About us

Our history

By Marie-Anne Dage

Women of Europe think of third world children!

This call was launched in 1976 by our founder Carola Ehlermann together with Marie-Helene von Mack and many friends of wives of Common Market officials when there were nine member states in the community.

They wanted to respond to a request from a Lutheran pastor who was seeking aid for children in need in Africa. Some sponsorship actions had been already initiated by individuals but not enough was being done.

Carola Ehlermann had the opportunity to meet the European Commissioner in charge of development policy, Claude Cheysson, and was given the go ahead to launch sponsorship actions at the European Commission in addition to the allocation of an office at its headquarters, the Berlaymont .She got started on May 13, 1976. A group of friends volunteered to write an information leaflet listing the sponsoring organizations: the Belgian Foundation of Father Pire and the German organization Kindernothilfe as well as the World Child Fund of Mother Teresa.

It was distributed to all officials of the Common Market, Permanent Representations, embassies and friends in the corporate world . After two months had ensued, names of sponsors were given to hundreds of children. This was a positive start but the scope was insufficient to meet all demands. Then the idea was born to organize a " St Nicholas Bazaar for the benefit of children in the Third World".

Private funds were used to rent the premises of the the cultural center of Auderghem for this bazaar on 5 December .

Patricia van der Esch who possessed invaluable experience through her involvement in Luxembourg bazaars, assisted in its organization along with her friends and other supportive volunteers so that this European event could take shape.

Thanks to the generosity, creativity, and dedication of many friends of various nationalities, the first "Weihnachts-Bazar" (as announced on the poster) was able to open at 2 pm. The program included a dance performance by students from the European School, games for kids, a craft stand (our first team!), flea market, Christmas decorations, items from Italy and other ACP countries as well as a tea bar.

And it was Lady Mary Soames, daughter of Churchill and wife of Sir Christopher Soames, Vice President of the European Commission, who presided over the bazaar’s inauguration. An estimated 5,000 visitors attended the event. The Belgian press, and the Staff Courier of the European Commission, reported on it! The proceeds from the bazaar covered all expenses as well as financing of an orphanage in Burundi, and a jeep for a village in India.

An "executive committee", had to be set up to manage in order to ensure that the transfer of funds for specific aid projects transpired.The structure of the association has gradually developed into so-called national groups for linguistic facilitation .In 1979 the statutes of the a.i.s.b.l were signed. In 1981 we started to publish our newsletter.

The Bazaar became an annual event and was enriched by a tombola after five years. It took place in the basement of the Berlaymont building for a few years, and finally flourished in the Beaulieu building where we were given an office in 2000.

Fundraising activities were developed with concerts, conferences, dinners or donations related to personal events.

The six-month national Presidencies of the Council of Ministers of the European Union have also become opportunities to organise major events that, while honouring the country in question, also provide the opportunity to highlight the work of our association and our need for financial support to a wide audience .

With the enlargement of the European Union: 1981, entry of Greece; 1986: entry of Spain and Portugal; 1995: entry of Austria, Finland and Sweden, the association increased in numbers of members: 1.000 members and 17 groups for the 25th anniversary in 2001.

With the following enlargements, including the entry of 10 countries in 2004, the Cypriot, Hungarian and Polish groups were formed. The accession of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007 allowed the creation of two additional groups. An additional group has been formed by Lithuania in the meantime.

At present, with the dynamism of the 23 groups, one of which is open to members of the E.F.T.A. countries and the other to various non-European nationalities, and the Luxembourg group, which also has a representation in the Grand Duchy, we manage to finance more than 70 projects each year.