Our first steps

In 2013, a group of friends in South Africa had an idea to run a youth camp to bring young people from different backgrounds together, overcome prejudices and reduce racism. The Bridges Camps create a platform for young people from different backgrounds to come together and lower their prejudices through interpersonal contact. To finance their first camp, the team was literally standing at traffic lights, begging for money and at petrol stations, washing windscreens to raise donations. After the camp turned out to be a huge success, they were even more motivated to continue their work. They organised and grew the project under the umbrella of the Itsoseng Clinic, the psychological clinic of the University of Pretoria.

“Most young people in South Africa would agree that racism is still a huge problem and believe that only the younger generations have a chance to change this. But we have asked ourselves the question, how young people are supposed to do that when we raise them with the very same prejudices and they hardly have any contact to other groups on top of that. We wanted to create a platform, where teenagers have a chance to engage.” – Juliane Hoss

Registration of the German organisation

The youth camps were led by a team of young people from Germany and South Africa. Over the years, the German team members became more aware of the power structures, discrimination and in particular racism in their own society. Consequently, in May 2015, the team in Germany registered the organisation; they worked closely with the volunteers in South Africa and were able to secure funding for their projects. It is a fundamental belief of the organisation that racism is a global phenomenon, which seems to be difficult to realise and accept for people, who are not directly affected or even benefit from it.

Continuous growth

Since then, two teams are active in both countries to create more consciousness for different forms of injustices. Increasingly more young people on both sides joined the organisation as they could identify with its vision and founded regional groups in different cities. The teams expanded their projects and started offering workshops, anti-racism trainings and camps for university students as well as exhibitions and events to reach the broader public.

In 2017, they secured more significant funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and started the first youth exchange between Germany and South Africa. The size of the project as well as close collaboration between the German and South African team helped to build capacity in both countries and identify future goals for Bridging Gaps. All volunteers engaged in the project were motivated to continue their work with the teenagers, grow the projects and establish two prosperous organisations in both countries.

 

Registration of the South African organisation

As part of the youth exchange, the team registered a non-profit organisation in 2018 to formalise and professionalise the structures, expand its work and increase its impact in South Africa. This was also an important step to work towards more independence from the German sister organisation while maintaining a close collaboration. The team selected the name K2018204975 with the intention to rename and rebrand the organisation as a standalone unit in South Africa in the near future. Until then, the organisation shares the name, the logo and letterhead with the German part.

The three founding members, Zakhele Nkosi, Botlhale Kungwane and Juliane Hoss managed the operations of K2018204975 in the first year. They organised three planning weekends and multiple meetings to include the organising teams of the different projects and the supervisors at the youth camp. In the first session, the team identified its vision, mission, objective, organisational structure, stakeholder engagement and brainstormed project ideas. The second session helped to clarify the values and ways of working. After that, the team prioritised projects, wrote a year plan and recalibrated ways of working.

Future Goals

We want to continue and expand our existing projects in the coming years. It is particularly important to give our younger team members and previous participants the opportunity to contribute to the projects and through this, grow our organisation’s capacity internally. We also want to remunerate all our members for their hard work to alleviate their harsh reality of high levels of youth unemployment in South Africa. 

An important focus of our ongoing engagement is the educational support for the teenagers in our projects. We aim to grow our educational wing and offer more mentoring to achieve academic success and personal growth.

We are currently developing plans and projects to assist young people in bridging the gap after matric and the working environment or tertiary education. The so-called “Growth Year” project will target the older teenagers in our “Growh Path” and enable a successful transition into adulthood. A huge goal for the future of the organisation is to support some of the teenagers to further their education after high school and attend university.

“I want to see the camps growing and moving all over South Africa. My dream would come true, if we could reach even more teenagers and integrate more social groups. Being the leader of the team is amazing but also a huge challenges. Bridges Camp means a lot to me.” Morongoa Masemola was leading the project Bridges Camp from June 2016 until October 2017

 

The organisation has received several awards:

The project Bridges Camp was praised as a “best-practice project for international solidarity” at the annual meeting of the Baden-Württemberg foundation in November 2015. The Baden-Württemberg foundation aims at creating a province that is vital and worthwhile to live in and want to contribute to a responsible interaction with all individuals. 

In September 2016, Juliane Hoss has received the honor award of the foundation Filippas Angels” for her role in the organisation Bridging Gaps. The foundation awards young European citizens that show a sustainable and extraordinary social engagement.

In November 2016, Bridging Gaps won the changemaker prize of the “Karl Kübel foundation” in the category “intercultural togetherness”. The prize is awarded to young people that are active in the field of developmental politics and aim at bringing change in their own society as well as in this globalised world.

Bridging Gaps is one of five finalists of the engagement prize of the German national scholar foundation in 2017. This prize is awarded to projects that address a severe societal need and are implemented in a sustainable way since 2014.