Like so many other things, our project this year went differently than expected: Usually the summer months are rather quiet with long (school) holidays, especially when it comes to working with volunteers. From autumn onwards, an intensive phase usually begins, in which workshops and meetings take place – not so this year. After an intensive project summer with many personal encounters, the “crafting” of ideas and plans in our first workshops, as well as some network meetings, the autumn and winter season has started. For this season, we had to come up with some new things, so that our project could continue.
After our project team was able to get to know the six Islamic communities in Saxony in spring and to get a first overview of previous offers, activities and outstanding needs and wishes, the work started right away. The mosque communities are already active in many areas of social work with their own offers. Thanks to their easy access, especially to Muslim refugees who have been arriving in Saxony since 2015, they take care of their arrival and support them in the first phase of settling in. They give advice on official questions, translate letters from authorities and often provide psychological support in difficult situations. These tasks are usually carried out by individuals “on the side”. In the past, some local authorities also offered German lessons on their premises. This offer, however, had to be discontinued due to a lack of funding. Two mosque communities run a school on their premises which offers Arabic and religious instruction. The opportunity to learn the language of their parents and to be in contact with other children in a similar situation is of particular importance for the children and young people. However, what the Corona pandemic and the associated restrictions have shown is that the services offered by the local authorities to date are on a shaky foundation. Often, there is no financial basis or digital infrastructure, so that many of the offers with the contact restrictions were discarded without replacement.
These less-than-ideal conditions did not necessarily make the beginning of the project easy, but they did show once again the importance of the project, and how important it is to strengthen the structures of Islamic communities in Saxony. During the summer months, the project staff members clarified in personal one-on-one meetings which measures would be appropriate for the respective communities. Together, they then worked out initial project ideas, which were given the highest priority by the communities. One local authority in Chemnitz, for example, would like to focus on child and youth work, but has not yet been able to find the necessary financial and human resources for this. Together with the project team, concrete projects such as a playroom for children and a youth centre were developed here. Two workshops have provided the community volunteers with important knowledge and insights in the areas of project development, financing and application. The motivation is high to also complete training as a youth manager, in order to also ensure qualification in terms of content.
Another community in Dresden has decided to close its premises for the time being due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, an active women’s group has been formed here, which will be able to switch to alternative premises in its district from next year. With the support of our project, the group is largely self-organized. After a first workshop for mutual exchange and brainstorming, the desire to set up a voluntary German conversation course to make the women more confident in speaking has been strengthened. In addition, the group would like to offer different activities and workshops once a month to actively shape their neighbourhood. Our project team is available to help the women with advice and practical support on how to put their plans into practice. The closest possible involvement of particularly committed people in the processes and procedures necessary for the realization of the women’s meeting should ensure that these do not remain a “black box” but become transparent and comprehensible.
Although the start for this year was a bit difficult, we were able to achieve a lot! We are looking forward to further cooperation with the project participants and are curious to see how things will continue next year.