Interview with the Andean network Unidos por la montaña
We talked to Martin Schatke, co-founder of the Andean network “Unidos por la montaña” and staff member of the Colombian organisation Fundación 180.
A network of partner organisations from Bolivia, Ecuador, Columbia, Peru
When and why was the network founded?
Martin Schatke: The idea of a joint network emerged in 2016 at the Andean partner conference in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The network was then founded in 2018 at the weltwärts partner conference in Villa de Leyva, Colombia. Unidos por la montaña means “United by the mountain (the Andes)”. Representatives of various organisations from Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru are thus pursuing the common goal of organising a South-South volunteer exchange in the Andean region. The network is meant to serve as an continuous motor to build structures that make this goal a reality.
How does your network work? What range of offers or activities does it provide?
Martin Schatke: During the pandemic, there were several digital meetings of the network, in which topics of the participants were prepared and discussed. Examples are emotional support as well as the safety of weltwärts volunteers, especially regarding the pandemic. The challenges of a development-related volunteer programme and the role of the Sustainable Development Goals are also important subjects. Another challenging task is the risk of brain drain from the South-North programme, which means that the partners are working out ways for former South-North volunteers to get involved in their home countries instead of staying in Germany after their service.
Clearly, this is also about networking between the organisations and the former South-North volunteers. Through these meetings, participants were able to get to know one another, provide support and receive further training.
When volunteers travel during their service in the Andean region, the organisations can also offer them local knowledge, logistical support and assistance in case of an emergency with the help of the network.
How many organisations are members of your network? Do members pay fees?
Martin Schatke: There are five representatives from the Andean countries: two from Ecuador and one each from Bolivia, Peru and Colombia. They organised the meetings. In the meetings held so far, a total of about 30 different organisations from the four countries mentioned above have taken part. There are no fees, but everyone benefits from one another.
How do you attract new members to the network?
Martin Schatke: The network is open to any organisation from the Andean region that organises volunteer work with weltwärts. New participants joined through a snowball system – at first there were only a few participants and all of a sudden there were more and more, because everyone advertised it in their own network. In this way, the network continues to grow. With simple communication via a messenger service, we can always be reached quickly.
What would you like to achieve with the network over the next 2 years?
Martin Schatke: We would like to continue to work on the quality development of weltwärts, offer internal in-depth training courses and raise awareness about the importance of volunteering. We would also like to promote networking of both current and former volunteers, for example through regional meetings. We would very much like to have conducted a first round of a South-South volunteer exchange in the Andean region. That means, for example, that two Colombians do a volunteer service in Ecuador and two Bolivians do a volunteer service in Peru, and we can create more social networking among the four countries.
What was your personal highlight in networking?
Martin Schatke: Bringing back the North-South-volunteers at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 was a huge challenge. However, thanks to the mutual support of various organisations in the network, we managed it quite well.
I like the ever-increasing willingness on the part of participants to engage in discussions during the meetings and the heightened mutual trust expressed through this.
We have also already shared our ideas with representatives of other networks from India (wIN), Southern Africa (SAwN) and Western Africa (WAwN).