What we have hardly reported on so far is our political training work. Since the foundation of our association, and before, when we were still called “Voluntiere”, it has always been our concern not only to support fleeing people, but also here in Germany to bring up the topic of flight & asylum. Reasons for this are media reports that in some cases are very simplistic as well as widespread prejudices and stereotypes about refugees or fugitives. Our goal is to sensitize people and arouse empathy through personal reports.
In concrete terms, political education means that we offer workshops or lectures in the context of project days or weeks at schools, social service seminars, citizens’ assemblies, youth groups and in various institutions. The focus can be on very different topics. While in the beginning we concentrated more on reports of our missions, in the course of time more and more democracy, anti-racism and anti-discrimination work has been added, so that we are now able to offer an extensive repertoire of social topics on our homepage.
Sometimes we are specifically asked by organisers whether we can carry out a project day on a certain topic. This is the case, for example, when teachers experience discrimination in the schoolyard and have heard of us before. The more frequent case, however, is that we contact the institutions by telephone and e-mail, introduce our association and offer educational services. We mainly concentrate on the surroundings of the places where several Rigardus live. Unfortunately, there are only sporadic reactions on the part of the institutions, so that project days are less frequent than we wish.
Our goals and challenges
If we are invited by a school or organisation, the next challenge for us is to adapt our programme modules to the respective target group. With a 6th grade class that has never meet refugees, neither in school nor in the surrounding area, we have to approach the topic in a completely different way than in groups in which not all participants speak German as their mother tongue or may have had their own flight experiences.
The main goal of political education work is not to improve the image of humanitarian aid or to raise donations, but to invite as many people as possible for discussion and perhaps even to encourage a change of perspective. It is important to us to let different positions have their say in the sense of the Beutelsbach consensus. It also includes the “ban on overwhelming (no indoctrination), the consideration of controversial positions in science and politics in class and the ability of students to analyse their own interests in political situations”.
Of course, there are also pupils*who are happier about a day off than they actually want to deal with the subject, but even if only a part of the group goes home with a little aha moment, we have already achieved a lot. So, we hope to be able to contribute a small step to the process of youth opinion-forming.
One of the challenges that we face again and again is to facilitate a constructive discussion in which there is enough room for curious questions, even though our workshop time is almost always too short for all open questions. This impression arises especially when, at the end of time, very fundamental questions are still raised, e.g. about the justice of privileges, which could be used as a good starting point for exciting discussions.
Our role as a team
We also keep thinking about how the participants perceive us as a team. If the participants find us cool, funny or exciting and we can create a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, they get involved with the content and ask honest questions. Therefore, it is important to us that the participants are familiar with us and, if possible, that no teachers are present, so that the participants do not feel as if they are in an evaluation situation.
Many positive experiences and great discussions with pupils* have shown us that the right questions in the right places and the uncovering of argumentation patterns can have an effect. We try to use a simple language (sometimes “refugees” instead of “fugitives”, although we have thought about this in more detail before) and often stress that there are no right or wrong opinions and that anything can be said.
Written by Lea and Tanja