Bridging Gaps Youth Exchange is a unique learning experience for young people from South Africa and Germany.
“The first encounter phase was filled with love, peace and happiness. My biggest highlight was our tour to Johannesburg, where we learned more about different places and why the SDGs were introduced. The exchange encouraged me to let people know about SDG 16 and also work together to make this a better world,” said 15-year-old participant Palesa.
Bridging Gaps is an annual youth exchange which invites 20 teenagers from South Africa and Germany to experience a different part of the world, change their perspective by learning more about our world and meet like-minded young people to make a difference together. The exchange is a 9 month-long project from October 2019 to June 2020.
The first encounter phase in South Africa took place from 27 December 2019 to 11 January 2020. The second encounter phase will take place in Germany from 4 to 20 April 2020.
Engagement Global, on behalf of the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, is the main funder of this project. Bridging Gaps is a non-profit organisation active in both countries since 2013 with the vision to make people aware of racism and intersectional injustices that have been inherited and reproduced in our social structures.
The programme helps young people to think more critically about the world and themselves.
In workshops and activities, the teenagers unpack existing inequalities and existing global power structures. They learn more about the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the role of the Global South and Global North in achieving them. The sessions help them to question their previous perspectives, develop a new worldview and learn critical thinking skills.
“The first encounter phase was a really intense time and changed my perspective because now I think more about the backgrounds of people instead of just judging them for how they appear. It made me reconsider the way I treat people and made me a bit fairer towards people. In addition to that, now I also try to remember the structures the world and society have and how they are enforced.” - Estrella, 17-year-old participant.
Guiding the participants to reflect on their position in society, their role and responsibility is the biggest focus of the project. Interactive sessions, like the power flower or the privileged walk, create an awareness on how social injustices directly affect our communities and individual daily lives. These are sensitive topics and many participants become emotional when they realise how big the gaps are in our world.
This year, the programme focuses on the SDG 16, “Peace, justice and strong institutions”. The project takes a participatory approach and includes teenagers as much as possible in the learning experience. As a team, they developed a documentary sharing different perspectives and interviews they conducted with people in their own communities regarding the topics.
The project prepares the participants to become multipliers, who make a visible difference in their own communities and globally.
The programme aims to form a strong team to encourage and motivate the participants to come together and lead the change towards more social justice. Team building activities such as “trust fall” help them to trust and rely on each other. The main goal of the entire youth exchange is to prepare the participants to become multipliers and share their experiences and insights with their peers.
“I really liked the content sessions and I learned more about what defines racism, sexism and I understood the structures of our society a little bit better. I am now more aware of how privileged I am, and I think I can now teach others about their privileges. Because it really left a mark, that's why, I would say, I am and will be more thankful.” - Laura, 16-year-old participant.
During their time in South Africa, they organised a Youth Day for 50 teenagers at the University of Pretoria in Mamelodi. The youngsters loved the games and activities the team had prepared for them, and the multipliers will continue to offer similar workshops in their communities.
All our projects are also a platform enabling our team of supervisors to grow as individuals and leaders
As an organisation, we work in diverse teams with experienced youth workers and young supervisors who started as participants in our project many years ago. We offer training and workshops for our team members and provide them with opportunities to develop their skills to be positive role models.
Many supervisors share how much they have learned from the participants in the project. They experienced it as incredibly fulfilling to see the participants engaging in high-level conversations in the sessions they prepared. It is a magical feeling to be part of a group of young people from completely different backgrounds who listen to each other, share their emotions and become one team.
“As a supervisor, I am very fortunate to be part of this brilliant project as a young person living in South Africa. We often reflect on the significant changes the project has on the young people and don’t share what we have learned through the exchange. And I think I speak on behalf of supervisors when I emphasise the change in how we see the world, which has led to a change in our own habits and behaviours.” - Nompumelelo, project coordinator.