A German’s love affair with Barbados

Regine Sixt takes her relationship with the island to another level

Barbados’ Honorary Consul General to Germany Regine Sixt first visited Barbados on her honeymoon in 1972, and that love for the island has grown so much that she has embarked on yet another venture aimed at giving back.

In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Sixt, who is senior executive president of Sixt SE, a family-owned, 100-year-old German firm which operates a hired car agency and other car-related businesses in 125 countries around the world, said, “My parents-in-law first came to Barbados in 1964 to spend their winters here; two weeks at first, and then a month, and when I got married I was invited to spend my honeymoon in Barbados.

“I fell in love with my husband and Barbados at the same time, and as my in-laws grew older I spent more time with them here.”

Sixt, who recently received an honorary Silver Crown of Merit, spoke of what that award meant to her. “I was appointed as Honorary Consul General of Barbados in 2000. I am very active in the tourism industry, as Sixt rent a car is focused on corporate and leisure tourism markets. I promoted the company in Barbados so that Barbados could get more recognition in Germany than before. I was honoured when I received my diplomatic appointment, but the most touching moment for me was to get that national award, especially when the band played Beautiful Barbados during the ceremony.”

However, what remains dear to her heart is the Regine Sixt Children’s Aid Foundation, known as Drying Little Tears, which has become the corporate social responsibility arm of the Sixt group of companies. She told Barbados TODAY how it all began for her.

“About 20 years ago, I visited a hospital in Munich at Easter and and a little boy on crutches was brought to me, and he was crying as I held him. When I asked him why he was crying, he asked me, “why don’t you dry my little tears?” So I asked him how, and he said, ‘I want to go to a Formula 1 race because you have so many cars, see how you can help me’. I wanted to take him to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix, but he didn’t want to go to that one. I stayed in contact with him over the next few months, and he said he wanted to go to Monaco. I took him to that race, where he met (then Formula One champion driver) Michael Schumacher, who picked him up and drove him around in his racing car.

“I then took him to Eurodisney in Paris and four weeks later he died.”

The following Christmas, Sixt helped a child from the Ukraine with a brain tumour to fulfill his desire to have his father spend the holidays with him in Germany.

Unlike other CSR programmes, the Drying Little Tears foundation funds projects based on proposals it receives, rather than on a percentage of its profits.

“We currently have 65 projects taking place across the countries in which we operate. We have built a school in Hungary, and a playground in Malta at a hospital that specializes in childhood leukemia. We are in Tanzania, Kenya and we built two schools in South Africa in partnership with (former South African President and Nobel Peace Prize winner) FW De Klerk. In South America, we have done projects in Peru, a hospital in Ecuador and we also want to work on a hospital in Chile.”

This charity work has also touched the Caribbean, as Sixt now has branches in Barbados, St Maarten, Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbuda.

The philanthropist said that apart from the schools and health care facilities, “we assist in emergency situations like earthquakes and hurricanes. In fact, after Hurricane Maria in Dominica, we chartered a Condor Airlines plane and flew in tents, sleeping bags, food and toys to Dominica via Barbados. We also provided temporary housing for people affected by the earthquake in Mexico City late last year.”

Drying Little Tears has recently established a division in Barbados, and its trustees include Sir Trevor Carmichael and Angela Robinson.

Over the years Sixt has supported the Barbados Children’s Trust, and has developed a long term relationship with the St Peter Parish Church. She stated that relationship began when the Rector, Canon Peter Haynes, agreed to mount a marble plate honouring her in-laws at the church. She has been the patron of that church’s annual Flower Festival for the last five years and has also supported its daycare centre.

Sixt also has a great love for music and has just launched a project with the St George Parish Church that will promote music education.

“I take children to classical music concerts in Munich to bring them closer to the world of music, since I find that it brings them peace. I built a music school in Italy and donated instruments for the children to play, and when [Rector of St George Parish Church] Reverend John Rogers came to me with the idea of setting up music classes at his church, I agreed to donate the instruments.

“My dream is to carry out similar programmes throughout the Caribbean, and I hope one day to have a Caribbean Youth Orchestra specializing in classical music.”