Obakeng and Londeka own image

19 May 2021 – That’s the day when we first read about the weltwärts volunteering programme. Weltwärts literally means ‘towards the world’. It is a programme which aims at connecting the Global South and North, fosters partnerships and learning across the world. Weltwärts has many supporters: The programme is a joint venture of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the associated non-profit limited organisation Engagement Global and civil society. 

Since that day, 19 May 2021, Democracy International has found its way through a lot of red tape, has held 10 selection interviews together with our partner organisation in South Africa, CIVICUS, and after more than one year has finally been able to welcome our two great volunteers who’ll shore up Democracy International’s work for the next 12 months in September 2022. Apart from their project work, Londeka Mgwaba and Obakeng Kamela will share their adventures in Germany in regular blogposts. Curious about their first impressions of Germany? Simply follow their arrival to Cologne below.

My name is Londeka Mgwaba and I come from a relatively small town in South Africa called Pietermaritzburg. I was born and bred there and know very little outside of its borders. This didn’t make me any less curious about what else was out there though, what else the world had to offer me. 

This curiosity coupled with an interest politics, mainly democratic politics, I jumped at the opportunity to study furthest University I could find. There I completed a Bachelor of Arts where I majored in International Relations and Political Studies. 
It was a while before I was able to really come into my own in this industry and during that time I took an interest in volunteering. This ranged from volunteering in schools to anything that had to do with civil society. I quickly grew an interest in civil society.

The opportunity to volunteer under the Welwärts programme seemed like the perfect opportunity fulfill all my passions. Joining Democracy International has fulfilled a yearning that has been within me for longer than I can remember. And the fact that this opportunity arose half way across the globe, in the beautiful Country of Germany, literally blew my expectation meter out the water! 

Moving to Köln has been an experience of a lifetime! Right from the moment we almost missed our flight and were certain we were never going to make it. Thank goodness for the kind elderly couple in the front of the immigration line that sympathised with the deep desperation in our eyes! 
Everyday I am growing to love the city and the intimacy it exerts. From the small coffee shops, beautiful restaurants and random displays of books or artistic work that always successful add a personal touch.


There's been a lot to consume over the few days since I've been in Germany, mostly pleasant experiences and a lot of culture shocks. 

My name is Obakeng Kamela and I am from South Africa. I define myself as a Afro, Gender and Queer Activist and I'll be joining Democracy International's team as a volunteer for the next twelve months. 

One thing I've observed about Germany is that, they love their walking, and cycling. They do so much of it. Back at home I usually take just over six thousand steps a day, OK yes I don't like walking but even my fitness watch must have been shocked when I clocked something over twenty thousand steps in one day! This came as a result of getting terribly lost on our way home, which happens more often than we would like to admit, I am amazed that I am still standing. 

My first few days have been blissful, it's been one great big adventure. 

On a more serious note, I have really appreciated the respect for public property, how Germans generally keep their cities clean and dispose waste properly, something many cities even back at home struggle with. 

There is also a benefit to the German active lifestyle, it is definitely doing wonders for my waistline. We all could do with some more walking, cycling and using shared forms of travel, God knows the environment needs a break from all the polluting we do. 

I hope I have made a dent on this Journey of a MILLION STEPS, can't wait to experience more.