In May 2018, A. Lange & Söhne had the 1815 “Homage to Walter Lange” in steel, which is a one-of-a-kind piece, auctioned off for the benefit of the aid organisation Children Action. In Geneva, Wilhelm Schmid spoke with Professor André Kaelin about the foundation’s work.
At last year’s Phillips spring auction in Geneva, the 1815 “Homage to Walter Lange”, manufactured only once with a steel case, was sold for more than 700,000 euros. It was the highest auction result ever achieved for an A. Lange & Söhne wristwatch. The entire sale proceeds were donated by A. Lange & Söhne to the foundation Children Action in honour of Walter Lange, the founder of the company who died in 2017. The aid organisation is committed to the physical and emotional well-being of disadvantaged children and adolescents all over the world. Almost a year after the auction, Lange CEO Wilhelm Schmid met with surgeon Professor André Kaelin, who works for Children Action, at Clinique de Grangettes in Geneva to talk to him about the foundation’s current work.
Professor Kaelin, how long have you been involved in Children Action, and what is the focus of your work?
Children Action has been involved in children’s health for 25 years, and I have been participating in the surgical projects for more than 20 years. The medical care extends to various specialist areas such as orthopaedics and reconstructive surgery. Our goal is to improve the health of children in the countries in which we are active in a sustained manner. That is why our programmes are not only about medical care, but also about training medical staff in the various countries, counselling, education and nutrition.
In which countries are you active?
Our first mission took us to Vietnam. In the 1990s, there were only a few specialists for paediatrics and orthopaedics there. We gave lectures almost daily. In the meantime, the situation has improved considerably. Projects in Myanmar and Cameroon followed. Additional programmes are also running in Peru and Argentina.
How often do you or other doctors travel to these countries on behalf of Children Action?
Children Action organises about 25 surgical missions per year, involving a team of more than 40 European medical specialists. A mission, combining surgery and training, lasts on average nine days and involves at least two experienced surgeons accompanied by anaesthetists or rehabilitation doctors, depending on the needs.
Can you give me an idea of the magnitude of such a mission?
We examine between 100 and 200 children in a week. And a two-person surgical team can perform between 20 and 40 operations. The number depends on the complexity of each operation.
You do not only treat children in cities, but also in rural areas. What do you do about medical care in those regions?
That’s right, we also go to the provinces. In cooperation with the local health authorities, we invite the children to visit us so that we can examine them on the spot. Our approach is always multi-staged. I believe that one of the great advantages of our programme is that we only work with doctors who have many years of professional experience. Later, this surgeon also decides which patients are likely to be treated successfully. The structured and careful selection process forms the basis of our work – because we do not want to give false hope to people. Finally, after the surgery, we check whether the medical situation has improved. Evaluation and the monitoring of success play an important role for us so that we can continue to improve the quality of our work.
“The first human right is the right to have a childhood” – this basic idea runs through all Children Action projects. Lange CEO Wilhelm Schmid says: “We are very pleased that we were able to make a contribution to the important work of Children Action with our auction, in the spirit of Walter Lange.”