by Michael Speckenbach, Bowspirit Kids Group
You may be surprised to read such a headline in a publication like this one. Well, then I'd like to invite you to accompany me on a small journey, which starts with a few questions life confronted me with: What happens to a child when she or he becomes seriously ill and has to undergo long-term therapies? What are the consequences for the so-called "shadow children" if their siblings or a parent become seriously ill? What happens in the life of a child when Mom or Dad dies?
The simple yet frightening answer is that childhood is lost. - It's gone forever and you can't do anything about it as an adult. - Or maybe you can ...
Wouldn't it be great if there was a place where sick and traumatised children could go to relax and unwind? Where the seriousness of the disease and the worries of family and friends could be forgotten for a time? A place where it doesn't matter where you come from, but who you are? Perhaps a ship thanks to which you could leave the bad things that have happened to you on the shore?
First leg - From Lübeck to all of Europe
I researched the issue for many weeks and months, because I did assume that there just have to be corresponding services of the social systems on our rich continent. But I didn't find what I was looking for, because, however brutal it might sound, the children we are talking about don't have a sufficient lobby.
I'm a lawyer based in the port town of Lübeck. Starting in the mid-1990s, I worked for and in the ferry and RoRo industry for two decades as a management consultant. Apart from that, I've also gained insights into the hospital business. So, why not combine what I knew best and create exactly such a place! A floating holiday and recreation camp for sick and traumatised children. - Hence, the Bowspirit Kids initiative was born.
Unlike traditional Hanseatic donors, we think across borders. Realistically and with the knowledge that while we cannot save the whole world, all together we can at least help the seriously ill and traumatised children all over Europe.
Second leg - The need
In the EU approximately 13,700 children and youths are, e.g., diagnosed with cancer every year. And cancer unfortunately is not the only serious illness or the only trauma trigger that exists for children.
Tens of thousands of sick children wait year after year for us adults to help, because even if you don't always see it at first glance, their little world is simply unhinged ...
If a child comes back to the family after the acute medical care and is released as "medically cured", the family - which, mind you, was in a state of emergency for months - will try to quickly return to everyday life. There is simply no more strength in everyone involved to deal with what has happened!
The experiences remain with the sick child or its siblings however further "unsorted" in the vita. And they break out at some point in the course of their lives.
Anyone who has experienced a serious illness themselves or in their immediate environment knows how life-changing this is and how much assistance, care and support is needed after surviving the acute phase.
Third leg - Individuals underestimate the power of individuals
The children should be empowered to make peace with their fate. This requires a loving affection and a bow by the civil society: "We wouldn't have wanted to get through all this at your age. Therefore we donate to you your start into a hopefully healthy future."
The main goal of the Bowspirit Kids' project is to fill in the existing gap, providing the services the European social systems are currently unable to deliver. In order to do so, however, it is necessary for civil society as well as companies to engage financially. Next to classic donations companies can aid Bowspirit Kids through, e.g., the "12 times 12" scheme, supporting the initiative for twelve months with a freely chosen "Twelve" from their business activities, e.g. 12 Cents for every euro-pallet moved in a forwarding company, one Euro for every twelfth guest of a leisure spa or 12 Euros for every vehicle sold in a car dealership.
We are talking about a sum that none of us will have at our disposal in life without winning the lottery or inheriting it. But if the 512 million inhabitants of the European Union do it together and each of us gives half of what she or he may spare for children who have been fouled by life, that goal will be achieved in no time.
Of course, you could wait now and see what happens to the project. Or you could wait until the knight in shining armour turns the corner on his black horse, puts down a box full of gold, and rides away happily. In both scenarios nothing will happen and the children will continue to be left alone and suffer.
Forth leg - The economic relevance
Regarding operational relevance, Ingo Kock, member of the initiative's Board of Trustees says: "Through my many years of working with apprentices from all walks of life and all parts of the world, I have learnt that many of them struggle considerably - with more than just day-to-day issues and problems. This is exactly why I as entrepreneur believe the key to freeing these souls lies in early intervention!"
Even if it literally belongs to the "game of life" that everyone has to carry their parcel, so to say, some parcels are just so misshapen that it is good if someone shows me in good time how to carry them best, so that they do not hinder me on my further path in life.
Ultimately, it's also about working together to ensure that in the long run fewer young people with bulky parcels end up in workplaces.
From a macro-economic perspective, it should be borne in mind that without a corresponding offer in line with the Bowspirit Kids' plans, the experiences remain with the sick children or their siblings, however, still "unsorted" in the vita.
Studies have shown that the direct accompaniment of mental stress with children and young people has an efficiency of 1:2.5 to 1:3.0. This means that the sooner we help with the integration, the stronger the child will be in the future.
Instead of spending one euro today, we currently prefer to spend two and a half to three euros in the future, half of which the entrepreneurs pay via the employer's social security contributions. This fact should be on its own an incentive for every entrepreneur to actively support the Bowspirit Kids.
Fifth leg - The ship
"Water is our element", I use to say. In terms of evolutionary history, all life on our planet comes from the sea. What could be more obvious than to use the sea as a healing power?
The purchase of an older passenger ferry isn't more expensive than the construction of a land-based facility of comparable size. The same applies to ongoing operations. As a result, the per capita costs per day won't be higher than for onshore rehabilitation.
But for therapeutic reasons Bowspirit Kids don't want to be stationary. A ship can overcome borders - boundaries between countries, in minds, between land and sea, but also between staying entrenched in trauma and arriving at a peace of mind.
The ship's potential guests should be presented with an extraordinary offer, a voyage which hopefully will bring them into a healthy future, opening a new stage in their life's journey, so to speak.
If, on the other hand, the journey was limited to the coast "only", there would be a border - the sea. However, the young guests have experienced barriers and border experiences more than enough. Bowspirit Kids want to show that despite what has been experienced, (almost) everything is still possible if they learn to trust themselves again and that, with just a little help from us adults, they'll be able to integrate the foul that fate has played on them into their future lives.
Anyone who has ever seen a rehabilitation clinic from the inside knows that this is no place to be a kid. As the name implies, it is and will remain a clinic.
A "floating playroom" - in which you can get to know and visit areas from bow to stern that a guest would otherwise never see - is something completely different.
Journey back home
Though we cannot undo them, by departing from a port, the kids will also symbolically leave behind their bad experiences. Upon their homecoming, the young guests will be able to view their return to everyday life from a different perspective and look forward to living their future lives more "upright." Please help us make this vision come true!
For more information, please visit www.bowspirit-kids.org.
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Bowspirit Kids - We want to turn children's tears into tears of joy
The Bowspirit Kids Group was founded in spring 2018 in Lübeck, Germany. Our activities focus on the creation of a maritime holiday and recreation camp that will give sick and traumatised children and their siblings - often called the "shadow children" - the opportunity to have fun and take a recreation from the illness. To this aim, we want to take advantage of the mobility of a passenger ferry to be able to operate outside of the base location in order to present the Bowspirit Kids Group and its work worldwide and to initiate further projects based on the guiding theme of a "recreation from illness".
The group has two companies - the non-profit company Bowspirit Kids gemeinnützige GmbH (www.bowspirit-kids.org) and the commercially managed Bowspirit Management GmbH (www.bowspirit-management.com), which are intertwined under company law in such a way that the profits generated cannot be distributed to shareholders, but are directed towards the overarching charitable objective.
The Bowspirit Kids Group intends not to base its activities solely on classical donations, but also to raise financial resources through social events and business sponsorships. In the fourth quarter of 2018, the campaign "The world's largest floating pinboard" was launched as kick-off event.