At the Weltwärts Partner Conference

For the first time, we attended the Weltwärts Partner Conference, which was organised by SAGE Net. for all partners in South Africa to discuss the partnership between North (Germany) and South (South Africa). It started on Wednesday, the 12th of November 2014, went on for 3 days and took place in Port Elizabeth. Other partners came from right over South Africa.

The welcoming address was given by Carola Blendermann, the Managing Director of SAGE Net., who introduced us to the ideas and and aims of the organisation. After the introduction, we all introduced ourselves and discussed the proposed topics of the conference. It turned out that the safety of the volunteers and the recent visa issues were most important for most of the participants.

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First, the security of the volunteers was discussed in small groups. After intense discussions, it was noted that

  • Volunteers should should have formal preparation before departing and when they arrive. Daphne Morkel (P&D Staying away from Home) suggested that the volunteers and their parents should sign orientation notes and indemnity agreements for the event when they ignore the warnings.
  • Lance Koenig (Representative of the Lower Saxony in the EC) said it is important to prepare the volunteers after their arrival in SA and ensure that the volunteers can reach their mentors and people in charge of the projects 24 hours a day in cases of emergency.

After a tea break we were introduced to the Weltwärts programme which started in 2008 and its aim being policy, education service and skills development to mention only a few. This was followed by personal stories of the participants.

I told the others that my German volunteers were the best blessing to the awarenet programme. They always in so many wonderful ways have a plan for a solution when we couldn’t find one. They add fun and enthusiasm to many of the projects we work on. Our biggest challenge we faced most days were dysfunctional computer labs or learners not pitching up for awarenet sessions, but they take it with patience. After sharing our stories, we ended the day and gathered for a welcoming dinner.

Day 2 started with a talk by one of the representatives from the German Embassy, Mr Westheicher, who also highlighted the problem with the visas and the security of the volunteers when they come to South Africa. He tols us that the problem of the visas was resolved. Lena Sabapathee, the Weltwärts contact person explained that hopefully theissue will be mentioned or presented at the German-South African Bi-national Commission meetings, which take place next week. There is no guarantee though, that each case will be presented. Jane Tsharane (Makgatho Primary School) added that all people should submit documents personally for the sake of biometric in most embassies.

In the afternoon, we were divided into groups to discuss different topics that we face on a daily basis, mainly safety and security, relationships, roles and responsibilities of the mentors. Very interesting was the discussion about how to ”Read the Germans”, i.e. what do people say about the Germans (background: culture and communication)?

  • The following was pointed out about the Germans: They are very inflexible, precise, persistent and rigid. They are always on time like, their food and seem to be very direct when it comes to things in life. The Germans also seem very creative, organised, inpatient and judgemental and a few other things.

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So, getting to know the Germans was a good learning curve knowing that their  culture is a bit different to ours. I found that they are very persistent and impatient, meaning when they want to get things done they want to get things done immediately and not leave it till later and forget about it or get impatient when they can’t do things to the best of their ability or to the way they the want it to be done. I have learned to deal with it and to let them do their thing their way and what makes them happy, to finish what they they have started and when they feel impatient I have patience…. 🙂

Day 3 started off with a discussion about the North and South Components in connection with the volunteers reverse programme, i.e. volunteers going to Germany. Volunteers who are interested in going to Germany should be between the ages of 18-24, have a good education and good language skills and should be willing to learn new things when in the country.

Ms.Teboho Mahlaba from LifeLine gave a key note and introduced us to LifeLine: It aims to be a leading provider of psychosocial support, skills and opportunities to enable individuals and communities to grow and develop. There mission Statement: What they do,with whom and why?: To promote emotional wellness for individuals and communities through counselling, skills development, training, networking and partnership within the private and public sectors. She then explained to us how to become a Life Line Volunteer.

In the afternoon, we were divided into groups – the North Group and the South Group – where we discussed how to improve relationships between the two components and how to strengthen the South Group. It was decided to have another conference next year for which a steering group would be appointed. Members in this steering group would set up a database, look at getting more funding for the Weltwärts South Conference and decide on the next communication date.

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What a great opportunity it was to attend the Conference! Thank you SAGE Net. and Weltwärts!


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