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WelcomeCamp 2017

1 day, 200 people, 26 sessions, 40 organisation, 19 sponsors, and 1 awesome BBQ... this is WelcomeCamp 2017: a barcamp designed to unite individuals, start-ups and NGOs to discuss and build solutions to refugee integration, and to forge connections and friendships with others involved in the German welcome culture movement.

Barcamp… what, like bandcamp, but with booze? Er… NO.

For those of you (like me!) who are unfamiliar with the term ‘barcamp’, a barcamp is an innovative type of conference (or ‘unconference’), which is characterized by an emphasis on audience-participation. Instead of a rigid timetable established weeks in advance, a barcamp is completely participant-driven, with sessions decided upon on the day itself via discussion and consensus. This relaxed and democratic approach allows for sessions to be tailor-made to the specific wishes of the participants, and offers everybody equal chance to participate.

(Actually, there WAS some drinking during the event.. but it was mostly the delicious natural caffeine drink, Solimate, provided by event sponsors Solidrinks, an awesome local start-up, supporting the refugee community:

So what did Pass the Crayon do?

As the official kids-creche organizers, Pass The Crayon hosted an art area outside. We planned loads of different activities to keep the kids entertained, including rubber-band stencil crafts, good old-fashioned drawing... and face painting!

Not only did we have a lovely table area, but we also pinched some deck chairs from the main seating arena to make our very own PTC chill zone, complete with PTC cushions, lovingly sewn by Sevin, with the pillow fabric sponsored by Spoonflower: <3

We also hosted an art exhibition in one of the session rooms, where we displayed some of the kids artwork from our classes at the Pankow, Spandau, and Wilmersdorf shelters.

Fortunately, we had enough PTC volunteers present to allow us to slip off to attend some of the WelcomeCamp sessions… Here is what I discovered…

9am: Breaking the ice

Hashtags icebreakers injected a bit of fun into the first phase of the day, and helped everyone loosen up. We all had to come to the front and say 3 hashtags that best described us. Mostly the hashtags were all very on-topic, but we had a few cheeky ones thrown in there too (#kartoffel).

Afterwards, a discussion took place where audience members suggested topics that they would like to learn more about, and people could raise their hands to vote. After a group discussion on different topics, (obviously all centered around the general theme of refugee welcome culture—hosting a novelty session, e.g ‘how to cook the perfect egg’, would not be suitable, although hilarious), a timetable for the day was established.

10.30am: Keen bean

Before the first session began, we all went outside to help put the finishing touches to the PTC area, in readiness for the hoards of children (correction, 3 children). Keen beans that we are, we vastly over-estimated the number of kids that would attend, and ended up feeling a bit silly with our 4:1 ratios. But hey, the sun was shining and we all just decided to go with the flow, and paint our ourselves instead ;)

11.15am: Was tun? Was sagen? Wie vernetzen?

Huh? What? Who? The first session I attended was held in German, and unfortunately me and my B1 level German skills couldn't really keep up. Luckily I had Emilie, one of our PTC volunteers, on hand to explain :)

The title roughly translates to, 'what to do? what to say? how to network?'. The session was hosted by Peter Ruhenstroth-Bauer, Managing Director UNO- Refugee Relief, along with Bernhard "Felix" von Grünberg, who presented their work at the UNO, followed by a round of Q & A's.

12.15pm: Campaign & Storytelling

'Campaign & Storytelling' was hosted by representative Annika Heintz, who gave us a whistle-stop tour through the do's and dont's of creating a Crowdfunding campaign. Thanks Annika for all of your tips; we hope to put them into practice soon!

2.15 pm: Oh wow... the food

After an info-packed morning, everyone was ready to head outside, relax in the sun, grab a free beer, or a Mate, and enjoy the delicious Syrian cuisine, provided by the Aleppo Supper Club. This was, without a doubt, one of the most delicious meals I've had in while. The filo parcels were light and crispy, the tabuleau fresh and tasty, the falafels, the houmous... sehr sehr lecker!

3.15 pm: Theatre tricks!

After lunch I had a peek into Room 5, where 'Language Fun though Theatre Tricks' was taking place. I arrived at a very exciting moment; we all had to stand in a circle and lift a volunteer right off the floor and over our heads. Trust exercises and team building tricks such as these, commonly used in theater, can be used to make language learning fun, and help break down initial barriers- an important step to establishing trust with refugees language-learners, and facilitating the learning process.

4.15pm: Interfriends- the new integration App

My final session was hosted by Tobi and Oleg,’ two app-entrepreneurs who are in the process of developing 'Interfriends', a social App, similar to Meetup, which encourages integration by facilitating face-to-face events, such as sporting activities, with refugees and local residents. Available in 5 different languages, the App has a very attractive design, and a brilliant concept.

At the end, we were asked if we would like to feature in the App (why not!), so we all practiced various hand shakes, which were then filmed for the opening sequence of the App.

This last session, for me, perfectly encapsulated the whole ethos of WelcomeCamp: the desire to help drive refugee integration, through the use of social, digital, creative and business innovation. We would like to wish the boys every success with their App, and I am personally very excited to see my paint-smudged hand in their video! :) If you are curious, then check out their website here

6.30pm: BBQ!!

After all the sessions had ended, we gathered in the courtyard for speeches, drinks and BBQ, expertly cooked by our resident grillmasters Marc and Bastian. (**read my full interview with Bastian here**)

A lot of our PTC volunteers had gone home by this point, but I selflessly stayed to sample the beer and BBQ (it’s a hard life). I took the chance to network with some of the other organisations, and learn more about their projects. I met some great people, including Pravin, who is the founder of Cricket Lingo, which provides a fusion-learning experience of cricket and English classes:

At around 9pm we said our goodbyes and thankyous to the wonderful WelcomeCamp team, and all of our new friends. The WelcomeCamp gang created an outstanding experience, and we are very grateful for the opportunity to attend their event, and to be involved with the ongoing welcome culture movement. THANKYOU to all of the volunteers, organizers, people and projects involved... it was lovely to meet you all, and we wish you all every possible success for the future! :)

** Photos used in this post are a mixture of ours, but many are courtesy of WelcomeCamp. Please check out their full photo album here: **


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