Chesney is reflecting on the time he spent as one of 20 participants from South Africa and Germany at the Bridging Gaps Youth Exchange. The project aims at opening young people to new perspectives and raise awareness of global inequalities. After several introduction seminars, the young adults between th ages of 15 and 19 years old, finally met at a camping site just outside Pretoria from December 28 2017 until January 9 2018.
During their time together, they discovered how the discrepancies between the Global South and North and the rising gap between the wealthy and the poor shapes our world and essentially affects everyone’s personal life. The fact that the South African team has to undergo a long visa process while the Germans only needed a passport to travel was just one practical example. During the day trips to historical sites, such as the Apartheid museum, the teenagers got an impression of the struggle against injustice and for freedom in South Africa.
Kershia highlights how the input allowed the participants to develop a new worldview:
“During the Youth Exchange I've learned more about Social Injustice, Social Inequality and Intersectionality. What shocked me was that people experience this in four ways [individual, interpersonal, in groups and on a structural level] and the worst way I feel that you can experience this is the Interpersonal level.”
One of the main take-aways was the realisation that wealth and poverty are two sides of a coin that can never exist in isolation. Talking to youngsters of the same age, who come from a completely different country and different living conditions helped them to apply these learnings to their own lives and encouraged them to work together to fight injustice.
The youth exchange emerged from the project “Bridges Camp”, which was launched in 2013 in cooperation with the Psychological Clinic of the University of Pretoria and reached around 300 teenagers so far. It aims at bringing young people from different backgrounds together to overcome stereotypes and reduce racism. The following quote by Rethagen, one of the participants highlights how the participants change their perspectives in only a few days:
“I’m thinking differently about different things now. Before the camp, I had certain views about other cultures and I noticed how stupid this was to condemn people because of their skin colour. We are people and we do the same things. We also have so many similarities. “
Each camp is also an opportunity for some previous participants to teach younger teenagers, which helps them to grow their skills and confidence. The South African teenagers have been working as supervisors in training at previous camps and trained their German counterparts how to teach younger teenagers from the local community.
For four days they were joined by 30 additional participants and had to run the whole program and facilitate all session. Working together to make a positive impact in the lives of other teenagers was very fulfilling for the group and brought them closer together.
The last day came quicker than expected and it was a difficult goodbye. Luckily, they will see their team very soon in Germany, where they improve their leadership skills to become multipliers of our organisation’s vision, as Chesney envisions:
“The perception that I have of the exchange is that it creates a platform for personal growth and development and it creates opportunities to develop in the community and country.”
The youth exchange is funded by Engagement Global gGmbH on behalf of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.
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