Youth Exchange

by Wilfried Gundel

In the year after signing the partnership certifcate, one of its main features, meeting each other, was already realized – by the Kreis Arnsberg Jugendamt (youth welfare offce). Willi Odenthal, the one that has “found” West Lothian, started organizing a youth meeting together with the Kreis Arnsberg Kreisjugendpfeger Konrad Garske. The response to the offer to participate was large: about 40 young people registered for the journey. “For a journey into the unknown, in every meaning of the word”, Konrad Garske remembers.

This group of youngsters went to Scotland with the Kreisjugendpfleger Konrad Garske (first row) in 1987. It was the last international youth meeting in West Lothian directed by the Kreisjugendpfleger.

This group of youngsters went to Scotland with the Kreisjugendpfleger Konrad Garske (first row) in 1987. It was the last international youth meeting in West Lothian directed by the Kreisjugendpfleger.

By bus to Rotterdam, by ship to Hull and on by bus to Livingston. This travel system for going and coming back  is being followed since the first journey in 1973. For the first years, John Calder was the most important local contact  person – he also had organized a program for the young visitors. At first, the Sauerland guests were staying in a  farmer school, in the later years in a motor­technology school (Motec) in Livingston.

After the foundation of the Hochsauerlandkreis, Scotland was still a special area of work for the Kreisjugendpfeger Konra Garske, whose offce was in Meschede now. “Garske is Scotland” is what people were saying about him after some years within the administration, among the youth and in  Scotland as well. He continued this work until 1987.

Before the journeys, the youngsters were and are being invited to a preparative meeting. And this was really necessary, most especially in the first years, as Konrad Garske remembers smiling. This was because many youngsters had a wrong image about the destination of the journey: Scotland. That the participants had a completely different image is what came out during the meetings after the journey. These meetings were held on a voluntary basis, but it was always almost all participants coming to see each other there again. And it was really nice to remember the many trips, to talk about the invitation of the Stirling Councillor for food. Or to remember being at the worldwide known Tattoo military music festival in Edinburgh – also this year, when German military musicians entered the arena in the castle together with other “colleagues” for the first time.

All these years were infuenced by the infnite number of events and experiences. But the man from Meschede mostly remembers the journeys in the first years, the many contacts having come to existence. Although there was something that really needed special convincing talent at the beginning: The youngsters to stay in host families, even though it was for one night only.

The annual visit of a group of youngsters from Sauerland in Scotland being a fx part of the program, it still took some years before groups of youngsters from the partner council found their way to Sauerland. Inbetween, the Kreisjugendamt employees had an eye on other constellations already, as even scouts from Meschede travelled to Scotland (to the 10th anni­versary of the partnership). The Wentholthausen St. Georg scouts travelled to Scotland in 1981 for the first time. In 1986, the young scouts even went for a three­week Highland trip – here too, Konrad Garske supported the scouts in planning. And youngsters from the Meschede Kolpingfamilie joined  the travelers at a Kreisjugendamt journey.

This meeting in 1986 with more than 50 young people is one of the special highlights in the book of the impressive meeting history. The Scottish hosts had really suffered to organize an informative and enjoyable program for such a big group of visitors – which culminated in a goodbye party with potato salad and Sauerland sausages. At this occasion, the leaders of the Sauerland group presented a coat of arms plate to John Calder.

Many contacts have developed from these meetings. Some of the (former) young Sauerland participants bring the memories of the Scotland journey back to life in a special way: They contacted the Kreisjugendamt as parents, remembering their great time in and around the Highlands and wanting to regis­ter their children for a journey to Scotland.

And this should be no problem: The Kreisjugendamt still organizes annual youth meeting journeys to West Lothian.

At one Scotland journey, there was a mishap in Rotterdam. After the youngsters and their companions have entered the ship, Konrad Garske, who would normally take care of the quarters of the travelers during the first hours on the ship, went to the deck again an looked back to the port. And there he saw the Sauerland bus that was supposed to be on the ship, too. The journey organizer turned to a mate and then to the captain of the ship, communicating the problem. “I was begging the captain to go back to the landing place.” Finally the captain was convinced and berthed one more time, so that the travelers from Sauerland could welcome their bus with the driver on board.