Photo (top): Members of the Justice Portfolio Committee of the Bavarian Parliament in Germany recently visited Bergzicht Training and Development to learn more about what the NGO is doing to empower poor, disadvantaged South Africans, in particular women. Here Mr  Jürgen W. Heike (far left) and Ms Petra L. Guttenberger of the Justice Portfolio Committee of the Bavarian Parliament chat to Ms Catherine-Ann Carolus, one of the iPOWER (Self-Empowering) Foundation Programme facilitators. (Lynne Rippenaar-Moses)

In the last two months, Bergzicht Training and Development has not had one, but two visits from government representatives of the Bavarian region in Germany on a mission to learn more about the work that the organisation is doing to empower disadvantaged individuals in South Africa.

The delegation, which visited the Stellenbosch campus on 22 March, consisted of six members of the Justice Portfolio Committee of the Bavarian Parliament as well as the new German Consul General in Cape Town, Mr Matthias Hansen, and Ms Marlene Barnard, Project Officer at the Cape Town office of the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF). The HSF is one of Bergzicht Training and Development’s longstanding donors and has supported the NGO since it first opened its doors in 1992.

The parliamentarians, who were hosted by the HSF, included Mr Thomas Kreuzer, Ms  Mechthilde Wittmann, Ms Petra L. Guttenberger, Mr  Jürgen W. Heike, Dr Franz Rieger and Ms Susanne Weidinger.

“The parliamentarians were visiting the Western Cape in an effort to learn more about the development of South Africa’s democracy as well as the rule of law and also spoke to law professors such as Prof Pierre de Vos from the University of Cape Town and Prof Erwin Schwella from the School of Public Leadership at Stellenbosch University. Consequently, they were also interested in South Africa’s vibrant civil society, which is crucial for a democratic society,” explained Barnard.

“Through hands-on training that meets the needs of the local economy Bergzicht Training and Development has enabled trainees to find permanent jobs to support themselves and their families. On another level – as most trainees are women – the organisation contributes to the empowerment of women in South Africa and in this way contributes to the overall democratic development of the country,” added Barnard.

The delegation was very impressed by the fact that Bergzicht Training and Development has trained more than
10 000 students over the years, of which over 75% found permanent jobs.

“The visit was very inspiring as it shows what a positive impact grassroot-level projects such as Bergzicht Training and Development can have on the economic progress and the development of a more equitable and just society,” said Mr Hansen.

According to Bergzicht Training and Development’s CEO, Ms Renske Minnaar, these visits are important because it allows the organisation to share its home grown expertise on building a sustainable model that empowers poor, disadvantaged South Africans through skills training but also connects students to employment opportunities upon graduation.

“We learn a lot from these visits through the questions posed to us about our selection processes, our programmes and the structure of our training and placement model. It also opens up the door for us to build international partnerships where we are able to share our knowledge but gain new insights too.”

Photo (above): Dr Franz Rieger (far left) and Mr Matthias Hansen, the German Consul General in Cape Town, and Ms Marlene Barnard from the Hanns Seidel Foundation shares a joke with some of the students in class during their tour of the campus on the day. (Lynne Rippenaar-Moses)