Emilie Hamadi, one of our Pass the Crayon volunteers, writes about her WelcomeCamp experience; the sessions she attended, her thoughts, feelings and hopes for the future...
"More than a gathering of people acting, or working together in the same sector; WelcomeCamp provided the chance for dialogue, constructive exchanges, and genuine connections. One of the most valuable aspects of the day was everything which surrounded the formal sessions: the casual encounters, shared feelings, and questions discussed with other professionals, volunteers and activists.
During the day, I had the pleasure of attending two lively and interactive sessions, both dealing with the 'refugee welcoming challenge' in Germany, and exploring different approaches, visions and perspectives for the future...
Session 1: "Was passiert in Saarland?"
The first presentation was: "was passiert in Saarland", a relatively small region in South-West Germany, where twice as many refugees were welcomed in 2013, as in the whole of the USA!
We had the honour to meet and talk with the founder of 'Zores: Kommikation durch Kunst', who developed a few compelling points..
Zores, was founded as a non-political collective of refugees and local inhabitants, united by a common goal: art. Together, they congregate in public spaces to perform together; their projects include dancing, movie making, photography and painting. One of their most symbolic pieces of work is the "dubka", presented both in Arabic and Kurdish, and performed in the very center of Saarland, gathering bemused, enthusiastic and mesmerized inhabitants to watch the "newcomers" in their dance.
This dancing act represents what we call in German, "Der Dialog der Kulturen", a term coined by Heiko Maas, Justice Minister.
The founders emphasized the constant interest of the local residents, and how they were overwhelmingly more welcoming than reluctant to receive the newcomers. Moving forward, there are many questions to explore concerning cultural assimilation; the welcoming of new elements to German society, and future question, such as: "what are the concrete and stable paths for integrations in the long-term?", "How can this be interpreted at the political level?", "How can helpful policies be developed?"
Thank you, Zorres, for your presentation and for the hope of a colorful dancing world!
Session 2: Grenzenlose Wärme
In 2012, a spontaneous gathering of 18 students from Dortmund, united over a common concern:"how to deal with the emergency of welcoming and supporting refugees in Greece, a country already overwhelmed with its own internal crises and extreme poverty", gave rise to the creation of Grenzenlose Wärme. The idea of these young students was simply to organize a trip to Greece, to distribute food as well as other goods of first necessity to refugees arriving on boats from across the Meditteranean.
They traveled for 10 days all over Greece, visiting refugee camps and providing care and supplies where it was needed. During their travels they met and helped 34 refugee families, offering goods that they had purchased in Greece.
The two students presenting their work had to mention the limits of their initiative, pointing out various logistical difficulties, and many important questions, such as: "where to buy the food?" "what kind of food?""how should it be preserved?""How to meet and select people once they are in Greece?" "How to get there, stay there?"" How to connect with associations already on the ground?""How to maximize effectiveness with the funds available?"
I was very impressed by their hard-work, and ability to fundraise and organise a trip for 18 students, for 10 days, all within just a few month! Nevertheless, the lack of transparency in using the funds is to be underlined, even though it should not stain the good intention and great purpose of their initiative. We had the opportunity of discussing many of these points together, and sharing ideas about how to overcome these challenges.
Their plan for the future is to travel to Serbia, which has become the new
"hotspot" for refugees in need of support, food, shelter and more..
To be continued!
One of the highlights of my day, (and the only person whose name I can remember after all the numerous hand-shakes!), was meeting Jawad, a mathematics teacher from Syria, who currently works with the Refugee Academy. I recall rather naively asking him if he were "happy to be in Germany", to which he smiled, kindly reminding me that he did not choose to move here, but was forced to. Despite the dramatic circumstances under which he came to Germany, Jawad remains optimistic and determined to seek a better future here, and is currently channeling this passion into his teaching projects.
I am grateful that I could meet all these inspiring and thoughtful people, coming from such a diverse range of backgrounds, with different stories to tell. I personally learnt a little bit more each time I spoke to someone throughout the day. I felt inspired by their endeavours and personal stories, and warmed with hope that together we can achieve our collective objective: to live in a glowing, tolerant and open society, where every single individual finds a place to express, and live in peace and harmony.