HFU refugee projects and initiatives
During the 2015/2016 winter semester, HFU set up a panel which will deal with any questions which arise regarding the admission and integration of refugees who wish to study at the university.
|Chairman||Prof. Dr. Edgar Jäger||Vice President Academics, Quality management and Alumni|
HFU German courses for refugees
In the summer semester of 2016, the HFU Language Center started offering language courses to prepare refugees for future academic study in cooperation with the Villingen-Schwenningen/Rottweil Job Centres. Refugees start at a level of B1 or B2 on the Common European Framework (CEF) and are brought up to the C1 level required in order to study at a university.
- Participants are recommended by the Job Centre.
- German proficiency at CEF B1 or B2 level is a prerequisite for the course.
- The course takes place in the Job Centre premises in Lantwattenstraße in Villingen.
- Upon completion of the course the participants can sit the German as a Foreign Language (DaF) test at HFU.
Achievement of C1 level means that participants fulfill the language requirements for admission to German universities.
For those granted refugee status (depending on area):
- Landkreis Rottweil: Frau Schiebel, JC-LK-RW.Oberndorf(at)jobcenter-ge.de
- Schwarzwald-Baar-Kreis: Herr Husseck, jobcenter-schwarzwald-baar-kreis.Markt-Integration(at)jobcenter-ge.de
- Landkreis Tuttlingen: Herr Schwarzfischer, j.schwarzfischer(at)landkreis-tuttlingen.de
For asylum seekers, those granted a temporary reprieve from deportation:
- Rottweil area, Schwarzwald-Baar-Kreis and Tuttlingen: Frau Hein, Rottweil-Villingen-Schwenningen.170-InAs(at)arbeitsagentur.de
onSET language test for refugees
For those who would like to test their language level, the TestDaF Institute offers a free onSET for Refugees language test for both English and German. The online test can be carried out at any time from any computer with wifi. It offers those who are interested in studying in either German or English the opportunity to find out their level quickly and reliably enabling future students to choose the correct language course to prepare them to take a degree in Germany. Information regarding test versions, registration, participation requirements and access to the tests can be found on the refugees.onset.de website.
"HFU for Refugees" compulsory elective course
To underscore Furtwangen University's committment to supporting refugees, the pilot compulsory elective course, "HFU for Refugees" was launched by professors and academic staff from various faculties. The course seeks to discover innovative solutions to refugee problems. What does a person do, for example, if his study at home is cut short because he has to flee his country? These and other questions are dealt with on this course.
SharityOnline.de web platform
SharityOnline.de is a web platform set up by 25 HFU Business Information Systems students to allow help organizations and volunteers who want to help refugees to exchange information with each other. The platform was implemented at the beginning of 2016.
The Furtwangen University students who set it up were deeply moved by the refugee situation in Germany. Thousands of men, women and children from around the world arriving in droves, often without any official documents or personal belongings. Like many other people, they wanted to help but didn't know how. And that is when they came up with the idea of SharityOnline - to bring the volunteers and the support organizations together.
The Sharity platform makes it possible for volunteers and help organizations across Germany to communicate with each other, to exchange ideas and experiences, and to discuss problems and tasks which need doing. The organizations can post any kind of enquiry or task connected with refugee support in order to find suitable helpers. Volunteers can find out what support systems have already been set up in their area and register to help.
And of course our HFU students have already been helping out themselves - distributing clothes to refugees in one of the refugee homes in Donaueschingen near the university.
At the third annual HFU Entrepreneur Day on 3 December, 2015 last year in which ten new business ideas were presented in an Elevator Pitch competition, SharityOnline took the public's prize. Of the 10 teams which took part, 8 teams were students of Furtwangen University.
The service is completely free of charge. As a non-profit organization, Sharity is financed purely by donations which are used to pay for the server, domain, set up and marketing costs. Five students sit on the board, taking full responsibility for running the organisation which is a registered charity, SharityOnline e.V.
The students set up the charity originally by running a bake sale, but with SAP as their first company sponsor they were able to carry out further functional tests. In the meantime the charity has enough capital to advertise in Baden-Württemberg and Germany. Currently they have over 150 volunteer helpers and 8 organisations registered on the portal.
Raised Flower Bed Project
Three International Business students of the HFU Business School, Jessica Kompalla, Sabrina Gantert, Lisa Schandelmeyer, needed a practical project for their 3rd and 4th semester Project Management course. As active members at HFU of the International student organization ENACTUS, where students bring their entrepreneurial knowledge to socially-relevant projects, the students were looking for a project where they could also do something worthwhile for society. Their intercultural gardening project, Hochbeet+ was set up after they were introduced by their project supervisor, Morag Lehmann, to Marlene Reichegger, an environmental engineer and founding member of the local Transition Town initiative. This is a grassroots community project which aims to create a sustainable future with improved quality of life. The Hochbeet+ (Raised flower bed) project aims to bring refugees and senior citizens, two groups in society whose paths would normally rarely cross, together in order to encourage intercultural communication. At the same, while the refugees are learning new skills, local pensioners can continue to enjoy gardening without having to bend.
The students planned the whole project including dealing with a considerable amount of bureaucracy, finding sponsors, budgeting, purchasing, planning the delivery of the materials, tools and plants, organising manpower, recording the project on video, finding locations where the raised beds can be built and coordinating the actual building of the beds.
Although by law they cannot be paid a wage for their work, the young Gambian men, who are all currently living in the refugee home in Maria Tann near Villingen, were happy to be involved in the project. Only 8 men were needed for the project, but many more joined in to help out and had a lot of fun in the process. Many other people quickly became involved, donating their time and skills to the project. Winfried Kern, a local volunteer who works with refugees, helped coordinate the manpower. The local Green Party and the town of Schwenningen funded the first beds and several local garden centres, Gartencenter Späth, BayWa Bau&Garten and Dehner, donated tools and garden materials.
The first bed was built at the refugee home in Maria Tann in Villingen on 19 September, 2015. The workshop was led by Martin Kohler, who donated his time and skills to show the refugees how to build and set up raised beds. The first bed was then planted with herbs and vegetables which the refugees can use themselves. A local church group even brought food for the workers. "I was amazed that so many people were interested in the project and ready to help," said Lisa Schandelmeyer
Two young refugees, Amadou Jakow and Lamin Gassama, both from Gambia, said, "We really appreciate your interest and enthusiasm. It was great to work with you and we are really grateful. We will help building more beds in the future. Thank you for the wonderful idea!" The students were equally positive, " We never thought it would work out so well. For us and for them it was an really exciting day."
After the successful initiation of the project, the next phase was to find locations in care homes or local parks where new beds could be placed, and of course more sponsors. The first were the Haller, Tritschler, Maier legal practice in Schwenningen who donated enough money to fund a further 5 raised beds. "From the start we really liked the idea of students helping refugees to give society something sustainable and practical, and found it a project worth supporting, " said lawyer Thomas Haller. The first is already in place on the terrace of the Deutenberg Care Home in Schwenningen. The residents, even those in wheelchairs, can enjoy gardening without the effort of bending. Ines Hädrich from the Care Home commented, "We thought the idea was super and the residents are looking forward to having something new to do."
The students are now seeking locations for more raised beds. "We have already contacted other care homes in the area and the Seniorenresidenz am Kaiserring care home in Villingen is also very interested," said Lisa Schandelmeyer. The sustainability of the project has also been ensured as the project will later be handed over to ENACTUS students to ensure that the good work continues.
Donations can be made to the ENACTUS account. Contact: lisa.schandelmeyer(at)furtwangen.enactus.de.
German tutoring for refugees
"As part of our study programme in the 3rd and 4th semesters, we have to plan and carry out a project of our choice. With our project, we wanted to support the refugees in Schwenningen in learning German so that they can integrate as quickly as possible."
After initial difficulties in getting in touch with the refugees, and several visits to the refugee homes and meetings with the people who look after the refugees, the students were finally able to set up their project. With the help of translators and body language they made it clear what they wanted to do and everyone seemed very interested. Finding volunteers to help with the tutoring, on the other hand, was relatively easy with many HFU students being ready and willing to help out.
The project group was initially a little worried when only 12 refugees appeared to the first session, but within a week word hat got around and more and more refugees joined the group. Within a few weeks the number had tripled. The number of volunteers also increased from 18 to 40 which meant that the students could receive individual attention.
Although both tutors and students had a lot of fun, the task for the student volunteers was not always easy. Every week for an hour or an hour and a half, they did their best to explain the German grammar system and improve communication skills, but the fact that the refugees did not always come regularly and proficiency levels were very different, meant they had to be very flexible. Still, the project has been pronounced a complete success. The increasing numbers of participants, the positive energy and the many happy faces every week speak for themselves.
The project members are all 4th semester students of International Business Management at the HFU Business School: Anna Schroo, Rutendo Motsi, Anupong Tumjanda, Jeounggu Shim
HFU Refugee Buddy
"Everything began with the search for a suitable project for our "Project Management" course." The 5 International Business Management students in the project group very quickly decided that they wanted to do something to help refugees. The aim of the "HFU Refugee Buddy" project was both to improve the integration of refugees and the understanding of HFU students for their situation.
The project concept is similar to the already existing student buddy system which helps new students settle in to HFU life. All students were welcome to be buddies regardless of faculty or course or even what language they speak. The only requirement was that they would meet up with their buddy on at least 4 occasions.
Originally the project was conceived only for adult refugees, but while working together with the local social services, it was decided to include children in the project too, so that there were 3 groups, one of men, one of women and one of children. "That's how we learned our first and most important lesson when dealing with refugees - be flexible so we can meet their needs."
Before assigning each buddy to a refugee, an orientation evening was organised for the 37 student participants to learn more about the background to the so-called "refugee crisis", the current situation and the rights of asylum seekers. "We were lucky enough to have an Arabic speaking participant who gave us a crash course in Arabic, too." To avoid any potential problems and to create a good basis for common interests, female participants were assigned only to female refugees and male participants only to male refugees.
After contact was set up with the refugees, it was up to the participants on both sides to find out more about the other culture and perhaps even build a friendship for life.
One of the students, Leo Weißer, said, "My buddy Muaz and I got along great right from the start. Although he hasn't been here long, we can actually converse in German already. For me it is really interesting to hear about Germany from his point of view. I decided to take part in the programme because I wanted to form my own opinion about the "refugee crisis". Leos buddy Muaz commented, "Nobody wants to leave his home country for ever."
The students hope that their project can be continued on a voluntary basis or by another student project group.
International Women's Breakfast
On 7 May, 2016 HFU students ran an international women's breakfast in Mauritius in Schwenningen. The event which brought refugee women and German women together, was organised and carried out by 3 International Business students, Dajana Kopelmann, Elena Pinzon and Kerstin Frick, as part of their Project Management course.
The aim of the event was to promote intercultural exchange between refugee and German women and integration into German society. In all, 45 people took part in the breakfast which boasted both Arabic and German food which the group cooked and prepared together. A Syrian guitar player played Syrian songs and explained the meaning of the lyrics, while other women sang and some danced. The students also arranged a tombola which provided prizes for 3 of the participants.
The Mauritius bar provided the premises free of charge and together with several local kebap restaurants, Sultan Kebap, Ali Baba Kebap and Kebap House, as well as the Protestant-Methodist Church, also helped finance the event. The event was a great success and a wonderful experience for both the project team and the other participants.
As part of their project management course at HFU Business School, International Business Management students Chadi Hassan from Syria and Konika Kapoor from India carried out an intercultural awareness project to improve the integration of Syrian refugees in Schwenningen, where the Business School is located, into local society.
With the help of their supervisor Professor Nikola Hale the students began the project by learning more about the stories and the needs of the Syrian asylum seekers. They discovered that most of them had basically left everything behind in their homeland and that many had lost their husbands and other male members of their families.
When refugees first arrive in Baden-Wurttemberg, they are sent to the main refugee camp in Karlsruhe, then they are distributed to various cities throughout the state. They are obliged to stay at the local refugee camp in each city until they receive their residency permits. At this point they are allowed to attend classes to learn German and once they achieve B1 level, they are allowed to work.
The students learned that the most pressing need the refugees have is to become better integrated into society. Chadi and Konika organised two events to help accomplish that objective. The first was a football match between Syrian and German youths. The second event was a get-together where women from the two different cultures could meet, share their stories and make friendships on a personal level, woman to woman.
The women’s event was executed with the help of Maerit Kaasch of the local protestant congregation in Schwenningen. It was attended by women from the church congregation, Professor Nikola Hale and Morag Lehmann from the Business School and by several Syrian refugee women and girls. Other Syrian HFU students were also on hand to help with translations. The Germans were introduced to the Syrian culture through food and traditional songs. The highlight of the event was when three Syrian children aged between 8-10 sang German and English children's songs, demonstrating their astonishing ability to learn other languages and to achieve fluency in German within only 7 months.
It is planned that the project will be sustainable and that future student groups will continue to be involved in this worthwhile project.