We can only solve tomorrow’s problems if we work together. weltwärts has been making a valuable contribution to the strengthening of international partnerships for the last 15 years. With approximately 140 certified sending and host organisations to its name in Germany as well as around 2,000 organisations in partner countries throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Oceania, the programme is the biggest international volunteer service in Germany. Around 40 of these partner countries were represented at the partner conference in Berlin, where dialogue and networking were at the focus of the event. After all, deploying volunteers to work abroad is not the only valuable source of new perspectives. Opportunities to learn from one another are also a cornerstone of productive cooperation in the programmes implemented by these organisations. In particular, yesterday evening’s celebration for the programme’s 15th anniversary offered guests from Germany and embassy officials from various nations a platform to honour and consolidate weltwärts’ partnerships.
Civil society partnerships: valuable and enriching – now and in future
The South African ambassador to Germany, Phumelele Stone Sizani, stressed the importance of NGOs in his speech delivered during the weltwärts anniversary evening celebration. NGOs are “oxygen for society”, he said, adding that it is important that the Federal government continue to strengthen and fund them. South Africa is one of the most popular destination countries for German volunteers. Berthold Hoffmann, from the Department of Civic Engagement, Exchange and Voluntary Programmes in the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), reinforced the Ministry’s full support the project. “We will ensure that weltwärts will remain a strong programme for the future in the face of current challenges.” It is a good sign, he continued, that young people are taking a stand for the planet, saying that the network of dedicated former volunteers gives us hope for the future.
"NGOs are the oxygen for our society."
A “wonderful programme” for changing the perspective of young people
Malathi Kattampatti Santhanam from the Karl Kübel Foundation has been mentoring volunteers in India since the very beginnings of weltwärts back in 2008. She is also part of a group of volunteers from India who have been volunteering in Germany as part of the South-North component. At the anniversary evening celebration, she expressed her thanks to the Federal government for the “wonderful programme”. She described it as transformative not just for the young people involved, but also for their surroundings and the society they live in, commenting that the South-North component specifically has a particular significance for NGOs. The young people return having gained a different perspective rich in cultural experiences and an altered understanding of what it means to be human in their own home countries. Lourens de Jong, a civil society representative, confirmed the influence that the programme has on young people and their surroundings. He noted that weltwärts also enables young people who otherwise would not have undertaken a volunteer service to take part in an international engagement.
Partner conferences reinforce the collaboration and networking between partner organisations from the countries of the Global South and the German implementing organisations. They also provide an excellent opportunity to discuss programme-related issues with representatives from partner organisations and the Programme Steering Committee. A regional partner conference enables the partner organisations in the weltwärts programme to exchange ideas, to network and to meet once again in person.