"Each day is a struggle for the bare essentials"
The CrossCulture Programme "Refugees and Migration" improves work with refugees across borders
By Verena Striebinger (published in Alumniportal Deutschland)
The inflow of refugees to Germany has slowed. But that doesn’t mean that there are no refugees anymore; on the contrary, people are still fleeing from Syria. Some of those who are committed to looking after refugees have taken part in the CrossCulture Programme (CCP) "Refugees and Migration".
The CrossCulture Programme (CCP) organised by the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa) was supplemented this year by the "Refugees and Migration" dimension. A total of 13 young people from Islamic countries and from Germany were given the opportunity to gain an insight into another country and refugee work there. The one-week "CCP Refugees and Migration" forum held at the start of November encouraged exchange with other scholarship holders for participants to benefit from each other’s experience.
One Tuesday morning at the start of November at Sharehaus Refugio in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district. On the first floor of the building, you can hear paper rustling, and everybody is concentrating hard on their work. Thirteen young people are writing and drawing posters, cutting and pasting – many of them are kneeling on the floor, some have taken their shoes off. They have been given the task of presenting the organisation they work for in their home country and the organisation that they are or have been working for in their host country. They have one hour to get their presentations ready.
They are committed to helping refugees either professionally or as volunteers and are scholarship holders of the "CCP Refugees and Migration" organised for the first time this year as part of the CrossCulture Programme. Programme participants receive a scholarship for a period of up to two months. CCP scholarship holders from Germany receive an internship placement in one of the participating countries, while scholarship holders from abroad come to Germany. This year, participants come from Germany as well as from Morocco, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.
"CCP Refugees and Migration welcomes tandem partnerships," says Anja Scholz, who heads the programme. “One organisation sends their employee to another organisation, while at the same time welcoming an employee from the other organisation as a guest.”
One example of such a tandem partnership are Florian Börner from Berlin Stadtmission’s Mertensstrasse refugee centre and Ahmed Al-Shaikhli, who works for Almortaqa Foundation for Development in Iraq. Both of them flew to Berlin from Iraq just before the forum. Florian Börner has already finished his work for Almortaqa, while Al-Shaikhli started work at Mertensstrasse refugee centre mid-November. "I am particularly interested to see how Germany is dealing with the large number of refugees," says Ahmed Al-Shaikhli in a very clear, firm voice about his expectations regarding his stay in Germany.
The 13 participants of the CCP forum are very respectful in their dealings with each other. They listen to each other and choose their words carefully. They communicate in English – a foreign language for everyone. The respect shown generates a very friendly, almost relaxed atmosphere.
Sustainable solutions in refugee work
After her presentation, Mona Abdelbaqi has time to go up on to the roof terrace on the sixth floor of Sharehaus Refugio. As we walk up the stairs, she tells us what she would like to see in her future work: "I would like us to find sustainable solutions for our refugee camps in Jordan." At present, she says, she usually has to settle for short-term solutions in the Zaatari camp. "But at least the tents have been replaced by containers in the meantime, so there is some progress," says Mona Abdelbaqi.
As we talk, it soon becomes clear that she has a very precise idea of how the problems in this Zaatari camp could be solved: “Good infrastructure would be a considerable help in dealing with the shortage of resources. If we managed to solve the problems with a long-term strategy, this could benefit many areas, not least the environment as well.”
During her stay in Germany, Mona Abdelbaqi worked in Bremen for BORDA (Bremen Overseas Research and Development Association) from mid-October to mid-December. BORDA develops and distributes sustainable technologies in the fields of water, wastewater, energy and waste disposal. This way, for the past almost 40 years the organisation has been helping people worldwide gain access to basic infrastructure for their everyday life.
Mona Abdelbaqi feels that she can support her host organisation with her knowledge and that both sides are benefiting from the exchange. What she likes most about "CCP Refugees and Migration" is that she can see how Germany is dealing with the refugee crisis. "That has broadened my horizon. I have come to see further aspects of the refugee crisis. We can only succeed in dealing with this challenge better if we all enter into an exchange with each other."
Learning and benefiting from each other – even beyond the CCP forum
"We have found that the need for exchange among our participants is very high indeed," says Anja Scholz. "We will start them off this week and hope that the scholarship holders will stay in contact and enjoy an intensive exchange – for example via our alumni network. This is also intended to make sure that the project has a long-term effect."
The German Federal Foreign Office, which is financing the CCP, has already indicated that "Refugees and Migration" will again be a priority topic of the CrossCulture Programme next year. "We are currently still at the applications filing and examination stage," says Anja Scholz. "We are planning to publish the call for internship applications in January or February 2017."
For Mona Abdelbaqi it has already been worthwhile to take part in the programme. Her wish for sustainability in her refugee work is about to come true – at least partly: Her host organisation BORDA is planning to open its own office in Jordan in early 2017. Mona Abdelbaqi plans to lend her support with her specialist knowledge of the region and the local refugee work. "BORDA’s presence will do the Zaatari camp good," she says. "And it might also be good for my career."