Steffi Graf facilitates the development and growth of children
While travelling throughout my tennis career and in conversations with doctors, I learned and saw first-hand how many children grow up in a daily life marked by wars, violence, exile, and loss of family. We often see images of the physical injuries, - not visible however, are the mental wounds and trauma. These wounds are often the root cause of new aggressiveness; the victims of today are often the perpetrators of tomorrow and continue the cycle of violence. In 1998 I established my foundation CHILDREN FOR TOMORROW to raise awareness to the needs of these children, [to] help them therapeutically and to assist in their development. -Steffi Graf, Founder and Chairperson, Children for Tomorrow Tennis legend and respected philanthropist, Steffi Graf, founded the “Children for Tomorrow” organization in order to enable trauma recovery and healing services for young children in war-afflicted areas around the world. During her many travels, she was exposed to the horrific aftermath of violence, which included a number of children who were orphaned or abandoned, subjected to cruelty and neglect, and were vulnerable to further violence due to continued unrest in their countries of origin. Immediately sensitive to the urgent need for specialized care and treatment of these troubled minds, Graf began raising funds which would aid hospitals in increasing and improving their services. Special priority was given towards supporting hospitals in Kosovo, Eritrea, and Uganda; some funding went towards psycho-social counseling efforts for children in these areas. In 2011, Children for Tomorrow established its headquarters on the grounds of the University Hospital Hamburg Eppendorf, which currently serves as the focal point for fund distribution, coordination and management of the initiative, and also serves as an outpatient clinic. The foundation has prioritized its work towards improving 4 specific zones; Uganda, Kosovo, Eritrea, and Hamburg, Germany. The Kosovo project remains active and consistent, reaching out to hundreds of young survivors and their families in regions which have been torn apart by internal and political violence. Through the efforts of the foundation, trauma survivors receive education and counseling on rebuilding their lives and maintaining peaceful coexistence in post-war society. The project impacts those within the Giakova region. The Uganda project serves internally-displaced inhabitants of Gulu, North Uganda, reaching out to some of the 25,000 young children who were forcibly recruited as soldiers and exposed to the horrors of war. An outpatient clinic caters to their psychosocial needs, offering interactive and individual therapy as part of rehabilitation efforts. The Eritrea project initially involved the construction of a children’s playschool which accommodated 300 children in the capital city of Asmara, where the youth population of those between the ages of 0-6 was 20%. Recently, due to a collaboration with the Eritrean Ministry of Education, the foundation plans to open another kindergarten; thus contributing towards the reconstruction of a region which has been suffering from the repercussions of a 40-year-old war, famine and environmental degradation. The Hamburg project contributes towards the care and rehabilitation of some of the 650,000 refugees who take shelter in Germany, many of whom are from Iran, Iraq, Serbia, and Afghanistan. It provides clinical support to children, and also guidance as to how to deal with their status as “exiles”. This project is very often the primary source of support for those who seek asylum and security away from their unstable home countries. With “Children for Tomorrow” reaching out to thousands of deserving young people around war-torn countries, Steffi herself makes it a point to play fund-raising tennis matches and collaborate with fellow tennis stars and other well known faces as part of fund-generating initiatives. She makes regular trips to the clinics, at risk of endangering her own personal safety, and ensures that standards are maintained, therapies extended, and most importantly, that the traumatized young minds who walk into one of the projects, walk out with heightened confidence, and hope for a brighter future.