Bridging Gaps youth exchange a success
This year, Bridging Gaps organised its second youth exchange for 20 teenagers from South Africa and Germany as part of the African German Youth Initiative.
The exchange aims to bridge the gap between perceptions and reality of the Global South and North.
“I made new friends, not just only friends but sisters and brothers. The first encounter went absolutely amazing!” says 17-year-old Rose from South Africa, who is still raving about the first encounter phase of the Bridging Gaps youth exchange, which took place from 26 December 2018 to until 10 January 2019 in South Africa.
Bridging Gaps is a non-profit organisation that aims to raise awareness of everyday racism and reduce social inequalities. The team of students and young professionals is active in South Africa and Germany and organises workshops, trainings and youth camps.
The 19 participants are eager to see each other again during the second encounter in April this year in Germany. The whole Project runs over 9 months, with workshops and digital working sessions to prepare the teenagers for travel and to reflect on their personal growth.
The UN Sustainable Development Goal “Reduced Inequalities” forms the basis of the exchange’s content. The programme helps the participants to develop a deeper understanding of global inequalities. It uses the approach of experiential learning to create a platform in which the teenagers learn together, exchange their opinions and broaden their horizon.
They discover common misperceptions of Africa and Europe and unpack global interdependencies, such as: the flow of resources, people, power and racism between the Global South and North using an interactive map, learning about global food production, and discussions to show them how it feels to be treated unfairly in global structures and systems of power.
During daytrips to Johannesburg and Pretoria, the participants experienced wealthy and lavish neighbourhoods as well as the townships. Experiencing the different sides of life in a big city in South Africa revealed how wealth and poverty are just two sides of the same coin of inequality.
This also helped them develop a more realistic and nuanced picture of the Global South, which was particularly interesting to 15-year-old Khutso from South Africa, who says,“I really enjoyed the youth exchange because I had a chance to learn from and teach the German teenagers! It left me thinking how they were actually amazed that we have things that they don't have and some things are also better than what they have in Germany!”
One of the key objective of the exchange is to overcome personal stereotypes and prejudices. Travelling to a new country and meeting people from a completely different background was challenging for the young participants, but it also encouraged them to be more open minded towards other countries and people.
“The youth exchange helped me a lot, I have friends in South Africa and I now see the world in a different way. The youth exchange brought a big change in my life,” says 16-year-old Brian from Germany.
The ultimate goal of the exchange is to encourage the participants to become multipliers who can set a strong example against inequality, and take responsibility for themselves and others. During the trip, they also visited grassroot organisations and met social activists who motivated them to make a difference in their direct environments. A highlight was the trip to the Kliptown Youth Centre in Soweto, and a conversation with its founder.
“I often ask myself why a person who comes from another country or has a different skin colour should be worth less? Aren’t we all unique and deserve equal treatment? I think a possible solution is to approach people and get to know them better. Allowing prejudices to interfere is the wrong way,” says 15-year-old Stephi from Germany.
Making sure the described changes last and have a sustainable impact is one of the key success criteria for the youth exchange project. To achieve this, the team includes previous participants in this year’s exchange. They pass on their knowlegde and guide younger teenagers as facilitators in the workshops and support the successful implementation of the project as active members of the organising team.