“Together we can achieve great things”
DACHSER and children’s aid organization terre des hommes have enjoyed a close and trusting relationship since 2005 - a partnership that opens up a host of opportunities and connections. We spoke with Joshua Hofert, Executive Board Member Communications at terre des hommes Deutschland e.V.
Mr. Hofert, how are children’s rights, the environment, and the economy connected?
Children’s rights, the environment, and the economy are inextricably linked. They form a kind of magic triangle, albeit one that can easily be thrown off balance. When children grow up in poverty and have to work from a very young age to help support their family, children’s rights—the right to education and healthy development, for instance—become structurally limited. The same goes for environmental matters, such as access to clean water, non-toxic air, and healthy food.
How does this manifest itself in practice with an eye to project work?
Take our project “Trash4cash,” which we’re conducting with DACHSER in Zambia. This was set up specifically with this magic triangle in mind. Young people generate income by collecting trash and recycling it in facilities they run themselves. Everywhere you look, it’s a win-win situation: for the environment and for the people who sell their trash rather than leaving it lying around without a second thought; for the young entrepreneurs who’ve turned the project into a sustainable business model and can now provide for their families; and finally for the “copycats” in other parts of the country, who realize that they can emulate what these young people are doing to unlock enormous potential and build a better future for themselves.
How does the idea of network affiliation impact on the commitment of children and young people?
Nowadays, young people chat to each other in networks, where they find other like-minded individuals. This isn’t surprising: children and adolescents all around the world are interested in very similar topics. These interactions can spark global movements. Fridays for Future, the global climate justice movement led by school and college students, is a great example of this.
A lot of the young people participating in terre des hommes projects in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are actively involved in Fridays for Future. The ability to bring different people and worlds together and the enjoyment that stems from this is something these young people share with terre des hommes and DACHSER. And this is also evident in our projects: it takes an awful lot of like-minded people to initiate change in a community—people who can express themselves freely within the safety of a network and join forces to really make a difference.
Joshua Hofert is Executive Board Member Communications at terre des hommes Deutschland e.V.
What about on an individual level?
One individual can also effect change, but young people and their families have seen firsthand some of the great things that can be achieved as part of a network. And young people in particular increasingly view this as their strength. They’re able to look past religion, culture, and socioeconomic status, and build bridges between existing traditions and new ways of coming together that are still respectful and sustainable.
Why is the collaboration with DACHSER important to terre des hommes?
Sustainable development needs time and perseverance. It’s not something that happens overnight. The collaboration between DACHSER and terre des hommes is characterized by reliability and an open exchange. This has been especially important during the pandemic. Life came to a halt, particularly in countries such as India or Nepal, and we in Germany found ourselves literally speechless as we saw the images of people dying in the streets. When schools and social institutions were closed, we continued to check in with the individual projects as best as we could and carried on supporting the children and young people.
What spurs you on in these moments?
It was really impressive to see how in Nepal and India, for example, relief supplies and protective equipment were also distributed through the youth networks. Young people were going from door to door, providing information about the vaccination and hygiene measures. This meant navigating some tricky conversations dispelling myths of alleged vaccination side effects, as well as allaying fears that the streets might be contaminated, a worry that was making people reluctant to leave their homes. Similar examples of proactive social outreach initiatives undertaken by young people are also found in other areas of life, including the environment, education, and self-determination. This shows that we are heading in the right direction; our strong networks mean we can achieve great things.
Thank you very much for the interesting interview.