God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

2021: Vaccinated, boostered and recovered

Looking back at 2021 shortly before Christmas, I can’t say, the year was boring or uneventful. 2021 started with the hope that Covid-19 might be overcome during the year and a sort of normality would come back into daily life. Little did we all know that hope can be a stretched from January to December – not lost, but wearing thin at times.

Travel restrictions continued for most of the year in one or the other way, forcing me to cancel a lot of meetings in person and to combine necessary travel in two big chunks for up to 9 weeks at a time. I could write books about the May to July travel, where the German way of doing business simply ended up in the madness of changing rules on a daily basis, on a location basis – and on a “We have our own rules” basis. Besides the anyhow difficult situation and anxieties meeting somebody from the – at that time – South African mutation, it challenged all my creativity to navigate through constant changes in the set program.

Exhaustion and frustration were my constant companions – and for the first time it was difficult to understand my fellow German brothers and sisters. Nevertheless: meetings made possible were rich and felt good – meeting again in person, looking each other in the eyes and catching body language and facial expression directly and not through a camera – simply a human need.

This was also the time to get my first Covid-19 vaccination shot – followed by a second and – by chance even a third one, today called booster – already in July 2021. I assume I was the first in Germany in this regard; my attempt to get the third vaccination registered on the German vaccination app was met with astonishment in various pharmacies: The system did not allow for it….

Those vaccinations triggered a bit of a change in mindset – I felt more free, more safe, more alive again – and I guess, this mental push should definitely not be underestimated when it comes to the health of the human mental faculties.

The several times postponed HOPE Gala concert took place – and despite all the Covid-19 regulations being adhered to – the sheer fact to be able to celebrate an event again – the sheer fact that you – vaccinated and tested dared to hug a person again – it was an evening with a taste of normality which did everybody attending so good. And add the musical program of this open air event – it was simply great, enjoyable and some hours of liberation from an otherwise so threatening world. I take my head off for the organizers, who until the very end did not know it was possible to run the event, but still put all energy and love into the planing and finally executing of the great Charity Concert.

Back in South Africa there was the constant demand triggered by the construction of The Nex – Indawo Yethu Campus in Delft – so much preparation since 2019 and finally the move into the first buildings: Administration Building, Bavarian House and Resource Centre as well as “La Maison de Christoph”, the holistic preventative health centre. The joy of occupying a new building but also the challenges of a snag list longer than the river Jordan while at the same time starting the first programmes like vocational training / duale Ausbildung in logistics, entrepreneurial skills’ development programs and other education courses constituted a roller coaster of feelings. We had days with more than 200 students on the partly finished campus while next Phase 2, the Early Childhood Development Centre was and is currently in construction. Those who called my idea of this campus a crazy one, a not possible one had finally to admit, that the sky is the limit if you believe in something and one has the right partners creating synergies. Because you can’t do it alone, the HOPE Cape Town team, VPUU and all the other collaborators from government, NGO’s and civil society as well as the Bavarian State Chancellery were all essential to walk the talk and to bring another ray of hope to Delft.

Finally, the last months with the second trip, three charity dinner in Berlin, Dresden and Munich and many personal encounters with sponsors and partners. And still the upcoming 4th wave in the back of your mind constantly threatening travel plans: nevertheless most was possible to achieve, but it took more energy out than anticipated.

Back in Cape Town beginning of December there was no rest for the restless as the official opening of the Bavarian House and the anniversary of 20 years HOPE Cape Town were due to be celebrated. And while we missed our Bavarian friends, who could not travel due to Covid-19 travel restrictions – and the arrival of Omicron – Saturday, 4th of December was a day of joy and celebrating achievements – not in a big way, but the day stood out and felt good. I am still grateful for all who made this day happen!

Now we are before Christmas – and as the headline indicates, there is one item missing: recovery. There was a time in between of flu-like symptoms where I quarantined, not wanting to give the flu to anybody else – nothing really dramatic, just a bit of cold and cough, quickly gone. It turned now out that this was Covid-19 – and my natural antibodies are now skyrocket high next to the ones triggered by the vaccine.

So yes – it looks like this year was really full of challenges but also islands of joy. There were moments of frustrations, but also of deep gratitude and happiness. Covid-19 has created many obstacles on my way and certainly did not help to fundraise and cut the possibilities of expansion of my network. It showed clear limitations of activism, but it also triggered creativity and the determination to achieve set goals even in the midst of a pandemic.

I am going out of this year more humble and more grateful – I count my blessings more carefully. And I am determined to welcome 2022 with open arms willing to make again the best out of what is possible.

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