An entire German high school walks for the children of Jacaranda, inspired by our 2012 volunteer Julia Westendorf

Driven by the enthusiasm, determination and persuasion of Julia Westendorf, who spent one year as a volunteer at Jacaranda, one thousand German high school students from the Albertus-Magnus Gymnasium in the city of Friesoythe, spent an afternoon walking for the children of Jacaranda School, while at the same time raising 17,500 euros to help pay our teachers' salaries and development projects we have on the ground in Malawi. An amazing achievement and the proof, once again, that young people around the world are true agents of change.

"The Jacaranda students taught me a lot"

From August 2011 to August 2012, Julia Westendorf worked at Jacaranda School, thanks to a volunteering program from the German organization GIZ which sends young Germans abroad after they graduate from high school. Together with Luca Vogel, also a German volunteer, Julia took care of our after school clubs, she updated our facebook page and she initiated several projects such as the Easter Fair and income-generating activities with the Jacaranda Business club and a monthly bake sale. A one-year stay in Malawi which profoundly changed Julia:

"Working at Jacaranda made a huge difference in my life", she reflects.
"It was a wonderful year abroad and I fell in love with Malawi. I got to know the culture and met so many interesting people. The Jacaranda students especially taught me a lot. They made me feel comfortable and welcomed wherever I was, at the school or in the village, even if I could not speak Chichewa nor fluent English. We learned a lot from each other. I was really impressed by the Malawian hospitality. But also my work, the organization of the clubs was something totally new for me, and I am happy that Luc Deschamps and Marie Da Silva believed in me and trusted me with so many projects. I think today there is a difference in the way I conduct myself, I am more open towards people, more interested to meet people."

During her stay, Julia realized that one of the main challenges of running a grassroots non-profit organization is to continuously look for funds to cover its running costs, in Jacaranda' case, first and foremost the teachers' salaries. She then thought of contacting Mr Schimschal, the teacher in charge of the 'sponsor run' which takes place once a year at her former high school called Albertus-Magnus Gymnasium, in the town of Friesoythe in the region of Lower Saxony in the North Western part of Germany. "I told my teacher everything I knew about Jacaranda, my passion and my love for Jacaranda. He then talked to the students board, who is organizing the 'sponsorrun' every year and in March I got the great news that they wanted to support Jacaranda! Luca and I prepared a German portfolio with information and pictures which we sent to my school. The following months, I kept Mr. Schimschal updated about my work. And I wrote an article for the local newspaper in my hometown of Friesoythe, so that everyone would hear about Jacaranda before the 'sponsorrun' in November. Then before I left Malawi, Luca and I made a video about the school, about the students and their living conditions and about my role at the school and my life in Malawi."

From youth in Germany to youth in Malawi

Back in Germany, Julia and Luca did several two-hour presentations at Julia's school in order to reach all the students. When the sponsor run took place on a very cold November 14, one thousand students and eighty teachers walked 10 km. A sports class ran for 15km and the cycling team covered 30km. All the students had been encouraged to look for sponsors for this special day and they had asked their relatives and friends to contribute. Some students even went door to door in their neighborhood to ask for donations. Then on the 21st of December, during the Christmas school assembly, the students surprised Julia at the school and Marie Da Silva and Luc Deschamps, the founder and director of Jacaranda, via skype, with a cheque of 17,522 euro, one of the highest amounts raised by the 'sponsor run'.

"Thank you so, so much", Marie told the German students. "We are in disbelief. This donation will be of such help at our school in Malawi, where every euro goes a long way. You are making a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of orphan children. " Luc Deschamps invited the students to follow Julia's example and travel to Malawi to meet the children they were helping. "From you, the youth in Germany, to the youth in Malawi, this movement you have created makes so much sense. Thank you to Julia who has showed how much impact a volunteer can have both on the ground in Malawi and then back home, after spreading the word about our students' skills and talents and their will to stay in school all the way to college."

Julia Westendorf and students from the German high school 'Albert Magnus Gymnasium', holding the check made to Jacaranda
Julia with Jacaranda school girls
Students walking for Jacaranda in the city of Friesoythe, in the North Western part of Germany.
Click on the article to read it... in German!