Exchange of specialists

In order to exchange ideas, share challenges, learn from each other and find concrete ways forward, we organise an exchange of specialists.

The aim of the programme was to introduce German experts to South African organisations and their staff. They also had the opportunity to meet other people involved in youth work, health care and inclusive education.

During various project visits, seminars and participation in small working groups, the German as well as the South African colleagues got to know the context and the conditions of the respective everyday work. At the end of the programme the participants worked out possibilities for future cooperation or partnerships.

An exchange of experts with the focus on “Participation of people with mental and multiple disabilities” took place in summer 2007 between the Cape Mental Health Society and Berliner Lebenshilfe.

In November 2006, representatives of South African disability organisations paid another visit to Berlin. During the 2-week visit of Ingrid Daniels, representative of the Cape Mental Health Society, and Mike Toni from Disabled People South Africa, the improvement of the employment situation of people with disabilities was intensively discussed.

The visits and discussions with experts from the Integration Office, the Employment Agency, various integration companies, but also political representatives for the interests of disabled people were increasingly guided by the intention to bring the experiences into the political discussion in South Africa.

With the opening of the first integration company in South Africa, planned by the Cape Mental Health Society at the beginning of 2007, a practical model project will be created. The aim of this project is to promote a broader discussion on the implementation of the Employment Equality Act.

At the end of August 2002, a delegation of 5 people visited Berlin at the invitation of the Paritätische Wohlfahrtsverband, Berliner Lebenshilfe e.V., Mosaik-Services Integrationsgesellschaft and Nordberliner Werkgemeinschaft, Berlin. The delegation was looked after by Mr. Donald Vogel and Ms. Kathrin Lindstaedt, both employees of the specialist co-ordination office.

The programme included visits to facilities run by the Berlin Disabled People’s Aid Association, workshops for the disabled, special and integration schools, a visit to a workshop project on a farm, Mosaik GmbH in Kuhhorst, and a working meeting at INTEGRA, a company in the life sciences sector. The two managing directors Karl Bubenheimer and Berndt Maier welcomed the guests from South Africa and explained the production branches of the company. The main focus was on questions of financing and the organisation of integration companies. Mr Bubenheimer reported that there is a network of Berlin integration companies as well as a network of German and European integration companies. The round of talks was concluded by a tour of the company to give the guests an insight into the practical work of the employees.

The focus of the exchange of skilled workers in Berlin was on workshops and integration companies, as well as on inclusion in day-care centres and schools. The supporting programme also included contributions on the participating organisations’ experiences with international development cooperation.

This was followed in November 2002 by a visit by Donald Vogel, the coordinator for the Social Pediatric Centres in Berlin, to an international conference in Cape Town. Close contact was established with the Cape Mental Health Society, which operates around twelve facilities for people with intellectual disabilities in the greater area of the South African metropolis. Despite the different social conditions and the physical distance, many similarities between the Cape Mental Health Society and Berlin institutions for people with disabilities soon became apparent.

Furthermore, in autumn 2002, two caregivers from Cape Town completed an internship at the facility for people with disabilities in St. Martin, Düngenheim. The contacts developed very intensively and promisingly through the meanwhile third measure of this kind. All participants expressed their support for future cooperation and mutual support.

The German-South African exchange project “Learning from each other”, which was already running in 2000, was continued in 2001. Two carers from the Cape Mental Health Society in Cape Town stayed for three weeks in an institution in Germany to learn about their own subject with and from colleagues and to exchange ideas.

In 1999, the German Youth Hostel Association, the Cape Mental Health Society disabled facility and the St. Martin residential and nursing home in Düngenheim came together for this specialist programme. The three organisations saw the joint development of the programme as an opportunity to break new ground and provide the participants with a wide range of different specialist information and human contacts.

Having already got to know the St. Martin facility last year, the two South African caregivers were now interested in working independently with the disabled and spending leisure time with them in the handicapped accessible youth hostel in Oberwesel. This stay was rated as particularly valuable. Here the two South African women gained new insights and inspiration for their work in South Africa.

In addition, a technical discussion took place with the chairman of the German Youth Hostel Association Rhineland-Palatinate/Saarland, Detlef Bojak. He informed about the work with groups of disabled people and general work with people with disabilities in Germany.
In the final report of the expert programme, the mutual enrichment and the exchange of specialist knowledge, methods and experience were acknowledged. The basic aim of “learning from each other” had thus been fully achieved.

In the summer of 2000, an inter-agency technical programme was held for the first time. This took the form of an exchange of experts between different institutions. Together with various youth and care institutions, the German Youth Hostel Association initiated a nine-day exchange programme between the Cape Mental Health Society in Cape Town and the St. Martin Education and Care Home in Düngenheim. During the programme, the five staff members of the Cape Mental Health Society received information on how care for people with disabilities is organised in Germany.

“I take a lot of ideas back to South Africa with me,” said a participant from Cape Town at the end of the nine-day specialist programme. And that is what the five of them had hoped for. The participants wanted to get to know different structures and new ways of helping people with disabilities in Germany in order to integrate them into their own work in South Africa. They had the opportunity to do so primarily at the St. Martin residential and nursing home in Düngeheim, where the women were given an insight into the various facilities and how to deal with people.

The programme also included a tour of the Oberwesel Youth Hostel, which is suitable for disabled people and which met with great interest among the South African women. Here, methods and work steps were discussed and experiences exchanged from colleague to colleague. At the same time the youth travel organisation transfer e.V. organised a cultural programme for our participants, which also included a summer party in Königswinter. At the summer party additional donations were collected by the Cape Mental Health Society.
The German organisers and sponsors of the professional programme – the German Youth Welfare Organisation, transfer e.V., St. Martin Educational and Nursing Home and Child and Youth Services St. Hildegardishaus – see this professional programme as an opportunity to explore new paths together and to provide future participants* with a wide range of professional information and human contacts, as well as to create a long-term exchange.

The cooperation partners are planning the further procedure of future exchanges on the common path in the care of the disabled: “It is planned to invite one or two South African carers to spend two to three weeks in St. Martin as an observer. They will be deployed in one of the following fields of work: school, workshop or day care centre. The carers and guest students plan and organise a youth hostel stay in Oberwesel together with a disabled group. For 2001, a German carer is then to visit the South African facility as an intern,” reveals a staff member.

We are pleased about the positive success of this first exchange of experts and look forward to future cooperation.