Heinrich Böll Stiftung Brandenburg

Kora Rösler outlines the opportunities the Heinrich Böll Foundation was able to realise whilst developing an environmental education project with and for refugees and non-refugees, and simultaneously opening a space for respectful and equal exchange.

Interviewee: Educational Officer Kora Rösler
Organisation: Heinrich Böll Stiftung Brandenburg
Expertise: Ecology, Sustainability & Intercultural Environmental Education

Through the project “Climate Protection- Hand in Hand”, we focused on the transfer of knowledge around climate protection and the application of climate protection approaches in everyday life. Our target group includes refugees as well as long-term residents. As a result of the project we developed a handbook, a tandem handbook, that should accompany a tandem, an exchange. We developed a cooperation with Start with a Friend, who are successful in supporting tandems, who are interested in our content. We thought- brilliant let’s make accompanying information tailored for this target group. As a result, we developed the book with refugees and residents at the same time. The great thing about the handbook is that we have opened a space to ask questions so that the exchanges work in both directions. Both sides are learning as well as teaching.

Our primary goal is to outline and spread knowledge about climate protection. With expert knowledge and practical tips, from reusable shopping bags and recycling, to questions like “how do I heat my house efficiently?” detailed and practical information. I am convinced there is a lot of value in participation for both sides of the exchange. The secondary goal of the project is the intercultural exchange, to recognize what we can learn from other cultures. The third goal is of course to practice German- we have used simple, accessible language throughout the book. And at the same time the tandem participants can pick up the other language, linguistic exchange in both directions is great. Finally, we aim to provide information that in the best case leads to a consideration of participants behaviours and behavior change.

It was incredibly important for us to engage people from within our target group in the development of the project. We held seven intensive, three-hour-long workshops, where we looked at each topic with the group and tried to understand how climate protection, in this case specifically in Syria, is understood and implemented. We learned that it sensitivity is critical, for example with the topic water and plastic; it could bring participants back to experiences they had crossing the Mediterranean. We got a feeling for the topics where we had to be specifically sensitive. We were lucky to have a participant who had run a focus group with whom we could read through the handbook. We played through the different units with her to make sure that they all work, to check the language, where there were problems, that was really important for us.

We placed a general focus on reciprocal cultural exchange, in that we were able to simply open a space for asking questions: “How to you do it, how do we do it?”.

We wanted to avoid the possibility of long-term residents explaining to refugees how things are going to work now in the handbook. I would say that that was our main strategy.

Climate justice is a very important topic, also in this project. Many people who live in Brandenburg are not at all aware how their actions have consequences for others in other places. With intercultural education, and with people from a wide variety of regions, possibly where climate change is more advanced than it is here, so that it’s even more tangible, and possibly leading to forced migration, it becomes easier to understand and bring together a wide variety of causes and effects. A lot of topics, as well as a certain emotionality, can be thematised through personal histories. Because when we talk about the environment and the climate, then we are really always talking about global problems and much bigger relationships between things that are really not that easy to talk about; in intercultural exchange these global relationships can definitely be more clearly illustrated.

The handbook “Climate Protection Hand in Hand” was developed in the framework of the project “4R: Refugees reduce, reuse, recycle” 2018www.boell-brandenburg.de/de/klimaschutz-hand-hand-das-tandem-handbuch 4R is an educational project for refugees in Brandenburg that provides knowledge about environmental, climate and resource conservation: www.boell-brandenburg.de/de/kategorien/projekte in which a film was created by Ammar al-Beik, an award-winning film director and artist from Damascus, Syria. Here you will find the trailer https://www.boell-brandenburg.de/de/klimaschutz-hand-hand-ein-deutsch-syrischer-austausch.