“It is a Matter of Meaningful Encounters“

RespAct held a workshop for classes of students, both “welcome” and regular, at the vocational school in Starnberg, Bavaria – and met excited and motivated students

In the bull's eye evaluation the students mark how they liked each part of the programme at the end of the workshop - the center being the best value. (Foto: CamP Group)

In the bull’s eye evaluation the students mark how they liked each part of the programme at the end of the workshop – the center being the best value* (Photo: CamP Group).

It is Wednesday afternoon at the local vocational school in Starnberg and the youth of our RespAct workshop are collecting the results of the last three days. The workshop is made up of one class of German students and one class of unaccompanied young refugees from a local “welcome” class. Every day this week the students have been meeting and working together to improve their teamwork, social interaction, and media presentation skills.

When you speak with Ahmed*, a program participant, about respect you immediately see how important the topic is for him: “Respect is a huge topic,” he explains vividly into the camera, “every child should know what that is. It is important for the whole life”.

A particularly successful session was one that introduced the topic of “empathy” to our young group. The participants we asked to create an activity and then nominate a classmate to carry it out. What they didn’t know is that they would have to perform that same activity in the end! “This method is really useful”, RespAct peer educator Jana Gottschalk says. “Days later the participants were still talking about it. It is important to learn that you shouldn’t ask others to do something that you yourself are not willing to do”.

Another important session had students form teams and discuss what they would change about their environment. They were then asked to present their work to the class. “Many realize for the first time that they can actively shape their local areas and work with companies and municipal organizations as cooperation partners”, Jana says. A few of the girls from both classes felt insecure each time they had to walk home in the dark: “We would like to have more light on streets and walkways to enhance security”. Others wanted to have a supermarket in their village so they could buy food more easily.

The next step for the students is to organise themselves and talk about their suggestions with decision makers. RespAct supports participants with this as well.

“I learned how important it is to help others”

Jana looks incredibly happy as she reflects on the successful workshop: “The youth were motivated and excited to work together – they worked concentrated and respectfully in groups and practiced talking in front of a camera”. It was nice to see how fast the youth from both classes grew comfortable with each other and how easily friendships developed. “In the end, language was not so much of an obstacle as expected. All it usually needs is space for participants to get to know each other in a meaningful way”, Jana concludes.

At the end of the day, the young people gathered around Jana to thank her. “I learned a lot – how to best work in a team and how important it is to interact with others politely and respectfully”, tells Nour*. Ania* adds: “I learned how important it is to help those with problems. That was a lot of fun. RespAct also helps students to improve their German and to communicate effectively. That is very important”.

We want to send a warm ‘thank you’ to all of our participants at the Starnberg vocational school for your cooperation, your ideas and your motivation. Most of all we would like to thank all of our supporters of the RespAct project. Without you, this workshop would not have been possible. Thank you!!

*due to the difficult situation of refugees we do not show the faces of any participant. Names are changed.