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Germany is different . 2010

Selfhelp Manenberg was well established in Cape Town serving on many forums and it was a great development becoming partners with Welthaus Aachen. Birgitta the director of Welthaus Aachen invited me to come and visit the Welthaus and see the projects in Germany. This was my first time going to another country and I was the first one in my family that was going to another country.

I found it strange on my first day in Germany that the sun was shining and there were no clouds in the sky but I was getting so cold and the temperature was only 6 degrees!

My visit to Welthaus Aachen was very interesting because of the diversity of the partners and the way they work together. The longer that I was engaging with the partners and visitors to the Welthaus I later realised that many of the Germans had one child or no children which was strange for where I come from.

My first excursion was going into the forest visiting a bee keeping project. This was the first time that I got so close to a bee hive and fortunately I was not sting. Our group later had a braai in the forest and I had to use a knife and fork to eat braai, here in South Africa we eat braai with our hands.

Walking a lot and riding the train seemed part of the German culture and I had to get used to it because back at home I did not walk so much and almost never took a train because it is dangerous in South Africa.

The Spielhaus was a project that really opened my eyes to how you should really try to have an understanding of children and that a space was created with small furniture and equipment for children. I later started a Speelhuis Project in Manenberg.

My second visit to Germany was in the summer and I found it strange that early in the morning it looked like the middle of the day and that the sun would set at 10pm in the evening.

We visited the Castle of Hoensbroek in the Netherlands and it was very interesting to see how people lived a few hundred years ago and that the queen had her own bedroom and the king had his own bedroom. The queen had 21 children that time and nowadays many people have only one or no children.

Sabine Verheyen took us to the European Parliament in Brussels – and it was a great experience to have visited and to have gotten a greater understanding about how politics works, voting was done and the role of the lobbyists. The strange thing about Brussels was that chocolate was displayed like expensive jewellery in stores. I was told that the Belgians invented the fries which are almost like our “French”-fries, but the waffles were the best.

My overall experience was that it was a complete different culture with a rich history; the weather was strange and mostly cold. The people that I engaged with were friendly. People were conscious about the environment and crime was minimal. I felt safe in Germany but realised I had to go back to Manenberg, where crime and violence was part of the daily life.

William Williams

I have over 25 years experience in the development field in South Africa, from volunteer and mental health counsellor to management and leadership positions in diverse community-based organisations. I was the previous director of Selfhelp Manenberg and am the current director of Empilweni in Khayelitsha.

„For me the Aachen Cape Town Partnership was a bridge between continents, races and cultures which resulted in learning, memories and relationships“