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A piece of home in Bavaria

Heimaten is an association that aims to make life easier for refugees and migrants in Germany.

picture-alliance/dpa - Intercultural week
picture-alliance/dpa - Intercultural week © picture-alliance/dpa - Intercultural week

“Today there are many initiatives that aim to help refugees,” says Marianne Seiler of an association in Munich called Heimaten. Nevertheless, that does not reduce her desire to help. On the contrary, her equal opportunity network works hard to improve the culture of welcome for refugees in Germany and has already received several awards, including the Integration Prize of the Bavarian State Parliament and the Bavarian Integration Council in 2013.

The association relies on group activities and encounters to give refugees a new home. Seiler explains that this autumn, for example, joint activities are planned with the German Alpine Association. The voluntary helpers have had positive experiences with group excursions to Bavaria’s ski runs, summer camps for young people and theatre workshops. “It is otherwise very difficult for refugees to make contact with local people,” says Seiler. In addition to the frequent lack of German language skills, it soon becomes clear that most leisure activities can only be carried out if you have sufficient funds. “But refugees usually don’t have any money,” Seiler knows from her work. As a result, there are not enough meeting places where the newcomers can come into contact with Germans. 

Heimaten attempts to solve this problem by bringing refugees and local people together. People who go hiking together in the mountains at the weekend find it easier to get to know one another and overcome language barriers. “But you also need to be aware,” says Seiler, “that many refugees have had bad experiences in their countries of origin or while travelling to Germany.” That’s why their new home should offer comfort and support. Heimaten takes it for granted that home is a place “where people cultivate social relationships, lead their everyday lives, feel safe and are respected and esteemed by their fellow human beings.”

Intercultural Week in Germany from 21 to 27 September 2014