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Ruth Zenkert

Ruth Zenkert was born in 1962 in Schwäbisch Hall, Germany, into a family of five children. After graduating from high school, she began training as a programmer. In 1984 she met Father Georg Sporschill SJ at a Bible school in Israel. An encounter with consequences: She worked as a volunteer in his Caritas youth centre in Vienna. At the same time she began her studies in religious education, which she completed in 1988.

From 1988 to 1993 Ruth Zenkert took over the management of the Caritas youth centre in Vienna. Father Sporschill SJ recounts from this time: “When we had to call the police because the inmates were breaking down the door – some of them were serious criminals – Ruth went down and got the heavy boys to hand over their weapons with the quiet strength of her personality alone: pistols, switchblades, brass knuckles.” In 1991, together with Father Georg Sporschill SJ, she set up CONCORDIA Social Projects in Romania and took in thousands of homeless children and young people from the streets. Under her leadership, CONCORDIA extended its help for orphans, neglected youths and needy elderly people to the Republic of Moldova and Bulgaria.

The principle “We go where the need is greatest” led Ruth Zenkert to Transylvania/Romania, where she began her work for the Roma ethnic group in 2012. Together with Father Georg Sporschill SJ, she founded the ELIJAH association in Hosman, thirty kilometres west of Sibiu. The aim of ELIJAH is to help families with many children to escape their misery by efforts of their own and to break the cycle of poverty. Above all, Ruth Zenkert wants to give children and young people new prospects for the future through social centres, homework supervision, music lessons and training workshops. She lives and works in Hosman in the ELIJAH community.