Chapter 01
Chapter 02
Chapter 03
Chapter 04
Chapter 05
Chapter 06
Chapter 07
Claus Oellerking Joy Tushabe Yonah Matsitsi


My name is Claus Oellerking, I am 64 years old and active as a senior expert. I always refer to the Senior Expert Service rather derogatively: it is a way of occupying professionals who have been put out to grass. Generally it gives people who have an expertise such as engineers, doctors teachers or caterers the opportunity to share their knowledge with others both in Germany and worldwide. It is a foundation which is called the 'Senior Expert Service'. It is based in Bonn and is supported financially by different ministries. It invites older experts to pass on their expertise, knowledge and professional know-how.

I used to be in charge of a vocational school and over time I got to know different organisations. SES is also active within Germany and looks after the interests of young trainees who are experiencing difficulties with their vocational training. That was how I got to know SES; the project is called VERA (roughly translated means prevention of dropping out of training). We used this service when young people's training was at risk. Then I noticed that SES also does something completely different, they look to see where expertise is needed worldwide and send people who match those needs to those places.

My first assignment was in 2015 to a vocational school in the town Waisai in the far east of Indonesia. They wanted to introduce something similar to the German dual system; that is school and work experience. They would have liked to have achieved that in seven weeks which was rather an excessive demand. We connected local firms to the vocational school to lay the foundations of structures which could be used in the long term and established cooperations between the vocational school and companies. In the following year I was in Uganda for the first time and now I have been there four times. The SES also supports projects in other countries such as in Latin America and Asia. They bear the costs of the flight, insurance and things like that while the host who invites you makes sure you have somewhere to sleep, something to eat and bears the costs of transport locally.

I always travel to the same place namely to Kasese which is a town in the south west of Uganda. It lies at the foot of the 'mountains of the moon' as the Rwenzori mountains are called. I was there for the first time in 2016. I was invited by a group of young men who wanted to do something for youngsters without any school leaving certificates. There are very many of them in Uganda, especially young women who often do not carry on going to school once their menstruation starts because there are no sanitary products such as towels or tampons. That means it is obvious when they have their periods. That leads them not to attend school and at the age of 12 or 13 they often drop out of school. Young men also drop out of school but for different reasons; they have to work or their parents cannot afford their school fees - or if school is free which basically is for state schools - they have to buy school uniform and books as well as having to pay for lunch. Those parents who cannot pay that send their children to work on the fields or elsewhere. Rufi wanted to prevent that and so they invited someone to help them find ideas, to create an action plan and to see how this could be implemented.

Rufi has existed since 2017 and trains young women as dressmakers; that was not an easy undertaking because in general the women were not able to pay for the training. Who should pay? How can such a project be financed? This is a process that takes time, fiddling around to find out how to do it. How can something develop from one's one efforts. And then we started, I say we, yes they started to sew school uniforms. The first contract, however, was fulfilled but not paid for. Then we learnt that a deposit has to be paid in advance and the remaining sum on completion. That was a learning process which continued. A great deal can be achieved through donations. There used to be a project in Germany for the unemployed which was called an 'I-company' where you could go to the unemployment office and say that you had an idea and a business plan and then the unemployment office gave you a certain sum of money monthly for a certain length of time so that you did not need to have any worries about your rent or the costs of your daily needs. I used this model for Rufi and collected budget funds for Rufi for one year. That was 300 € a month which is 3,600 € for a year. They then had one year without any worries and so they could do their planning. They tried to make jewellery which was made out of bottle tops covered with the same material to match a piece of clothing. They were not very successful with that until they had the idea of making baskets. There are baskets like these in Uganda. A lot of us have the image of women carrying baskets on their heads to transport a variety of products. These baskets are generally made out of natural materials and are extremely heavy. A basket with its contents usually weighs several kilos. And the baskets which are now gaining popularity in Uganda are made of synthetic materials which are woven. They look a bit like the synthetic strips that we use to tie up parcels. Baskets in all different colours can be produced using these strips; in different sizes, stable, extremely stable. They can be sold locally and the cost of production can partially be covered.

What did I learn? To see how much you can achieve with very little. And to see how much you can create with only a few resources and a large amount of fantasy. I think that is also possible in Schwerin and elsewhere. To have an idea and just say 'Get going, do it ' and then not really getting it off the ground and doing anything - that does not get you anywhere. But when you do it something happens. I see that monthly with Rufi. We are in close touch with each other and talk to each other once a week. This is a great lesson I have learned. Also to get up again if you fall down. Even when there is a drought or flooding, they have them every other year like we had in Ahrtal along with many deaths and villages that have been washed away. What counts is to get up and continue, to search for what I can do better, or where the land is safer. And then look to see what you can achieve.

The next time I go to Uganda, to Kasese, there are two important issues we have to deal with. The first one is to really complete the training centre. One is currently being built, by the way with recycled plastic bottles which are used as 'bricks'. This should take up its work in the near future. I do not physically help in a 'hands on' way but assist with the planning. The second absolutely important topic is sustainability; sustainability in the sense of how can Rufi survive without external funding. That must be the target and we will continue to work on that.

transcript by Claus Oellerking