workers seek out these usually young, homeless runaways, try to win their trust and give them new prospects for the future.
They listen to their problems, try to defuse the family situation if possible or help them find a place in sheltered housing or a home. They accompany them to the youth welfare office, find them a place at school and inform them about educational opportunities. The prime objective is always to reunite the youngsters with their families.
“Since we were first founded in 1993, we have successfully helped more than 2800 underage children and young adults to get back off the streets,” announced Markus Seidel proudly at the 20th anniversary celebrations of Off Road Kids in 2013. That figure has meanwhile risen to over 3000 children and young adults who have found their way back into mainstream society.
Off Road Kids is the only organisation for homeless children in Germany that works on a nationwide scale. Although it does not receive any government funding, the organisation runs outreach centres in Berlin, Hamburg, Dortmund and Cologne, a support hotline for parents, two children’s homes and a training college for social workers. To ensure that the outreach social workers are always mobile and can help youngsters all over Germany, the Deutsche Bahn Foundation provides them with yearly rail passes that are transferable and valid on all trains throughout the country.
Other ways of helping: Deutsche Bahn customers can donate their bahn.bonus points to Off Road Kids.
This year saw the ninth DB Kids Camp. The Deutsche Bahn Foundation und Off Road Kids invite children and young people from institutions to spend an extraordinary week’s holiday at Bad Dürrheim in the Black Forest. Places are awarded to kids for outstanding achievements at school or for showing great commitment to others.