After 11 years of organising South-North Volunteer Services, we as an association have decided to end the program with the 2022/23 group of volunteers completing their voluntary service, i.e. on 01/09/2023. 

Before we explain how this decision came about, we would like to briefly look back on the past 11 years.

Our flight path of the last 11 years

We have organized on a voluntary basis and later with the support of a mini-job position ten generations of volunteers with a total of 52 South-North volunteers. We have accompanied the volunteers and also their host families and work places with seminars and personally in the respective cities.
For all this we would like to thank all our companions from the bottom of our hearts – first of all for the very good cooperation with the partner organizations Ts’ununetik (Mexico), Beyond Nepal, VSO (Uganda), Aves de Paso (Ecuador) and Esperance (Rwanda). We would like to express our gratitude to all volunteers, work places and host families, without whom the volunteer program would not have been possible. We are also grateful for the big support of the people who have taken some of the bureaucratic work off our hands over the years with the mini-job position. And last but not least, a big thank you to all the Zugvögel everywhere whose dedication got the volunteer program off the ground and kept it going for 11 years.

We have been flying with two wings since 2016, which together form our work: In addition to organising volunteer services, we are politically active. In the last 11 years, we have carried out various smaller and larger actions on our association’s topics of freedom of movement, global power inequalities and colonial continuities, such as lecture series, film evenings and street performances, (postcolonial) city tours, radio contributions, school-based educational work and sticker activism, panel discussions and “political party-checks” for federal and European elections.

We started the volunteer program on a donation basis. Since the launch of the weltwärts South-North program in 2013, we have been conducting volunteer service in a weltwärts context. In doing so, we have brought our own critical perspective to the volunteer service and have tried to question and to some extent break down the power contexts that this program entails.

Why are we changing course?

That we are now ending the South-North volunteer program is for a number of reasons. A volunteer service program involves a great deal of bureaucracy. Organizing it almost exclusively on a voluntary basis has always been a heavy burden for those primarily responsible. Declining membership – possibly caused or exacerbated by the “Corona-hole” (fewer event opportunities, fewer outgoing and returning North-South volunteers and thus fewer return seminars to promote us there, etc.) – have now brought us to an unsustainable limit: general fatigue, limited energies and far too much work on too few shoulders. Therefore we have decided to use our energies in a different way and to explore new routes.

Besides the internal reasons, the weltwärts program is also responsible for the fact that we cannot continue the volunteer service. A much too small budget requires a lot of voluntary work for a good implementation and support. The arbitrary, hesitant, costly and unreliable issuing of visas hinders the program enormously. It leads to great uncertainties and delays the progress of the program. Extensive accounting and other bureaucratic hurdles in the cooperation with various actors (BAFza and BFD; BMZ, Engagement Global and weltwärts) also take up a lot of time and energy, which we then lack in the good accompaniment of the volunteers, which is essential for the program, and for political and social engagement. In addition, we have observed that for years it has become increasingly difficult to find host families – in this wake, it is difficult with the weltwärts budget to finance an adequate home, such as a room in a shared appartment.

In addition, at the beginning of our work, the implementation of South-North volunteer services was something innovative that hardly existed until then and that was missing in the weltwärts context. Now, South-North volunteer programs, while still underrepresented in numbers, are much more widespread among weltwärts organizations and beyond. We see that certain goals have now been achieved. But to change the structures in which we live and operate, which are riddled with global power imbalances, we need other means.

We have come to realize that the path to realizing our utopia no longer lies in the weltwärts volunteer program, with which we have repeatedly struggled over the years. We have always been critical of the weltwärts program in some respects and now that the volunteer service is no longer feasible for us for the reasons described above, we do not want to stick to the program at any cost.

Where are we heading now?

The Zugvögel are characterized by the implementation of voluntary services. Working with (young) people across borders is and remains a project close to our hearts. We would like to continue to contribute our experience in the field of voluntary services. Furthermore, we have always been politically and socially engaged, which we can and want to continue on our new path. Educational work will continue to make up a large part of our work. We also want to continue networking. The topics of partnership in the context of global power inequalities, global freedom of movement, and colonial continuities will continue to play an important role in our work.

We are motivated to find new ways to realize our self-image. Do you feel like joining us? We are always happy to welcome new Zugvögel chicks – just write us a message on the channel of your choice (contact form, Instagram) and join us!