The founders

The history of the foundation Angels for Children is closely linked with the history of its founder Ingrid Engel and her sister-in-law Gerlinde Engel. After several positions in the textile industry in Hong Kong and China starting in the 1970s, Gerlinde Engel took over as plant manager of the textile company Trio Export Co. Ltd. in Ban Sikeud in 1995. Until her retirement in 2004, she managed the company and ensured the sustainable growth of the business – Trio Co. Export Ltd. is now one of the largest private enterprises in Laos with more than 3,000 workers.

During her time in Laos, Gerlinde Engel was regularly visited by her sister-in-law Ingrid Engel and they both saw the poor conditions, the lack of equipment and the few life chances that were offered to the students in nearby schools. Together, they decided to establish the foundation Angels for Children in order to dedicate themselves to the promotion of education in Laos after both of their retirements. They started their work at the primary school Ban Sikeud near the textile factory, which was attended by the children of some of the workers.

Initial problems quickly arose but could also be solved quickly and according to local needs. Many villagers had – and still have – their own farms and therefore only have a very low income, but often have several children. Since pupils in Lao PDR have to wear school clothes – white shirts and black trousers or skirts – this was a big hurdle for the villagers. How could several sets of school clothes be bought for the children and kept clean on a regular basis? Many families therefore already failed at this hurdle and could not send their children to school, or at least not all of them.

Gerlinde and Ingrid Engel tackled this first problem by buying fabrics and tailoring school clothes for the children of the village with some workers of the textile factory in night shifts, on Sundays and distributing them to the families. Thus, the number of pupils increased rapidly – at the beginning of the foundation’s work, only about 150 pupils attended the primary school Ban Sikeud, now there are more than 550. The foundation’s successes are Ingrid and Gerlinde Engel’s life’s work, which has benefited children in Lao PDR for more than 18 years and will continue to do so in the future.

Ingrid Engel
Gerlinde Engel