Founder of Utho Ngathi Disability Projects Awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
Interview with Mr. Andreas Woerster, Managing Director and one of the Founders of Utho Ngathi after receiving the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
Mr. Andreas Woerster receiving the Order of Merit from the German Ambassador in South Africa
Andreas Woerster studied Physiotherapy, Physical Education and Special School Education in Germany. Shortly after concluding his education, he moved to South Africa where he worked in different health establishments and came to be aware of the issues that people with disability face in the country and the Southern Africa Region. Moved by the plight of his patients, Mr. Woerster decided to start volunteering to help children with disabilities in South Africa and Zambia through the Disadvantaged Children’s Outreach Programme (DICOP). In 2005, he decided to establish the Utho Ngathi Projects to extend help to people with disabilities especially those living in historically disadvantaged and remote communities.
With a vision to unleash the potentials of a million people with disabilities in Southern Africa, Utho Ngathi worked on various projects then. These efforts are sponsored by Evonik Foundation, Evonik employees and members of management and aim to provide the necessary care for persons with disabilities, offer them opportunities where either they or their family members can work and earn a living and make Inclusion a reality for their lives. The NGO works with Evonik Animal Nutrition on several projects; on key example is the development of the Inclusive Chicken Farm in Macubeni with three chicken houses and a greenhouse tunnel for vegetable farming. These projects rely heavily on employing people with disabilities while offering remote communities access to high quality nutrition and protein.
1. Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany started more than 60 years ago and considered to be one of the most prestigious awards in the country, how do you feel about receiving it?
I feel proud and honored to get the Order of Merit from the German Government, but also I believe it gives us at Utho Ngathi even more credibility when addressing the challenges of people with disabilities.
2. Can you provide some details about how you were nominated and selected?
Mrs. Annette Schumann, the Chairman of Utho Ngathi in Germany nominated me in 2017. At the time, the concerned bodies contacted all my references including the Evonik Foundation and the Order of Merit was awarded in December 2018, but I knew on 21 January 2019. The German Ambassador in South Africa held the official ceremony on the 1st of February 2019 in the attendance of 30 guests. It is unusual that the Order of Merit is given outside of Germany so the award ceremony was very unique at the Residence of Ambassador Schaefer.
3. Would the award benefit your efforts with Utho Ngathi? If so, in what way?
I believe we can use it to increase awareness of our cause and show the impact of our work on the community. It could also open the doors for discussions with other government organizations and NGOs in South Africa. It is great that the award is highly publicized in Germany bringing a much needed attention to our work, but we need to promote it also in Southern Africa.
4. What do you see as your main achievements with Utho Ngathi?
I think we helped many individuals with disability achieve inclusion. At the beginning, in the areas where we have projects, the communities somehow shunned and neglected people with disabilities, also because a lack of knowledge what to do with the person with the disability to improve their lives. At Utho Ngathi, we worked for years to bring more awareness about the importance and the benefits of including people of disability through employment opportunities and community involvement.
5. Where would you like to see Utho Ngathi in 5 years?
I would like to see a stronger foundation of our current projects and the communities becoming more autonomous in order to ensure the sustainability of these initiatives. I believe this is achievable in the next two to three years. I would also love to develop new projects in other regions or in other countries such as the neighboring Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Utho Ngathi’s project focus on six key pillar; raising awareness about the issues faced by people with disabilities, increasing their inclusion in their local communities, conducting research on the topic, providing home based care and training for those in need, creating systems that allow for community based rehabilitation, and ensuring sustainable economic development.
To more about Utho Ngathi and the projects they work on, please visit http://www.uthongathi.org.za/about.html
If you would like to support the projects, you can donate to the below bank details:
Account Number: 41384
Bank Name: Sparkasse Siegen
IBAN: DE83 4605 0001 0000 0413 84