It was only the second time that I had met with my fellow Youth Ambassadors but I was filled with excitement, and even looking back today, I’m amazed at how every event, encounter, and conservation sticks in my head.
The day started off well as everyone was updated on the new and exciting developments of The Eyes Campaign. Our aim is to collect as many signatures as possible to show the next German government that extreme poverty is a topic the voters care about. As well as that, we wanted to make sure that the government implemented effective development policy which would have long-term effects. We were all keen to get going and learn about what we still needed to do until the elections.
My fellow Youth Ambassadors and I mainly focus on campaigning and advocacy, and although we don’t have professional experience, we’ve proven that we can still organize great events and campaign effectively. This was echoed by Julius van der Laar who having previously worked for Obama’s campaigning team during the last election, gave a great presentation on how we can be even more effective at campaigning.
After the inspirational talks and meetings, we got down to business. Cem Özdemir (leader of the Green Party) welcomed us in his Berlin office. After a great meeting, we deployed to meet key MPs from different political parties. In the afternoon, we gathered again at the Development Ministry to meet with Dirk Niebel, who is currently the residing minister, to discuss why the work ONE is doing is so important. This was such an important moment for me since ONE’s work is all about development and talking to the minister I felt like I was right at the source.
As most of us had already had meetings with the different MPs over the past weeks and months, I got the impression that we had become sort of used to it. This does not mean that these meetings are not exiting – on the contrary. As a Youth Ambassador I can talk to our legislators about a topic that matters to me, to the other supporters of ONE and probably even more people: the fight against extreme poverty. I appreciate the meetings I have with the legislators as my voice is being heard. And every time I realize: we all want the same thing. We just disagree on how to get there.
During the later panel debate this became more and more obvious. Melinda Gates, who travels a lot to Africa due to her work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, opened the evening with personal stories about her experiences in Africa, especially from her recent journey to Senegal. She talked about what difference German aid had made in Africa and how Germany supports Africa throughout its own development. Mrs. Gates was truly inspiring and also talked about how progress needed to continue. During the debate it became clear that the political parties represented in the debate also cared about the progress of development. Even though each party took a stand and outlined its plans for Germany’s involvement in Africa’s development, one question stuck in my mind. Why are politicians arguing about these issues? We are all on the same page.
Thursday had gone brilliantly, and the big ONE stunt
on Friday took place in front of the Reichstag. For us, this meant to get up early in order to help set up the artistic installation together with Ólafur Elíasson. 140 pairs of eyes in total, printed on big folded aluminum panes, had to be set up, which meant a lot of walking across the slightly damp lawn in front of the parliament. But it was definitely worth it! And those who passed the building that day could see the installation in beautiful sunlight. True to its theme “Ich schaue hin!” (I am looking at it / watching), all 140 eyes looked at the Bundestag to show: we are observing closely what the government does to fight extreme poverty.
The stunt was accompanied by several celebrities: and as well as Melinda Gates, Ivy Quianoo and Ólafur Elíasson, important politicians joined us. The president of the parliament Dr. Norbert Lammert and other MPs gave short statements about what they will watch / look at regarding development policy in the future.
Between the set-up and the stunt itself, we got to enjoy another highlight: breakfast in the atelier of Ólafur Elíasson with Melinda Gates. I was one of the lucky Youth Ambassadors that got to sit right next to her and have a little chat. I thought it was impressive that somebody like her, whose life has been shaped by wealth so strongly, was still so dedicated to the well-being of those who are in need of help. I really got the feeling she was someone who is very interested in others. She wanted to know as much as possible about who we, the Youth Ambassadors, are, why we were campaigning for the poorest in the world, and what we are planning to do about it. She told us about how she approaches the topic with her family and especially her children. And she asked us what impression we had of the politicians in regards to development policy. Unfortunately, like most of the days with ONE, the schedule was tight and we had to end our conversation even though we would have found a lot more to talk about.