By Trecia A. Wilson, USAG Bamberg Public AffairsJanuary 7, 2009
Their eyes twinkled with glee as they saw the boxes of stuffed animals wheeled into the room. The Kindergarten students of the Bertold-Scharfenberg-Schule seemed ready to burst with excitement yet they managed to stay seated waiting breathlessly for their teachers and Principal Peter Wambach to tell them what was about to happen.
The children knew they were having German and American visitors that day, but didn't know their visitors, Capt. Angela Hise, Sgt. Kirk Spitzer, Frau Erika Breitenstein and Herr Klaus and Frau Barbara Kirchhof, all members of the Bamberg Outreach KONTAKT Club, were also bringing them gifts.
All students attending this school are challenged, either mentally or physically. As a result it makes it impossible for them to go to regular schools. The students attend the school as they would any school, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Classroom numbers are small with a ratio of 12 to two, 12 students per teacher and teacher's assistant. This gives these children the much needed attention they deserve.
The children entertained their guests with Christmas carols and impressed them with their efforts to speak English. After the singing and toy distribution, everyone enjoyed cookies and kinderpunch, a warm fruit punch German children drink during the Christmas holidays.
The Outreach KONTAKT Club is an organization whose primary purpose is to foster positive relations between Germans and Americans. It was originally a program developed by the United States Army, Europe and the Federal Ministry of Youth, Family, Women and Health. The goal of the program is to give U.S. personnel, Soldiers and civilians an opportunity to exercise their interests together with Germans and citizens of other countries. It serves as a bridge to overcome the differences of new cultures.
Outreach KONTAKT is many things to many people. The people in the club are of all ages and live, work or study in Germany. A KONTAKTER, is someone who is interested in other people, where they come from, how they think and their language. They are interested in looking for the common denominator among all people - to make friends and to keep peace.
They reach out to nearby communities to share cultures, help people in need and learn how different cultures exist. They often share holidays and birthdays and make friendships that continue to flourish after the members move to new locations.
Bamberger KONTAKT has increased their involvement with Soldiers and Families by participating in numerous events with the USAG Bamberg Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment (HHD) and the Family Readiness Groups (FRG). They have sponsored the annual FRG Halloween party for the past two years and supported a military partnership event between HHD and a German Logistics Battalion by providing refreshments after military training last spring.
The group participates annually in the Community Expo, providing information to the garrison community about the Outreach KONTAKT club and they set up a booth at the annual garrison Fourth of July Festival.
The KONTAKTERS have a German-American bowling team which meets a couple times each month at the post bowling alley. They support activities such as the Bamberg Spouses and Civilians Club annual Basket Auction.
The KONTAKTERS initiated the first annual German-American Soccer match between the university team and the US Army Garrison team on July 4, 2007, which they coordinated and sponsored as well. Thanks to the Warner Barracks soccer team, the tradition was carried on in 2008.
In 2007, the Bamberg KONTAKTERS conducted a Christmas toy drive for underprivileged children of young single mothers on the Germany economy.
The toy drive for the school this Christmas was a huge success according to KONTAKT member Capt. Angela Hise.
"The visit was so great," said Hise, "we (the KONTAKTERS) have been invited back and are already planning on making this school a continued partnership/project."
The club participated in the annual U.S. Army Europe KONTAKT conference by sending both U.S. military and German representatives and receiving several individual member awards. They also participated in KONTAKT events by sending teams to the annual bowling competition and the delegates assembly for the BIK (National/USAREUR-level KONTAKT board).
The club promotes a coming together of cultures for fun and for understanding. For more information, call Klaus or Barbara Kirchhof at 0171-341-514 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.