EVENT REPORT on the Kick-Off Event on the 16.08.2018 in St. Wendel of the project “Sprachtreff – for integration in the countryside”

“This project depends on the collaboration of many different people”, were the words with which host pastor Unrath opened the Kick-Off Event of the project “Sprachtreff – for integration in the countryside”.

On 16. August 2018, the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland (EKiR) and its project partners had opened the doors to town church St. Wendel to celebrate the start of the project. Among the many attendees representing organizations and associations were Marion Unger, member of the executive board of the EKiR, and Anne Fennel, director of the Diakonie Saar. Both emphasized that the project was very dear to them, because “language is the key to integration, which can open the door to a new house, which can become a second home”, as Marion Unger noted.

After Barbro Rönsch-Hasselhorn, specialist in EU funding policy and fundraising at the EKiR, welcomed all guests on behalf of the entire project team and voiced her joy about the EU’s decision to fund the project through the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, Helga Schwarze, head of the regional “Büchereifachstelle” (literally: library specialist department) of the EKiR, presented the goals and substance of the project. The guests listened intently as she illustrated the importance of language both in professional and everyday life using visuals.

The project “Sprachtreff”, according to Schwarze, builds upon the previous project “Sprachräume” (literally: language spaces) and focuses on the changing needs of migrants. In the next two years, the various “Sprachtreffs” would function as sustainable support during the language acquisition process, enhance the integration of migrants into society and the workforce and pool existing resources and networks.

“Sprachtreffs”, which are mostly organized by volunteers, are supported by the “Büchereifachstelle” through information and media holdings in order to fulfill their objectives. As a symbolic gesture of this cooperation, Helga Schwarzer handed a book on the professional integration of refugees to both church pastor Unrath of St. Wendel and the representatives of the “Jugendbüro” (Youth Office) in Marpingen, Reka Klein and Anna Hell.

These first insights into the project were followed by the introduction of the various partner organizations, presenting their respective objectives within the project and answering questions asked by the interested guests.

Anne Fennel clarified that the Diakonie Saar, the biggest provider of language classes in the Saarland, will play a central role in the guidance and training of the volunteers involved. It will make use of its expertise concerning the development of training courses in close cooperation with the Protestant Adult Education Facility of Southern Rhineland (Evangelisches Erwachsenenbildungswerk Rheinland-Süd), which was presented by its director Kirsten Arnswald. Stefan Gebhardt, division head of the field office for refugee work (Stabstelle Flüchtlingsarbeit) of the Diakonie Saar, pointed out that migrants participating in official language courses often only acquire a basic knowledge of the German language.

Hence the project will need to address this issue and aim to apply the acquired knowledge in everyday life in order to deepen it. Christian van den Kerckhoff, director of the Bonn Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Learning (Bonner Institut für Migrationsforschung und Interkulturelles Lernen (BIM) e.V.) presented the institute’s remit including public relations and evaluation, also representing Dr. Hidir Celik, head of the Protestant Migration and Refugee Work / Integration Agency (Evangelischen Migrations- und Flüchtlingsarbeit Bonn (EMFA) / Integrationsagentur), which will undertake the scientific monitoring of the project.

Afterwards, the guests were able to talk to the project partners personally, to network and to take a peek into a media box containing information material and books while enjoying refreshments.

Text: Anna Heinzel – Photos: Josef Bonenberger