A panel discussion was held at the German Foreign Office with returnees from the first group of Germany's international volunteer program Kulturweit. The volunteers shared their experiences in Africa and other countries as a form of pre-departure preparation for the latest batch of participants in the program.
Thomas Gotz, the Deputy Director-General responsible for Research and Academic Relations Policy at Germany's Foreign Office, and Walter Hirche, the President of the German Commission for UNESCO, discussed with three former "kulturweit" volunteers their experiences in the programme, as well as how they see its future and its role in the European Year of Voluntary Activities Promoting Active Citizenship.
Walter Hirche, President of the German Commission for UNESCO The discussion gave the 173 new volunteers in the audience, currently attending pre-posting induction seminars, valuable insights into their future work abroad. They will be leaving for their new postings at the end of February.
The three young discussants, all members of the first group of "kulturweit" volunteers, returned in 2010 from postings in a variety of fields and regions: Rwanda's National Commission for UNESCO in Kigali, the Goethe-Institut in Istanbul and a school in Pernik, Bulgaria. They found that living and working abroad had widened their horizons and taught them to respect other cultures, they explained during the discussion. Not only did they learn more about other countries, but also more about themselves.
Thomas Gotz and Walter Hirche noted that such voluntary programmes are an important part of Germany's cultural relations and education activities. Every volunteer is a representative of their country, they pointed out. Through the work they do, they give people abroad a distinct feel for what Germany is like.
The year 2011 is the European Year of Voluntary Activities Promoting Active Citizenship, which aims to promote such intercultural learning experiences. Over the course of the year a number of events designed to promote similar international volunteer programmes are planned in all EU countries.
The "kulturweit" volunteer programme, launched in 2009, is the Foreign Office's newest cultural relations and education policy initiative. It offers young people between 18 and 26 years the chance to live and work abroad for six or twelve months, gaining first-hand experience of other countries and cultures.
"Kulturweit" volunteers may be posted to Africa, Asia, Latin America or Central and Eastern Europe. Through their involvement in projects run by the programme's partner organizations, they acquire valuable hands-on insight. "kulturweit's" partner organizations offering placements abroad include the German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst - DAAD), the German Archaeological Institute, the German Commission for UNESCO, Deutsche Welle, the Goethe-Institut, the Educational Exchange Service (PÃ¤dagogischer Austauschdienst - PAD), PASCH: Partner Schools for the Future, and the Federal Office of Administration - Central Agency for Schools Abroad.