Showing posts from July, 2017

If I Could Open my Eyes any Wider, I Would Certainly Need to Remove my Eyelids

It has likely become obvious at this point; I enjoy continuing a motif if one is present.  It is to my understanding that the teenagers would call this, “beating a dead horse with a stick.”  The statement that this trip has been eye-opening has been stated ad nauseam, however, it still holds merit.  The last day in the NGO, my colleagues and I had the opportunity to interview some of the people living within the building.  They shared their stories, their hopes, their fears, and their experiences within the building.  To describe all of the stories that we were told would constitute another violation of picture to content ratio.  In order to spare the readers of this trips blog, as numerous they surely must be, I will end this final post with a double sided anecdote. 
As I sat there listening to the adults, their faces told a story of the many harsh trials and tribulations they surely faced.  It became difficult to one point.  The saving grace, if you will, was the faces of the chil…

Fear Of The Unknown..

My initial reaction coming into this service learning trip was fear.  Fear of the unknown, fear because I didn't know what I was getting myself into.  But all of that changed once I met with my NGO.  I was placed with Caritas and even though the first day was horrible due to not being able to navigate the public transportation system well, it turned out to be a great experience. 

The first day at Caritas, we (Crystal and I) met with our supervisors, Matthias Gmelin and Thomas Binder.  As we sat in their office, they gave us what we call a "crash course" of what their organization is responsible for. I tried to do my research on this particular organization but not knowing how to read German, I left it to them to explain.  They explained what Caritas does for asylum seekers in the Dachau area, the asylum process, and the ethnic groups that are most prevalent to seek asylum. 

As the days went by, that initial "fear" turned into confusion and empathy.  As I sat in o…

From Developing to Extremely Developed: What do you Expect?

After having traveled around Europe and becoming addicted to the amazing transportation systems and the buzz of culture and diversity of other European cities, I was beyond excited for the service learning trip. I have studied abroad twice in Europe, yet I had never actually done service learning prior to this summer, where both of my trips were solely based on outreach. Prior to this trip, I was in Ghana working with a local NGO to help combat child labor and child trafficking through observing education systems at a local school. Having experienced an NGO in a developing world, I am interested as to what I will find in Germany. In Ghana, things are very relaxed and slow-paced as a culture, however they deal with significant governmental corruption which makes it extremely hard for people to get the goods and services they need. In Germany, on the other hand, everything is highly organized and meticulous. The government is highly concerned with providing for each and every one of its…

On Procedural Red Tape

To continue with this motif of eye opening experiences, it is necessary to discuss the events of today especially.  Throughout the week, I have been absorbed in the administrative processes of employees attempting to assist the refugees under their care.  Therefore, the earlier days of the week have been relatively benign.  Today, however, was quite different; my colleagues and I interviewed the current director of our NGO, a young woman who shall, from this point on, be referred to as LB.  We asked her several questions regarding her job, the inefficiencies in the current system, and what she though could be done to improve it.  Her insight was, for a lack of a better word, incredible.  The first thing we discussed was what some of the critical issues were that she or other people in her position were facing.  Her first critique was in regards to a system by which the German government uses to classify refugees by country; she referred to it as the “big 5” country system.  It can b…

Last days at buntkicktgut

by Sara Bonk You can only do so much in ten days. Between my first and last day, the experience that I had at buntkicktgut has been eye opening in terms to how I would work with this engaging NGO. First off, due to the scheduling that this program is under, most of the lectures are in the afternoon which led me to miss out on many training sessions and a tournament in order to make it back to the hotel on time. And due to this, I haven’t really done much to my embarrassment except get to know Rudi, Matthias, Sokol and Brandon better as well as work with other co-workers such as Jan, Max and Julian. I’ve helped with some laundry, construction of trophies for the Sommerfest (which took place on my last day), and work on some spreadsheets (all of which were in German, and I had to get on Google Translate in order to do a simple task). . . oh. And get lost with some of the praktikants (student interns all of whom are no older than about 17) while out and about in the city.
Yesterday was an…

The Refugee Process in Munich

Currently, there are around 400 refugees at the camp I am assigned to. The camp I am observing is the first place all refugees are placed upon arrival in Munich. Tentatively, they should stay at the camp for approximately 6 months, and then they should be transferred to a residential facility; however, in reality, many stay much longer, and some may even stay at the camp for over a year.
     All refugees apply for asylum during their stay at the camp so they can live in Munich permanently; however, many of them are denied asylum; especially single, men over the age of 18. Most refugees who are denied asylum hire an attorney and appeal, but their chances of a successful appeal are quite slim, and virtually all appeals fail.
     However, there are refugees who are granted asylum. From my understanding, single, women with a child are more likely to be granted asylum. Moreover, the social worker I shadowed explained to me that many of these women were forced to prostitute themselve…

This is how integration looks like!

Eva Videla

After being in Munich for a week, I’ve been struggling with the word integration. I understand integration as the action of becoming part of the main culture in an specific community. For example, back in the states we have the dilemma about non-English speakers. -If you live in the United States, you should only speak English. I do agree that language is very important, and we should all learn English. However, we cannot ignore the special circumstances that we have in the border. On the other hand, German learning classes are a must once you arrive in Munich. Consequently, I feel that you get judged by how much German you know. Therefore, refugees integration measure can be represented by their language skills.

My assigned NGO is the Bellevue di Monaco. With a wide range of services from legal aid to cultural events, Bellevue di Monaco has a more organic practice of integration approach within the community. Currently, the organization is in the process of expanding and …

Parallels Across the Big Pond: Culture, Identity, and the Power of Stories

Every human being has their own story. A personal narrative is an ongoing quilt of culture and ideas, struggle and triumph, and reflects a piece of the world’s identity. While every migrant or refugee carries their own story, factors such as media portrayal, personal bias, and perhaps a fear of the unknown or the ‘other’ allows these stories to be categorized and generic, allowing those without the narrative to paint their own portrayal of someone else’s background.
In her famous TED talk, The Danger of a Single Story, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says, “power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person”.
During this trip, I wanted to take this power away. I wanted to be cognizant of my American privilege and vague concept of what a refugee was. I didn’t want to compare my limited knowledge of migrants in the United States with my assumptions of what I think a refugee is in Germany. Instead, I listened.

A Strategically Difficult Process?

In speaking with the social workers at the Caritas office I was assigned to I have noticed that Germany has done as good of a job, as has been possible, with handling the influxes of migrants coming in to the country, but on a short-term plan. The processes the migrants go through are all recorded by countless required documents they have to fill out.Each step requires so many different applications, so in this sense you see a very organized and strategic process.However on the other hand you notice certain obstacles the migrants encounter that make you wonder, how can a state so organized and policy oriented overlook probable situations. For example, today I sat in a consultation between the social worker and a lady from Nigeria.She had been in Germany long enough to where she was now able to and required to start attending integration classes, however not only were the classes a one hour bus ride away, but also she was in need of child care for her two children.These classes are si…


A Lake & Gifts

A Lake & Gifts
Photo - Portrait - Jul 22, 2017, 10:49:20 PM
The ferry at Hersching Amersee, Germany - where we met a family from Afganistan & heard from them about their experience leaving their lives in Afganistan to begin again in Germany.   - Sara Love Even with the cultural differences between Afghanistan and Germany, - the mother of 8, spoke of the gratitude she has for her family to live in a safer country.  

The oldest son - 15 years old - said he does feel a tension between the past and present. As the oldest [son], he says he feels the pull to start working, to help support his family push against the [new] expectation from his parents for him to continue with find a vocation/career where he can live a better, safer, life.

I wish there was a way to easily solve these puzzles. The constant push and pull of culture - not to mention the trauma experienced before arriving in Germany - will be with them for the rest of their lives. I'm glad we were able to…

What's in a Word III

By Jaime Zamesnik

As our trip winds down, my thoughts turn inward. Have my expectations been met? Did I accomplish my goals? These same questions might also be on the minds of Munich's officials and citizens as they reflect on the goal of "integration" for the city's refugees.

Integration as a concept is proving difficult to operationalize. Our group held a "reflections" discussion where we delved into the question of what is meant by integration. The conversation quickly became invigorated. Some feel that integration looks more like assimilation, wherein the refugees will live not in "ghettos," but in and among the German neighborhoods. No one suggested that the refugees should give up their culture or religion, rather that they should meld their ethnicity with that of the native population. The main worry for those on this side of the divide was that the refugees would be isolated from German society if they chose to live in a community with oth…

Amerikahaus--Soft power and missing links

Today we had a lecture by Dr. Markus Faltermeier, from the Amerikahaus. It was really interesting to learn about American soft power history in Germany. After WWII, the United States did all it could to "reeducate" Germany, both with U.S. ideas of capitalism and democracy. A reading room, originally intended for U.S. military, became a place for Germans to access media with different perspectives.

 During our lecture, I asked about the Amerikahaus' reaction to the R.A.F. and I found out that although the Amerikahaus has records from the end of WWII to the 1960s, the records of the Amerikahaus between 1960s-1990s are rather spotty. There seems to be a bit of a mystery as to why the history of Amerikahaus is missing... possible conspiracy theories pending...

 The Amerikahaus previously was part of the USIA, but is now supported by the Bavarian state and private funding. This means that the Amerikahaus can have events that are more critical of the United States and not ju…



A Very Human Moment


The Quest for the Perfect Immigrant


Learning and Being Tested

By Crystal Rawls