The refugee crisis is one of the biggest global challenges of our time. In situations of war, displacement and migration, it is children who suffer the most. The loss of the familiar environment and perhaps even family members and friends has a dramatic effect on the young souls. Furthermore, there is no chance of a regular daily routine, and schools in the tent camps and emergency accommodation are virtually non-existent or nothing more than a poor stopgap solution. Even if refugees make it to a safe country with their families, a normal life is still a long way off. Often a lack of language skills or simply a lack of social contacts makes it difficult for them to find their feet in their new home.
These people need some semblance of normality – that is what many projects supporting the integration and education of refugees are fighting for. Three such initiatives were supported this year in the 15th startsocial competition: The association’s aim is to support the founders of voluntary initiatives. The vision? A society where people are there for one another as a matter of course and receive the support, appreciation and visibility that they deserve. The focus of startsocial is therefore not on providing one-off financial aid for individual projects, but on creating links between business and civil society and thus facilitating a systematic transfer of knowledge. Experienced specialists and leaders voluntarily contribute their expertise as part of startsocial in two different ways: Jury members provide helpful written feedback and suggestions for how to develop the initiatives. The startsocial coaches provide on-site advice and help, for example with organizational development, financial planning and project management. The aim is to set the initiatives up so that they are able to work efficiently, effectively and on a long-term basis.
ProSiebenSat.1 co-founded the competition in 2001. Every year, employees at the Group support startsocial initiatives as jury members and coaches, contributing their expertise in various fields. In 2019, ProSiebenSat.1 employees coached five projects. Three of them – “Das Hallo Projekt,” “Zeltschule” and “Back on Track e.V.” went to Berlin for the final round, and the latter two were awarded monetary prizes.
“We create schools!” is the proclaimed aim of the “Zeltschule” association. The initiative supports the education of Syrian refugee children in Lebanon – in tents, which serve as classrooms. As well as education, the aim of the initiative is to prevent the radicalization of children and young people and to keep them from potentially fleeing to Europe. After all, well-educated young people will be essential to the rebuilding of their destroyed home country. The tent schools also give young people a taste of normal life and a routine.
Education is also key at “Back on Track”: In this initiative, Arabicspeaking refugee children work with mentors who speak the same language to develop a learning plan in order to fill any gaps in their education. First, the mentors identify which skills and knowledge the children have already acquired in their home country, as then the learning plan can be developed based on their existing skills. In this way, the initiative supports both refugee children and young people, as well as academics who have fled their home country and want to make a worthwhile contribution to their new society.
The “Hallo Projekt” goes in a completely different direction and brings together German senior citizens and immigrants. There are two parts to the project: joint activities and a tandem program. The joint activities include walks and cooking, games, cultural and dance evenings where the two groups can mix and get to know each other. The tandem program brings together senior citizens and immigrants with shared interests and hobbies who live in a similar area. It is a win-win situation: The interaction between the groups removes any prejudices on both sides – and while the refugees improve their German skills in a relaxed environment, the senior citizens enjoy social contact and make new friends.
WE ASK DR. SUNNIVA ENGELBRECHT, MEMBER OF THE EXECUTIVE BOARD AT STARTSOCIAL, THREE QUESTIONS
There are so many things that impress me about the participants. But what they all have in common is a kind of “internal engine” that drives them to want to make the world a little bit better. And I am constantly amazed by the new, incredible ideas that they come up with.
In terms of this I like to talk about the “bridgebuilding effect”: We bring together areas and people who would not normally come into contact and therefore would not be able to benefit from one another. We enable knowledge and expertise from the world of business to be transferred to the social sector, and vice versa. That actually makes our association unique.
ProSiebenSat.1 is a reliable partner that supports us in a number of ways: The employees do great work as coaches and are really dedicated to the projects that they support – even if that means doing extra work after hours. We also benefit from airtime on the Group’s stations: That raises awareness of our work and helps us during the application phase in particular.
STARTSOCIAL »HELP FOR HELPERS«
startsocial is a Germany-wide scheme for the promotion of voluntary social engagement. Under the motto “Help for Helpers,” the association awards 100 four-month advisory scholarships to social initiatives every year. Anyone who wants to tackle social problems or challenges with the aid of volunteers can get involved. startsocial scholarship winners receive four months of free coaching on their social initiative from startsocial is a Germany-wide scheme for the promotion of voluntary social engagement. Under the motto “Help for Helpers,” the association awards 100 four-month advisory scholarships to social initiatives every year. Anyone who wants to tackle social problems or challenges with the aid of volunteers can get involved. startsocial scholarship winners receive four months of free coaching on their social initiative from the German Chancellor.
If you would like to volunteer your time and get involved in startsocial, please visit startsocial.de for more information.