“Give everyone a voice”
Discovering other cultures or protecting the environment: neighbourhood ambassadors want to achieve something. We introduce you to Vane Beglaryan.
People from over 170 nations live in Frankfurt am Main. Living together in the city is usually peaceful, but sometimes friction does occur – even at school. “Especially from the beginning of secondary school onwards, whether out of ignorance or lack of communication, prejudices soon emerge that can then lead to conflicts. This then diminishes the sense of community,” says Vane Beglaryan. “That’s why I want to campaign for a better communal life.”
Ambassadors for change
The 18-year-old school student, whose parents came to Germany from Armenia 25 years ago, is a “neighbourhood ambassador”. This involves a one-year scholarship from the Polytechnic Foundation of Frankfurt am Main, which is aimed at inhabitants of Frankfurt between 15 and 27 years of age. They want to change something in their city district: bring people together, promote cultural exchange or protect the environment. “Sometimes the focus is on concrete problems in a neighbourhood, sometimes on issues that affect society as a whole, such as food waste,” says Silja Flach, who manages the programme. The young people receive coaching, mentors and financial support.
As a neighbourhood ambassador, Vane Beglaryan wants to sensitise her fellow students for other cultures. She developed a workshop called Kultur – Pur! (Pure Culture), in which 50 school students playfully examined subjects such as multiculturalism and the meaning of home. They marked where their families came from on a globe. Vane was surprised: “Many of them told me they would never have dared to ask the others about their origins.” The students discussed where their roots are and what their relationship with Frankfurt is. “It’s important to give everyone a voice.”
Many projects have been initiated by the 150 neighbourhood ambassadors since 2007. Some of them – for example, the Repair Café, a collaborative garden and a climbing tower – have become permanent. Vane will also continue to be active: she is founding an association that aims to strengthen young people’s intercultural understanding. “One student told me how he now feels much more at home in Frankfurt as a result of the workshop.” That encouraged Beglaryan to carry on nurturing democratic values, to continue promoting cohesion – and making young people realise that Frankfurt is their home.