“It was an opportunity to see things from a different perspective and learn from one another.”

Julian Schwab comes from Fulda, a district in Germany. He’s been a volunteer fireman for several years. In our interview, Julian tells us about discovering new perspectives and the hospitality he experienced during his Team works! assignment as a young expert in Kenya.

Julian Schwab

Julian Schwab, born 1995, from Fulda, Germany. Volunteer fireman with the Gersfeld/Rhön fire service.

The interview

What organisation did you volunteer with and what were your main tasks?

Julian: My assignment was in November 2021 with Kilifi County Fire & Rescue Service in Kenya. I helped deliver breathing apparatus training, including how to use portable pumps. We worked on training tasks together, discussed problems raised by our Kenyan colleagues and developed solutions for areas that didn’t seem problematic to us initially. It was an opportunity to see things from a different perspective and learn from one another.

What did you learn during your assignment - be it from your colleagues, line managers or other people?

Julian: My assignment in Kenya was a really interesting experience. I grew considerably both as a person and professionally - through discussions with my tandem partner, my colleagues in Kenya and other firefighters. I was introduced to different equipment to the things we usually use back home and I saw different tactics too, which I’d like to try out at our station. On top of that, I was impressed by people’s general resourcefulness and ability to improvise.

One of the takeaways for me – personally and professionally – is that it’s possible to be much more relaxed about life than stressing all the time like we do.

What did you think your Team works! assignment would be like?

Julian: I had quite a good idea of what the situation there would be because my past experience had given me some sense of what the people were like, their customs and the landscape. But I was quite shocked by the amount of mud huts and the (in some cases) very high level of poverty, which was aggravated by the slump in tourism caused by the pandemic. Having said that, as always, I was impressed by the hospitality of people in Africa. By working with members of the local community, you get to know people on a level that a tourist - even a backpacker - never would.

What lessons did you take away from your assignment?

Julian: One of the takeaways for me – personally and professionally – is that it’s possible to be much more relaxed about life than stressing all the time like we do. In addition, I’ve got a broader sense of different gender roles, the effects of poverty and wealth and the privilege of growing up in a rich country. These aspects were made particularly clear by trips to visit friends and invitations we received from locals. We were able to attend a church service, see parts of the city that probably haven’t been visited by Europeans for quite some time and cook and eat with members of the local community and their families.