Between Augsburg and the Himalayas: Aid campaign on the roof of the world

Two female KUKA staff members are cycling over the highest drivable passes in the world, the Himalaya Highway. They are overtaken by a KUKA transporter. But this time, the vehicles are transporting relief supplies instead of robots. The story of an unusual aid campaign.

In 2010, a flood disaster struck the North Indian city of Leh, one of the highest permanently inhabited cities in the world. Floods and violent landslides ravaged parts of the city and the surrounding area. Providing urgently needed relief supplies from Germany, such as crutches, wheelchairs, walkers and much more, to the victims of the catastrophe and making possible a shipment of this kind required not only a special friendship between two colleagues and exceptional German/Indian cooperation, but also unparalleled collaboration between KUKA and its partner companies.

Mirjam Schlecht from Günzburg and Henriette Schneider from Augsburg initiated the campaign. The two became friends 14 years ago when KUKA acquired a company in Günzburg where Mirjam worked in the development department. Soon, the two women discovered their common interest in mountaineering. Together they undertook extensive mountain tours, from the Zugspitze to the Mount Everest base camp.

At the end of last year, the two friends and their acquaintance Karola Wood, the founder of the Günzburg aid organization Ladakh-Hilfe, had an idea: To collect and send relief supplies to the disaster area in India where they were urgently needed, with the support of KUKA.

Donors and hospitals sent discarded walkers, crutches and used wheelchairs to a garage in Günzburg. “It was very exciting to see what was happening. The garage was getting fuller and fuller,” recalls Henriette. The small box they had originally planned on quickly turned into two large wooden crates.

The managing director of KUKA India, Raj Rathee, and the head of logistics, Markus Hirschmann, loved the idea. The women planned the shipment together with Markus Hirschmann, and it was subsequently carried out free of charge by KUKA and its partner companies Dachser and Epolog. “The cooperation between the partner companies and KUKA was fantastic. Great teamwork,” says Mirjam. “A shipping operation of this magnitude would have been impossible without KUKA.” And thanks to the support of the Indian colleagues, the relief supplies even made it smoothly through customs.

At the same time, Mirjam and Henriette planned on cycling over the world’s highest drivable passes in order to draw attention to the Günzburg aid organization and visit the charity center in Leh. “We love the Himalayas. And experiencing the joy of the people receiving the donated goods is an added bonus.” Manoj Yadav of KUKA Robotics India had already traveled over the pass and provided some tips and information on the 540-kilometer route over six mountain passes. It just so happened that the transporter passed the two mountaineers during their journey and arrived almost at the same time.

Karola Wood’s aid organization drummed up the local media, so that Indian reporters would be on site upon their arrival in Leh. They were even featured on India’s biggest news station. The two friends also visited the KUKA colleagues in Delhi to thank them for their support – and they met Manoj in person.

Upon their return, they were really enthusiastic about their journey. “A campaign like this is a great opportunity to help. And I’m very grateful for experiencing the feedback from the local people first hand,” says Henriette.

You can find further information on the voluntary aid organization on http://www.ladakh-hilfe.de/english/.

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