Bestowal of the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany to Mr Reiner Josef StommelEnlarge image Presentation of the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany to Mr Reiner Stommel (© Botha Photographers Windhoek)
On 16 July 2012, Mr Reiner Stommel was awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in appreciation and respect for his lifetime achievements.
Please find herebelow the speech by the German Ambassador on the occasion:
Mr. Reiner Stommel to be decorated with the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
Speech by the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany on 16 July 2012
- Check against delivery -
Lieber Herr Stommel, dear Mrs. Stommel,
Dear Members of the Stommel family
Dear friends of the Stommels
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour that you accepted my invitation and I am pleased to welcome you all in the residence of the German Embassy. We have gathered here today to honour a man who has served in an outstanding manner the German-Namibian relations from the moment he arrived in Namibia almost 60 years ago.
Mr Stommel does not need any introduction! However, let me highlight some stages of his life and his merits.
Reiner Josef Stommel was born 80 years ago in Germany, in a place near Aachen, not far away from where I stem from. I would have loved to present this award some months earlier on the occasion of your birthday. But for some reasons it did not work out. Nevertheless, now we have a second great opportunity to celebrate another special day of yours in 2012.
At the age of 18 Mr Stommel revealed to his parents that he was determined to take vows and join the Roman Catholic Order “Oblates of the Immaculate Virgin Mary (OMI)”. Mr Stommel took the motto of the OMI, ‘devotion to the poorest and most forsaken’ literally. In 1952 he embarked the passenger steamer ‘Bloemfontein Castle’ and arrived in Walvis Bay in October of that year as a missionary brother of this Order. From the moment of his arrival he was devoted to work for the people of Namibia, at that time South West Africa. He was involved in building schools, hospitals and churches on different mission stations throughout the country. Many years he spent at St Michael’s Mission near Outjo, where – together with other missionaries – a Primary School and hostel accommodation for over 400 children was established. The order had been in need of young and strong men with manual skills. The fact that Mr Stommel knew a lot about masonry was very valuable.
In 1968, upon an invitation of the Catholic church in South Africa, Mr Stommel visited the OMI in Pretoria. He spent some days in Durban and than travelled by bus the Garden Route to Cape Town. This trip changed his live completely as he met Ms Steel during this trip. Gillian became the woman of his life. He gave up his vows and left the order after receiving dispensation from Rome. He and Gillian Steel married in 1970. Both came to SWA to the Outjo District. Both were convinced and committed to share with others values, education and faith. But first Reiner Stommel had the chance to work as a farm manager at Farm Charon. Here he farmed sometimes through droughts and difficulties on three other farms.
In 1989 a dream came true Mr and Mrs Stommel purchased their own Farm Otjikondo. They had the idea to found a school and since there were a lot of empty decayed buildings on the farm it inspired Mr and Mrs Stommel to erect a school village there. The mission of the OMI ‘devotion to the poorest and most forsaken’ dictated their actions. With the approval of the Namibian Ministry of Education Mr Stommel founded, in 1991, the Otjikondo School Village Foundation to support the farm school which Mr and Mrs Stommel still run today. The aim of the school is to improve the standards of education in this area between Outjo and Kamanjes. It has a pilot function and through its activities the school encourages development and progress in the local community. The Primary school for instance, with some 240 Namibian children in Grades 1 - 7 from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, provides accommodation on the premises for all learners during the school term.
Next to academic performance the school emphasizes on the importance of developing different skills and talents of the children. In addition to the regular school curriculum, a wide variety of training of practical skills is offered. When I visited Otjikondo at their jubilee I received a first hand impression.
The Stommels do such a good job that for three years running the school has received the award of Best Performing Primary School in Kunene Region.
Otjikondo has become a model for rural education. It proves that a sound basic education can enable children to continue their education at High Schools and improve their chances through education for a better quality of life. It is only consequent that all former Otjikondo learners are offered support to attend a High School by the Foundation.
The Foundation proves what can be achieved by engaging to improve the standard of rural education. It offers on top a real contribution to the development of the local community.
But Mr Stommel’s involvement did not stop here. In 1994 Archbishop Bonifatius asked Mr Stommel to resume the management of St Michael’s Mission and Primary School. He agreed, given the profound bonds with this Mission. Three years later, in 1997, together with Mr Moellmann, he founded a Kindergarten for underprivileged children in the informal settlement Donkerhoek of Khorixas and erected classrooms and teacher accommodation. In the meantime about 55 children attend this Kindergarten and are looked after by two teachers.
His age of 80 years has not stopped Reiner Stommel who is young at heart and still actively involved in all the projects he has set up. And he still has plans of how to help, develop, educate and care for underprivileged Namibian children. And in his wife Gillian he has a strong companion and partner. Her role – by the way – was recognized some years ago by Her Majesty the Queen with an Order of the British Empire.
Dear Mr. Stommel,
Having become a Namibian citizen with strong German roots, your altruistic engagement and advocacy for an education of children disregarding their ethnic and cultural backgrounds serves and deepens in an outstanding manner German-Namibian relations. You have always stood up for the most vulnerable parts of society, the children, because you know that they are a society’s future.
It is an honour and a joyful moment for me, and this comes straight from the bottom of my heart, that on my second last working day in Windhoek I have the duty to hand over to you, dear Mr Stommel, this important recognition of merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.
I now present you with the “Verdienstkreuz am Bande des Verdienstordens der Bundesrepublik Deutschland” in admiration and respect for the accomplishments of your lifelong service. In an outstanding manner you have successfully contributed to foster German-Namibian relations.
Now I would like to quote H.E. Federal President Joachim Gauck:
“In Anerkennung der um die Bundesrepublik Deutschland erworbenen besonderen Verdienste verleihe ich
Herrn Reiner Josef Stommel das Verdienstkreuz am Bande des Verdienstordens der Bundesrepublik Deutschland.
Berlin, den 18. Juni 2012
Which reads as follows:
„In appreciation of special services rendered to the Federal Republic of Germany
I bestow upon Mr Reiner Josef Stommel,
the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.“
I would like to ask you all to raise your glass and drink to the good health of Mr. Reiner Stommel.
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