Promoting Diversity: IKJA supports young Refugees

Young people who arrive in Germany as unaccompanied refugees face many challenges. Not only do they often have to deal with traumatic experiences in their home country and during their flight, as well as separating from their family or even losing them, they also have to cope with a new start in a foreign culture and language. This is where the IKJA (International Cultural Youth Exchange) association in Hanover comes in: As part of its social and integration work, it accompanies adolescents as well as the families of minors and provides practical support. Its mentors and learning mentors help these youth to gain a foothold in their new environment and develop prospects for their future.

The concept is based on the belief and experience that the sustainable integration of the heavily burdened 14- to 26-year-olds requires the development of a great deal of trust before they can regain courage and hope. To this end, the 120 volunteers are irreplaceable. In recent years, many young refugees who were at one time very desperate have been able to build mutually enriching and long-lasting relationships with their mentors.
The association works with various partners, including youth welfare institutions, educational projects, but also therapists and counselling centres. “IKJA’s cooperative approach and its commitment to supporting the development of youth as whole persons and to helping them help themselves is very much in the spirit of our foundation”, says SAGST project manager Silvia Eller. “Everyone involved experiences how valuable a culture of togetherness can be for our society.”

Whether it’s organising tutoring or providing general assistance with vocational orientation, job applications and finding apprenticeships – IKJA is a partner that the adolescents can depend on. During the summer holidays, it also organises summer schools with intensive German courses and supplementary sports and leisure programmes in which local pupils and students also participate. This integrative idea follows the association’s motto – “Think different. Think one world.” – and also characterises the monthly Meet&Greet, where local youth and newly immigrated teens of various nationalities cook or go rock climbing or on excursions together. Furthermore, cultural projects such as the “GET2gether” youth theatre have produced plays, choreographies and short films in recent years that explore the young peoples’ experiences – another way to deal creatively with individual identity as well as personal wishes and goals.