This was the motto of a group of DACHSER Young Professionals working with students from the terre des hommes network on the UN Sustainable Development Goal of “Sustainable cities and communities.” Together with young people from Zambia, they will develop a series of projects by 2020 to help achieve this goal.
In September 2018, after some preparatory workshops, 12 young people traveled to Livingstone, the capital city of Zambia’s Southern Province. Thanks in particular to the Environment Africa organization, a local terre des hommes partner organization, the young people gained profound insights into the work and projects of a local youth organization, whose members are working to improve local living conditions.
Find out more about their experiences during this almost four-week trip, which alongside all the fun and discussions included moments of quiet reflection.
Stops along the way
Mwatambulwa ku Zambia - Welcome to Zambia: After many e-mails and phone calls, the groups finally met in person at the Livingstone airport. The spontaneous dance in honor of the guests dispelled any remaining nervousness the DACHSER Young Professionals may have had. The Zambia adventure begins! However, there wasn’t much time to rest, as the four-week stay was running on a tight schedule. In the first few days alone, the young people learned a lot about the current situation in Zambia and got to know the projects of the individual organizations. One organization that introduced itself was Environment Africa, which has been around since 1986. Currently, one of its largest projects is soil treatment in Kabwe, Zambia. The local lead mine was closed there in 1994, but the consequences for people and the environment are still being felt today. The organization has now found a supporter to co-finance the soil treatment project - the World Bank.
We produce it everyday, at home and on the go: garbage. We put it in the trash can and that’s it; we don’t usually think about what happens next. But garbage has to be recycled and disposed of one way or another. The young Zambian group from Environment Africa, a terre des hommes partner, deals with the topic of waste management in Livingstone. So when the young people from DACHSER arrived, the warm hello was swiftly followed by cold reality. Their trip to the landfill in Livingstone deeply affected them. The pungent smell, working conditions that are barely worthy of the name, and the children playing in the middle of it all - the youth group is determined to help make a difference.
Mango trees: One of the projects run by the Zambian group aims to turn areas illegally used as waste dumping grounds into green spaces. With the help of their new German friends, they spent a day planting mango tree seedlings. To protect the sensitive trees from being carelessly trampled, they collected stones and surrounded the plants with them. In a few years, the trees will provide shade for the street vendors.
Intercultural exchange: In addition to many informative talks by local organizations, such as Environment Africa, the program included an intercultural exchange component. Participants got right into fashioning hobbyhorses out of sticks, socks, and foam rubber, then singing as they rode them around the room. The purpose? To re-enact the Osnabrück freedom ride, an annual event to commemorate the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Next it was the young Zambians’ turn. A traditional “chasing dance” was performed with drumming, singing, and colorful robes.
At the heart of Zambian life: To promote a better understanding of the local culture, there were also visits to host families. The German participants spent four days with members of the Zambian group to experience daily family life. Sharing a room with several people, doing without running water, rarely having electricity, and cooking outside on hot coals were just some of the challenges.
After more than three weeks, every day packed with new insights and experiences, it was time to say goodbye. However, contact and friendships were actively kept up via Skype, meaning that both sides saw the progress the other group made on the projects.
“No doubt I’ll benefit from the experiences, the discussions with other people, the new contacts, and ideas about future collaborations,” says Ireen Ng’andu from Zambia. “It was interesting to travel all around the country and present and share our project idea everywhere we went. I’m definitely looking forward to changing things back in Livingstone and sharing my experiences with the people there.”
Focus on waste management
In addition to various workshops, the Zambian delegation visited a recycling center and gained authentic insights from German trainees at the DACHSER Head Office in Kempten into the German apprenticeship system and the various occupations it covers. In the project context, the young Zambians were particularly interested in sustainability aspects, such as how the biogas plant on an organic farm worked. In discussion meetings about cultural commonalities and differences, the African guests spoke about possible career paths in Zambia after school. One highlight of the trip was the spontaneous meeting with German Development Minister Dr. Gerd Müller during a city tour through Kempten. The youth exchange project is supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.
And the project is also showing initial effects on the German participants: as part of a project on the topic of biodiversity, they moved two colonies of bees onto the campus of DACHSER Head Office at the end of July.
We live in a globalized world, and the only way to make that work in the future is if there is understanding and communication on all sides.
Bernhard Simon, CEO of DACHSER„
Even after the project concludes in December of this year, the German and Zambian youths will remain in contact and exchange ideas, playing an active part in the dialog between nations and cultures.