STELLA DEETJEN: “I’M JUST A NORMAL WOMAN”.
Stella Deetjen works as a German development worker in Nepal and India, is the foundress and managing director of the non-profit organization “Back to Life – Helping others help themselves in Nepal and India” and is the representative of the aid organization. She can also speak six languages fluently, including Hindi and Nepali.
Born in 1970 in Frankfurt/Main, she successfully completed her high school at the Kaiserin-Friedrich-Gymnasium in Bad Homburg and finished her acting education. At the beginning of the 1990s, Stella Deetjen had planned to study photography in Rome. Her place of study was already confirmed and safe. Before the studies started, she traveled for several months as a backpacker through India, where she eventually met the local lepers in Benares (now Varanasi). The encounter with these in India so called “Untouchables” ultimately led to the decision to stay in India and to help the lepers. In 1996, the non-profit organization was finally founded.
Caring for leprosy patients and their relatives in Benares let to caring for street children. Until December 2017, Back to Life had run children’s homes in cooperation with an Indian partner organization and a total of 13 slum-schools, so called non-formal schools, which considered the daily routines of the slum schools.After 21 years all India projects phased out. In 2009 already, Stella Deetjen expanded her help in Nepal. In the medieval mountain region of Mugu, the organization has already buildt 10 schools and 7 birth centres, in Chitwan the focus is on supporting disadvantaged girl, their schools and the population as a whole of the project area. Through targeted trainings and support – including medical care – the population is taught to help themselves for not creating dependencies in the future. After the earthquake in Nepal, the organization also provided emergency help and reconstructed 7 schools.
In 2016, Stella published her book “Untouchable – My Life Among the Beggars of Benares”, in which she tells about the early years of her work and of the organization.