Impressively International is a project group consisting of the International Circle of Friends, Volkswagen Global Assignments and WMG. This group is dedicated to international and intercultural topics in order to show what Wolfsburg stands for: diversity, tolerance and integration.
Wolfsburg’s democrats could not have chosen a better symbol for their new campaign #GeschlossenWeltoffen. Different clubs, churches and many other participants of the solidarity movement unite under the shape of a heart: the heart shows the outlines of our city and it stands for humanity and tolerance – and for the fact that it beats vigorously and with passion. In this interview, Olde Dibbern (association ”Erinnerung und Zukunft”) and educationalist Björn Ferneschild (VfL Wolfsburg) explain why they are joining forces, how they are committed to a diverse and tolerant Wolfsburg – and how each of us can support them.
Mr Dibbern and Mr Ferneschild, why is now the right time to send a strong signal in Wolfsburg for diversity and tolerance as well as against racism and exclusion?
Olde Dibbern: It is always the right time for such a signal! Unfortunately, xenophobia and antisemitism still exist in Wolfsburg and it is necessary to draw attention to that fact. Wolfsburg is a colorful city with people coming from many, many countries. Together, we want it to stay that way.
Björn Ferneschild: Xenophobic people represent a small but often very loud minority. It is important that a large cosmopolitan majority opposes them and that we make this visible. As a club VfL Wolfsburg is committed to diversity, social interaction and values such as openness, respect and tolerance. To this end, we use the power and role-model function of football. In the men‘s, women‘s and youth section, all teams wear the rainbow captain‘s armband to send a clear message on the field.
To what extent does solidarity movement support your commitment?
Olde Dibbern: Everything that the alliance stands for is also a concern of our association. We are part of the initiative and work with many partners to plan and implement actions together.
Björn Ferneschild: I am amazed at how many actors are involved in the initiative are still unknown and now to be rediscovered. The most important goal of the initiative is a great collaboration.
What can citizens of Wolfsburg do have to support the #GeschlossenWeltoffen campaign?
Olde Dibbern: Go to the website www.geschlossen-weltoffen.de, find out more here and simply take part…
Björn Ferneschild: … and remove stickers with right-wing slogans from the cityscape. It´s illegal to cover them with new stickers, but anyone can peel them off and make them disappear.
What can you do when you are confronted firsthand with right-wing extremist ideas?
Olde Dibbern: If it is possible to oppose it openly, then it should be done consistently. It is important to take care of yourself and not to expose yourself to any danger.
Björn Ferneschild: It can be your best friend who just comes up with a nasty joke. In such cases, say, ‚I hope you don‘t really mean it. But what you have just given of yourself is racist.‘ The worst thing is to just leave something like that in the room – because then you accept racism to a certain extent.
What projects are you developing against xenophobia and intolerance?
Olde Dibbern: Our association “Erinnerung und Zukunft“ was founded during the late 1960s out of the desire to reconcile with Poland. In September 1967, the first group of young people from Wolfsburg went to Auschwitz. Nowadays, every year on May 8th, in cooperation with IG Metall, we hold a ceremony at the memorial field for victims of national socialist tyranny. This memorial field is a cemetry, where Eastern European forced laborers are buried, including many children.
Björn Ferneschild: I work a lot with school classes. In workshops, the students and I deal with topics such as anti-discrimination, civil courage as well as sexual orientation and gender identities. An important project for the VfL is „Wolfsburger Schule für Vielfalt“, where we accompany and support schools and their anti-racist commitment for one year. We also use workshops with fans and trainings with our stadium staff to set an example against discrimination. In our projects we network with many stakeholders, including the city‘s youth development, the City Youth Council and the Center for Democratic Education.
SIDE BY SIDE WITH REFUGEES
Oliver Braun knows good times and bad times. The fate of the people who fled their homeland to escape from war and persecution also left marks on him, he says. “I get to hear stories that are unimaginable.” But he can make an important contribution so that people don‘t have to live in their past, but also have a future. His task is: „We help refugees gain a foothold in the labor and training market.“
Oliver Braun is project manager for refugee aid at Volkswagen. The group and its brands have been committed to helping refugees for six years. Over time, the focus has changed. „At the beginning of the refugee crisis, the focus was on immediate aid,“ says Oliver Braun. This included monetary and material donations as well as the support of the team that helped out in the refugee accommodation. “In the meantime, the focus of our commitment is on professional integration.” There is a range of support: language courses, qualifications or the promotion of university placements.
So far, Volkswagen AG has shown more than 2,500 refugee women and men ways into the labor market – for example in cooperation with the „Regionalverbund für Bildung e. V.“ through internships in which language training also plays an important role. Volkswagen‘s refugee aid not only stands side by side with refugees, but also with many helpers. They work in networks with companies, associations and aid organizations – including throughout Germany with the UN refugee aid and in our city with the German Red Cross and refugee aid Wolfsburg.
This solidarity is very important to Oliver Braun. „Without the great commitment that many volunteers do, many projects in refugee aid would not be possible.“