Bodelschwingh-Gymnasium Herchen: Let us understand each other’s language!

Bodelschwingh-Gymnasium Herchen: Let us understand each other’s language!

written by Wilhelm Neef, Kreuztal (Germany), 26.01.2017

That’s it – we’re broken down. Transmission failure, in the middle of nowhere, in the rain forest of Cameroon on a muddy earth road far from “civilisation”. But obviously, we’re also just arrived, arrived in Africa. Our group of students from Bodelschwingh-Gymnasium Herchen (Germany) takes it easy. We take the guitar, sit down on the road and wait. The atmosphere – monkeys calling, uncountable insects chirping, the different smells, the starry sky – everything is impressing, but not frightening. For me, having lived and worked here for two years as development aid worker of the DED, this situation is not new. But I’m surprised  – and happy! – about my students taking it that easy. Some time, a taxi arrives. It is ful, but the driver promises to send other taxis from the next village. One of the taxis that arrive later is carrying a dead monkey in its luggage space. That’s going a bit too far. In this case, we prefer taking our luggage on our laps.

In 1991, students and teachers from Bodelschwingh-Gymnasium Herchen (BGH; run by the Evangelical Church in Rhineland) went for the first time to Cameroon for an exchange and work project. It was the first of 14 projects which existed since then. In the beginning, besides our school the Presbyterian High School (PHS) Besongabang (where I was active as development aid worker) was involved to the program. Even people who decide consciously to meet and get involved with one another sometimes cannot avoid misunderstandings and prejudices. But without knowing why, this became easier over time. Since then, altogether about 400 people from Germany and the Netherlands and the same number of people from Cameroon came together in Cameroon and are until now impressed by their experiences there. On the camp of our partner school, the Presbyterian High School (PHS) Besongabang, run by the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon), we live and work together with students and teachers of the PHS and the so-called “Contact group”. The aim of the “Partnership Work Project” (PWP) is to bring young people from Europe and Africa closer together. The motto is “Let us understand each other’s language”.

For the exchanges, it is important to have a project which is accepted by all participants (e.g., the big subterranean reservoir of water for the hospital near the PHS). When working together, people come closer to each other on a simple and natural way, communication is easy at first. Other elements are also important and worth to be mentioned, like the fact that the students decide by themselves who will be going to Cameroon or that we implement little activities in the whole school (like the 5-Euro-Activity; every student gets 5 Euro and has six weeks to raise the amount on any creative way – or just give the 5 Euro back).

In the framework of schools500reformation, we are now partner of the Presbyterian School of Science and Technology Bafut (PSST Bafut). Together with them, we want to continue our series of musicals (the south-american musical Sarafina at the beginning, followed by two self-made musicals about a love story with a strong socio-critical message). We hope that we will be able to present some parts of that to all of you in June 2017 in Wittenberg.


The project team thanks Mr Wilhelm Neef for sending the text and pictures.