Newsletters from Sabah: Yvonne and Ueli Zimmer pass the pen on

Ueli and Yvonne Zimmer (far left and second from right), together with two weavers from Sabah and Malaysia expert Ueli Knecht (far right).

Yvonne Zimmer puts a red and a yellow folder on the table. "They're all in here," she says, flipping through the closely written pages. "Sabah Sponsorships, No. 1, June 1975," reads the first page. The folders contain the 95 newsletters that Yvonne and Ueli Zimmer have used two or three times a year since then to report on developments in the student dormitories in Sabah. 

Establishment of sponsorships

After their assignment with the Basel Mission in Sabah, Zimmers were asked by the Basel Mission in 1973 if they would set up home sponsorships for the dormitories of the partner churches PCS and BCCM. How they would accomplish this was up to them. "We wrote a leaflet, set a monthly amount of 50 francs as a guideline for a student's stay in the home, and advertised for sponsors throughout Switzerland," recalls Yvonne Zimmer. With success: "Individuals, church congregations and Sunday schools came forward." 

The money raised thanks to the initiative of Yvonne and Ueli Zimmer benefited the PCS dormitories. To this day, these dormitories take in students who live too far away from the nearest school but have no money for accommodation in the city or regular round trips. The dormitories enable these children and young people to attend secondary schools after completing elementary school.

Girl in her room at the dormitory in Kundasang, Sabah.


Authentic information and testimonials

In the first newsletter, Zimmers explained the principle of sponsorships, which were not intended to benefit individual children but the project as a whole - a principle that still applies at Mission 21 today: "These sponsorships are not personal, but home sponsorships," Zimmers wrote. "One reason for this is that individual children are not favored over others. For this always has a detrimental effect on the home community."

Nevertheless, donors should be provided with personal information. Zimmers regularly compiled field reports from the dormitories. "Dear Sir", writes a student named Jamari in December 1975, "I am one of the students of Kudat Secondary School and I live in the new hostel. Since I have been here, I have learned a lot (...). At first I was afraid of all the comrades around me. (...) I preferred to sit in a corner. But in the hostel I noticed a change with me. I learned to share and to know the way of love. I want to thank you very much for your help, without which I would never have been able to continue secondary school."

Personal appearances

Zimmers also tried to get reports in the other direction, i.e. from Switzerland to Sabah. But they received hardly any response to their appeals to send letters or drawings for the newsletters. There was, however, interest in information events. Three to four times a year, Zimmers appeared in church congregations or Sunday schools to talk about the project in Sabah.

Now the Zimmers have handed over the collected letters to the Mission 21 archive - and decided not to send any more newsletters. "95 is a proud number," says Yvonne Zimmer, tapping the two folders, "and we are no longer young, so we are handing over this task." 

Continuation and thanks

In the future, the newsletters will be written by Katharina Gfeller, the long-time program officer for Sabah-Malaysia. Katharina Gfeller is the designated head of the International Relations Department at Mission 21 - as soon as she takes over as department head, her successor will be responsible for the letters. 

Yvonne and Ueli Zimmer's newsletters have had a loyal readership over all these years and have provided much needed donations, thanks to which the project has been able to develop steadily. The Mission 21 team hopes that the interest and support for the project will continue and thanks all donors and especially Yvonne and Ueli Zimmer for their many years of valuable commitment.

The dormitories are now part of a larger projectwhich provides educational support to disadvantaged children and young people in Malaysia and Indonesia.

► On the "Vocational training for disadvantaged children and young people" project

► To the 95th Newsletter

Text: Miriam Glass, Public Relations Team


Hope thanks to your support

Mission 21
Protestant Mission Basel

PO Box 270
Missionsstrasse 21
4009 Basel, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 (0)61 260 21 20

Donation account Switzerland:
IBAN: CH58 0900 0000 4072 6233 2
Tax exemption number:

Donation account Germany:
Savings Bank Lörrach-Rheinfelden
BLZ: 683 500 48
IBAN: DE39 6835 0048 0001 0323 33
Account No. : 1032333

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