Learning to appreciate what we take for granted
In July, five young people from India came to Germany for the return visit of DACHSER´s and terre des home's youth exchange program. Five apprentices had previously traveled to Uttar Pradesh back in February. Now it was time to meet again and spend a memorable time together.
Why do you of all people get to fly to Germany – are all the other girls in your village not interested?” Eighteen-year-old Goldy’s journey to Kempten was far from easy, as she recalls in a press meeting at DACHSER headquarters. Having stood out for her intelligence and social engagement, she was selected for the youth exchange from a group of some 1250 youth group members. Soon enough though, village neighbors were doing their best to humiliate her for what they viewed as unjustified preferential treatment. In Belwaraipur, a village located in the East of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh almost on the border with Nepal, the caste system still prevails in daily life – despite having been officially abolished in 1949. Dalits (“untouchables”) like Goldy aren’t allowed in public places, are forced to live outside of the village and have almost zero social mobility. “At school, even if you get everything right, it’s virtually impossible to get good grades,” she tells us. In the terre des hommes youth groups, such divisions do not exist, and Goldy is now devoting her efforts to fighting against caste discrimination.
They are fighting for things we take for granted
The action week included visits to schools, an appearance at an apprentice event at head office and an international cultural evening at Kempten University of Applied Sciences. Dachser CEO Bernhard Simon was present throughout, and shared a few words about the youth exchange and Dachser and terre des hommes’ joint initiative.
While the German apprentices talked about their travel experiences and impressions of India, the five India youngsters combined their presentation with the social problems that they have experienced firsthand in India, and which they are now battling to solve.
Afterwards, pupils, apprentices and students alike had gained a better understanding of what the German apprentices presented as the most important insight from their India trip: that we need to learn to appreciate the things we take for granted. All of us have access to an education, we grow up with equality and freedom, and have the chance to learn a profession or study and pursue our own path in life. While German young people take that for granted, for Indian youngsters it is a privilege they must fight for.
Insightful and curious observers
Throughout the many discussions, the guests from India showed themselves to be insightful and curious observers. What struck them about Germany? Clean air, clean streets, recycling, the lack of noise, orderly traffic, well-equipped state schools, inclusion of people with disabilities, equal treatment of boys and girls, and humane treatment of animals. The young people took away some ideas and inspiration for their own projects. However, they also had their criticisms of German society: the small, isolated families and the lack of people still working the land. German food also proved more of a challenge than a treat, and Allgäuer Spätzle were never going to replace their beloved rice. It goes to show that you have to experience something different to appreciate what you already have, another thing that the young people learned on their trip.
However, they all agreed on one thing: development and the freedom to choose one’s own way rely on access to education and a clean environment – for everyone, not just the elite. It is a vision these young Indians will continue to fight for, while also pursuing their own career ambitions to become judges, teachers, social workers or simply “go my own way,” as Omika puts it. Thanks to their dedication, they are progressing towards their goal of making their world a better place. For themselves, and for the generation to come.