The way in which people decide to fulfill their dreams and bring the change varies. Max Jabs chose cycling. After completing his studies, he set up “Biking Borders” with Nono Konopka. Starting from Berlin, they cycled to Beijing to raise money in order to combat educational inequalities in developing countries. The first target is Guatemala. It is estimated that illiteracy in the country reaches 24.1% while children go to school on average for just 4 years.
Projects like this prove that effort, human communication and need for change are international. Humanity is divided by boardes and facial characteristics, forms habits and attitudes. The phenomena that emerge have all a common start point, our human nature. He will talk about this crossing of limits-borders at this year’s TEDxUniversityOfMacedonia.
How would you describe the whole process from its beginning until you reach your goal? What were the difficulties you encountered up to the appropriate response led to the achievement of your project’s goal?
The process of my journey has been a rollercoaster. Particularly in the beginning phase. I believe that deciding to follow my dream and ignore my own, as well as my family’s, doubts was harder than any other challenge on my journey. Everything else that happened on the journey, whether it be -20 degrees, cycling through the most repressive country in the world or being by myself in the desert without water, was not as difficult. Although they
were challenging at the moment, I knew they were external factors. Things that I couldn’t change. So all I could do was to go through them.
Don’t get me wrong but even after deciding to go on this journey I had doubts. I believe it is impossible to be motivated 24/7. No matter how big the goal is, at the end of the day we are all humans. Self-doubt or simply having a bad day is part of our experience. What matters is what we decide to do with it.
In recent years, conscious efforts have been made to raise Europeans’ awareness of social phenomena such as illiteracy in developing countries.Based on your own experience, how do you characterize the response of the world and the interest it shows in your project and in general in such endeavors?
I sincerely believe that the way you communicate such problems is the key. I do think that it is a good start that more and more inequalities are shared with us in the hope to make us create the change. Often we read an article, see a statistic on the news or watch a documentary. However, in most cases, we are only touched by them for a short period. In the ordinary way, it is very hard to relate to some headlines or statistics which you see online.
I remember the time before I experienced educational inequality first hand. I thought it was outrageous that on the one hand, I could go to school and on the other hand, some kids couldn’t even read. What made me change the way I looked at things was not what I saw on the news but what I saw first hand. Once I talked to the people and learned more about the actual situation. I couldn’t relate to any statistics but to the personal story of the children. Even though they grew up somewhere entirely different, I could create a connection. A connection that made me what create change.
I think that the interest in solving inequalities has never been higher. Yet we need to think about how we can take advantage of it and how we can tell stories instead of statistics. Stories we can relate to. Stories that make us want to create the difference. Our project wasn’t followed by over 20k people worldwide because we shared statistics. But because we told a story. A story which people from different countries and different religions could relate to. A story thet they wanted to become part of.
Germany is one of the most economically sound countries in the world. Statistics show that the period we are in is the best in terms of the economy and standard of living of its average citizen. On the other hand, your experience in Vietnam has highlighted the lack of opportunities and inequalities that people in other places of the world are experiencing. How would you define the reasons that lead to these differences and what do you think would be a transnational benefit in tackling these phenomena?
I don’t think I can answer why we have such differences. But what I do know is that we live in a world that has never been more interconnected. Thanks to the tech-revolution we are connected in every way possible. Inequalities in education, whether it be in Vietnam or other developing country, will affect us more than ever before. Therefore, I believe it is crucial in tackling these problems as quickly as we can. The biggest challenge I see though is how can we make people from around the world want to create change. Not because they are told to do so but because they are driven to be part of the solution.
Maximilian Jabs makes his Reboot on 30th November!