Bettina grew up in Germany with liberal and secular family values. At the age of 16, Bettina began her journey as an exchange student to South Africa. She experienced a beautiful country, a wonderful host-family, yet also a place, which was still suffering from the impact of apartheid.
“I was puzzled to find that everyone was labelled. White South Africans, Black South Africans, Coloured, Indian, Afrikaans-speaking, etc. It was the first time, I was confronted with questions around ethnic background, religion, and identity – something I never thought about growing up in privileged Germany”.
She then went on to study in Europe - “I was exposed to political discussions and learnt more about Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia than about Europe’. Her exposure to the North African community led her to Morocco, Turkey and Middle East, taking a deep dive into culture politics and history of that world”
After years of working in the development space, Bettina landed in Dadaab refugee camp, on the border to Somalia, in 2010. “At that time, it was the biggest refugee complex with over 500,000 refugees. I worked with third-generation refugees born in Dadaab. When you asked these kids where they are from, some would say C12, B39 – districts of the refugee camps, because this is all they could relate to. At that time, the Horn of Africa saw the worst drought in 60 years, with 10 million people affected. Every day, I saw more than 1,000 people arriving in the Dadaab camps. Many walked for 10-20 days in poor health condition, desperate for food and water. Inside the camp, I found a close-knit neighbourhood where generations of people have created a new life’.
Later in Cameroon, Bettina was evacuated to Germany after a car accident with broken arms, legs and hips. The healing pause connected her back to her home.
“As I reflect on my journey I know that when every human life, regardless of gender, color, nationality is embraced, its’ only then we have risen above the narrow limits of nationalism, xenophobia - to arrive at a place that is worthy of all of us, and worthy of love. After healing, Bettina continued her work in Chad, Ukraine and Egypt.