The Jona Foundation is a particularly good example of how a small impulse and a rather clumsy, groping first step can become a great work. Maybe it has something to do with the story of how it came about, maybe also with the spirit behind it: Angelika Bier and her late husband Jürgen were both professors and surgeons at the Charité. “Baptized as a Protestant,” she says, but it was only later that they became seriously involved in their faith in various ways. It resulted in the desire to do something: “We can, must, will help.”
They first thought of the children from the Bahnhof Zoo or dental care for the homeless and talked to various facilities and institutions, such as the city mission. “We really had no idea,” Angelika Bier recalls.
Over time, it became clear that they wanted to do something with children. They ended up in Spandau via a city report: the youth councilor who handed them a stack of papers with short portraits of youth facilities and the note that 40 percent of them should be closed anyway. The couple then looked at a different youth facility in Spandau every weekend.
They got to know children and their desires, wondering about their mobility and sadness when they did not know where to go on the weekend. Until they finally stood in front of a beautifully situated clubhouse in Staaken, which was originally a village school.
At first, they did not recognize many of the pitfalls: the partially barred windows, the graffiti, the dilapidated roof. They did not even notice the violent teenagers in charge there and scared the little kids.
The city council cast the concrete floor
In December 2005, they established their fund. In August 2006, they took over the house. Many people helped repair the building.
Angelika Bier still remembers a city council member casting the concrete floor. And the first Christmas. How the children were amazed because they came in contact with a completely foreign world.
There were people they took to church who switched because it was Christmas that gave them presents. “It was really Christmas,” they said to themselves on the way home, which they started “quite happy”. Her husband of 1.98 meters took care of the teenagers and she took care of the small children who were “really scared of the big ones”.
turning point in life
Soon there was noticeable progress in “Jonas Haus”, which was now a children and youth center open 365 days a year. Jürgen Bier asked a boy who was already on the verge of becoming a criminal and was involved in a knife fight: “Will you help us?”.
This was a turning point because the boy was apparently so affected that he was asked for help that he began to be helpful in the project. “We gradually integrated the teens.” Her husband helped a boy who had been expelled from school get an apprenticeship with Siemens. From then on, this boy also helped manage the house. “Both were always informed of what was going on,” Angelika Bier recalls.
It got harder when her husband became seriously ill and died shortly after. In the case of an independent foundation, the state is so quickly on the spot to check whether the will of the founder would also be fulfilled in the future.
In addition to private grief, there was stress. “We did not have insurance for the management, and my husband’s position had to be filled within three months,” Angelika Bier recalls. “Such a foundation is then like a fatherless child.”
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She sat down on the phone and finally found a friend who filled out. Working for the Jona Foundation had long since become a part of my life. There has been no vacation since she got the house. She has not worked as a surgeon for about ten years, but is only there for the children.
She also does a large part of the administrative work herself, she remembers how to submit applications from her time as a scientist. It helped her when she had to learn how to “pull underfunding grants”, which is as complicated as it sounds but necessary.
Jonas children’s book group
They founded the fund back then because it seemed like the easiest way to get something off the ground. There has long been a support association and friends supporting the project, where more than 100 children feel at home. Angelika Bier does not know how many there have been over the years. Meanwhile, Jonas’ children’s book group is also part of it.
Some keep coming back, even when they are older, with desires, worries, problems, and the thought, “Oh, you can ask Angelika about that.” An 18-year-old girl who was very self-aggressive, using an iron on herself wounded, temporarily took her to her home. Now the young woman is well.
She has always been amazed at how well children have developed. Especially the German children from mixed families with constantly changing fathers often lacked basic trust. First they screamed and broke everything. “But it’s not their fault,” says the founder. And then there was always a turning point from which they developed amazingly, confidence and the realization that they had found a home that they no longer need to run away from.
Refugee children from Ukraine
In 2015, refugees also came to the house. One of them works there today as an educator. Children and young people from Ukraine are currently participating as well. Angelika Bier finds it “incredible the will to survive that children have after a long flight. Girls bloom like little flowers.” This also applies to the children from Staaken. “They are already adults when they are 7 or 8 years old,” she remarked repeatedly at the beginning.
What does it give you over the years? One should not wait for a thank you, she says. “Then you burn out.” On the contrary, there are always complaints from children who feel they have been treated unfairly because someone else got more than they got.
[Von Staaken bis Siemensstadt, von Hakenfelde bis Kladow – und immer konkret: Den großen Spandau-Newsletter mit Bezirksnachrichten, Terminen, Tipps gibt es gebündelt einmal pro Woche hier: leute.tagesspiegel.de]
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Angelika Bier today has a very strong feeling that she is the perfect place where she should be and where she is needed. “I have to do this, and I do it. It’s a fulfillment in itself.” For her, that’s enough. It could also be something else somewhere else tomorrow. “When I’m outside, I’m hard to reach,” she says, referring to the house in Staaken.
At night, she wakes up when a Whatsapp arrives. Because then it could be something important. This is not the case with emails in the same way. Sometimes she slept on the folding bed in the clubhouse’s theater room.
The professor is preoccupied with this work, using his personal networks, his contacts in the field of science, for example, for a successful project on media competencies. She is even on Instagram and all sorts of channels to raise additional funds. More than 30 employees are now working on the project. And the enthusiasm of the founders is still contagious.