Six down, another six to go: 39 young German met up at Wortelgat Campside close to Cape Town, South Africa in the end of March for the mid-term seminar of their 12-months voluntary service, reflecting on their experiences so far and giving an outlook on the future.
The group, consisting of 26 SAGE Net volunteers and 13 external ones, arrived at the site in the afternoon of Friday, March 18th, after a thorough shake-up from riding on a gravel road on the way to the hostel.
But the strainuous journey was worth the trouble: next to sportsfields and a close-by wine farm, the shore of the Atlantic Ocean was only a foot-walk away.
In the beginning though, the volunteers, who live dispersed all over the country, were mostly busy reconnecting with friends, catching up on the latest news and sharing stories from the past months. With the dawn of the next day, their mentors got down to the nitty-gritty.
After a presentation of everyone's projects, the group went on a walk among the dunes, giving them time and solace to talk about their South Africa-experiences.
"Talk, talk, talk - that was the order of the day. Reflect on everything that's happened, [...] [such as] broken-down cars, host families, friends, troubles at work. We talked about everything, really," commented Lisa Paschke, who volunteers at the ecological project Copessa.
Despite idle talk, the group was also in for more challenging topics. In the course of the seminar, the mentors discussed the troubles of some of the participants, ranging from dissatisfaction with a project to fights with host families. During a workshop on "Racism and Cultural Learning", the question of "Can Black people be racist?" lead to a heated discussion among volunteers.
The young Germans got even more involved though when it came to a panel on South Africa's "State of the Nation" - alluding to the annual speach to parliament by the country's head of state on current affairs and conflicts. The two experts David, who lived during the struggle against Apartheid and Dambisa, who was born afterwards gave them a low-down on pertinent political social, and economic issues.
"On that day, we got answers to our questions," said Nicola Schneider, who works at the Cape Mental Health Society's Integration Company in Cape Town.
The night before the departure, the 39 volunteers and their mentorrs got together for a braai - a traditionally South African way of barbecuing. Driven by fresh ideas and inspirations, the young Germans then left for their final six months in South Africa.