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Dr. Alfred Jahn


1937 Alfred Jahn was born in Germany in the town of Duisburg (Ruhr). He grew up in East Germany and later studied medicine there.
1956 Because of participation in anti-communist activities during the Hungarian revolution he was forced to pause his medicine studies until he was allowed to continue through intervention of a renowned professor.
1962 Alfred Jahn his course as Dr. med. in East Berlin. After it became known that he had helped two people to flee to the West, he had to flee himself on 2nd February 1963.
1963+ Jahn works as assistent professor at the Physiological Institut of the University Bonn
1967-1969 During the Vietnam war: Jahn treated wounded and sick adults and children on board the hospital ship "Helgoland" that operated along the coast of Vietnam, and also in three provincial hospitals. Later he spent (altogether) further six months in those hospitals.
1969-1978 Surgeon in Germany (Augsburg). He became specialist as a children's surgeon (Augsburg, London, Munich).
1978-1980 Alfred Jahn spent his holidays in Thailand working as children's surgeon.
1981 As a member of the German organization for economic and technical co-operation, Jahn worked for one year in Thailand in 21 provincial hospitals in children's surgery.
1983+ Jahn was appointed head of the children's surgery department of the children's hospital in Landshut (Germany). There he supported the treatment of children with war wounds from Afghanistan, Palestine, Somalia, Romania, Serbia, and Rwanda.
1997+ Regular holiday trips to Rwanda, to work there as (the country's only) children's surgeon.
2002+ Alfred Jahn retires, and settles permanently in Rwanda to continue there as children's surgeon and cares for 50-70 children and adolescents, formally adopting one of them.

The history of Dr. Alfred Jahn's project in Rwanda

By Christina Geiger, 14.07.2008
[transl. Eulenspargel]

In 1997 Alfred Jahn visited Rwanda for the first time [on holiday] and operated many children there. That was three years after the gruesome genocide of 1 million Tutsi and oppositional Hutu by agitated members of the Hutu population majority. In 1997 Rwanda had only a few medical doctors, only four surgeons, and no children's surgeon. Thereafter Alfred Jahn continued to visit Rwanda every year during his holidays until his retirement. In 2002 he settled permanently in Rwanda.
From his first day in Rwanda he encountered [a group of] children living and begging in the streets. He supplied them with bread, milk and eggs.
Gradually a trust relationship grew between him and ten of the children that he saw daily. One day the police staged a razzia and locked all of the children in jail. Alfred Jahn spoke with the commandant who told him that if he wanted to help those children, he would have to see to it that they came away from the streets.
That gave him the decisive impulse to assume responsibility for the children. He rented a small house for them, organized the provision of food, and enrolled them at a school. The word on this spread around.

As Alfred Jahn came to Rwanda in 2002 in order to work full-time in the hospitals, children and adolescents came to him daily asking for help to be able to go to school. Some needed only financial support, others had literally nothing: no place to sleep, no clothing, nothing to eat, no relatives.
Many were orphans. All of those older than 13 had experienced the genocide at first hand, had lived in great misery, in fear, in loneliness. Some had lost their parents but still had relatives who were extremely poor. All were inadequately nourished, poorly clothed and looked at Alfred Jahn with sad eyes. Today Alfred Jahn provides [variously] for 50-70 children and adolescents. He rents five houses in which the majority live. Some live with their acquaintances or relatives, come by for daily meals, and obtain financial and material aid to enable them to visit the school.

Rwanda is a poverty-stricken, small country in the middle of Africa, just south of the equator. With 8 million inhabitants the country is overpopulated. The land is very hilly. This makes agriculture difficult and farming is mostly carried out by hand. The prospects for the future are dim. Therefore it is very important that children properly end their school and be able to undertake a job training or a course of studies.
The historic events, the genocide of 1994, in which so many people were involved as committers, has traumatized and upset the nation. No-one can forget what had happened. A legal workup and reconciliation has been on the agenda for years without achievement of substantial progress. We, the people living in other countries, had watched the genocide take place and undertook nothing against it. We have an obligation to help the people of Rwanda.
Many children and adolescents have long since succumbed to resignation. They are resigned to live a life without hope, to live on amid all the brutalities and absurdities with which history has left them.

Dr. Alfred Jahn was awarded distinctions in Germany, Thailand and Vietnam

Sources [german]:

[1] Homepage "Kinderhilfe in Ruanda" non-profit organization

[2] BR5-Podcast "Der deutsche Engel von Kigali - Über die Arbeit von Dr. Alfred Jahn in Ruanda", Gesundheitsmagazin, 25.04.2010

[3] Youtube video, 2:13min "Dr. Alfred Jahn mit seinen Kindern in Rwanda", 22.05.2009

[4] Bayer. Rundfunk-Alpha "Interview with Dr. Alfred Jahn", 30.11.2007