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Community Magazine

‫مجلة مجتمع كايرون‬


Community Magazine ‫نورياك عمتجم ةلجم‬ was created in cooperation with

Die Veröffentlichungen stellen keine Meinungsäußerung des BMFSFJ oder des BAFzA dar. Für inhaltliche Aussagen trägt der Autor/die Autorin bzw. tragen die Autoren/die Autorinnen die Verantwortung.

Kiron Community Dear Reader, It is hard for me to hear the word “community” and not think of another American, Martin Luther King, Jr., and what he called the “Beloved Community.” He was not the first to use this term, but it became part of his legacy. Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision in which peaceful resolution to conflicts, love and trust, peace and justice. The Kiron Community aspires to be a Beloved Community: a place where, regardless of background or circumstances, students have access to higher education. In our community, students get support and support one another, are kind to each other, and use the power of education to lift up themselves and our broader community. What I often hear from our students is that, at Kiron, they are not refugees. They are students. They are members of the Kiron community. They are valued. I would like to thank our partners BMFSFJ, the Allianz Kulturstiftung and the ZEIT-Stiftung for supporting this idea and promote a collaborative project that encourages participation, engagement, community spirit, and that empowers our student voices. Empowerment is the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights. When you combine this definition: Stronger and more confident and in control of one’s life and rights - with the word community, then you have created a beloved community. This peaceful sisterhood and brotherhood is the Kiron community. Study, support, collaboration, learning, care creates empowerment through education! I think that the best way to empower oneself is through education. The opportunity that Kiron provides to transfer into university is a path to empowerment.Another opportunity Kiron provides is networking – connecting with and learning from others, growing through collaboration. I urge you to join our vibrant Kiron community and find strength and transformation through education.

Scott Goldner Chief Educational Program Officer


all people can share the wealth of the earth. It values human decency, sister and brotherhood,

Table of Contents



Kiron Community


Give the World a Big Real Hug


Kiron at a Glance


Empowerment of Refugees

in German Society


Migration in Germany


Framing the Problem


Looking Beyond the Numbers


Digital Education Space


Kiron Forum


Kiron Webinar


Khaled’s Story






Wafaa’s Story


Kiron Network


NGO Interview

Hannah Wuzel - Migration Hub


Volunteer Interview - Bahar’s Story



3 1

Mentor Interview

Give the World a Big Real Hug

Julia Jürgens - Metro AG


Democratic Participation

It is the last weekend in November, so no wonder there


The Translator

are no free seats and too much luggage on the floor.

3 8

Ehab’s Story

Luckily, I managed to fit in near a lovely couple sitting

4 1

Syrian Youth Group

4 2

Community Weekend


Stereotypes & Prejudice

4 7

Rima’s Story

5 0 Sarah’s Story 53

Female Empowerment


Our Voice


Linda’s Story

5 8


of Action & Thank you

on the floor. Her pale face revealed how cold she was. But her partner’s tender smile and jacket – draped across her shoulders – kept the chill at bay. I leaned back and closed my eyes to recapture all the images and memories of the exotic time in Berlin as part of the Kiron Community Weekend 2017. A wave of awe soothed my soul. I could still hear the soothing voice of Abdullah addressing me as “Khale,” meaning “my aunt,” in his special accent. The enthusiasm of Wafaa, the passion of Belal, the calm rational discussion of Samer, the inspiration of Vincent, and Linda – the human compass with her red manicured nails on her smartphone, the flashes of the professional camera trying to take us all in one photo lift me up, so I keep my eyes closed to keep the sense of belonging to the warm Kiron family. More bright smiles and clever sparkling eyes were there celebrating the moment of being together and forming our community of passionate people from all walks of life who dream of living productively in a more fair and sharing world. Together, we are slowly but surely build-

‫ذكاءا وتعيش اللحظات حتى الثاملة وتشكل مجتمعا من األفراد الذين يشكلون‬ ‫كل األطياف الحياتية ويحلمون جميعا بتشكيل عامل أكرث عدالة وسالم وتعاون‬ ‫وانتاج‪ .‬كخلية النحل‪ ،‬الكل منهمك يف رسم خارطة الطريق للوصول اىل التعليم‬ ‫‪.‬واالتصال الرقمي البناء‬ ‫وسوف نصل إىل أهدافنا! انها ليست نبوءة بل حقيقة طاملا كل عضو يف مجتمع‬ ‫‪.‬كايرون يعيش املشاركة والزمالة كأسلوب حياة‬ ‫هدفنا هو خلق مجتمع محب وهذا يتطلب تغيري نوعي يف نفوسنا‪ ،‬فضال عن“‬ ‫التغيري الكمي يف حياتنا”‪ ،‬الدكتور مارتن لوثر كينغ االبن قالها يوما وصنع تغيريا‬ ‫‪.‬لذلك نحن أيضا نستطيع‬ ‫يف عطلة نهاية األسبوع يف برلني تعلمنا سوية كيف نعطي “عناقا من القلب‬ ‫“ وأن نكون أنفسنا حني نتعامل بشجاعة يف محيط اإلمكانات التكنولوجية‬ ‫وعامل املعلومات واالتصاالت التي تعزز الحياة‪ .‬تشابكت أيدي الطالب والفريق‬ ‫واملتطوعني والرعاة لالستثامر يف ما منلك من امكانات ليك نحقق ما نستحق من‬ ‫نجاح ومكاسب‪ .‬وها نحن نتخيل العامل الذي نعيشه اليوم بشكل مختلف ألن‬ ‫مجتمع كايرون ليس منوذجا جاهزا تحكمه قوالب جامدة ‪ -‬أسود أم أبيض؛‬ ‫معي ام ضدي؛ او نحن أم هم‪ .‬يف مجتمع كايرون تزدهر وتنمو تجاربنا من‬ ‫خالل النظر عرب عدسات الخربة الشخصية والتطور يف ظالل الرمادي لتحقيق ما‬ ‫‪.‬هو حقا مجتمعنا‬


‫حينام يتكلم طالب كايرون عن قصصهم‪ ،‬هم ميارسون وعيا انها ليست بطاقة‬ ‫مجانية للحرية الكاملة! إننا يف العامل االفرتايض حيث نستطيع أن نحقق األفكار‬ ‫ونكرس قوتنا ألجل التغيري املنشود حتى وإن كان هذا التغري صعب التحقيق‬ ‫ضمن طريقنا نحو نرش بذور التسامح‪ ,‬والطموحات التي ميكن تحقيقها‪،‬‬ ‫والتوقعات املمكنة‪ ،‬ورعاية اآلخرين واملشاركة معهم‪ .‬حوارنا سوف يقودنا إىل‬ ‫فهم مشرتك و بناء مجتمع وبيئة صحية ألن شعارنا هو” أنا أستطيع تحقيق‬ ‫هديف بالتعاون معك”‪ .‬وألن شعارنا يتصدق بغمرة وحضن كبري لذا امسك قلمك‬ ‫‪.‬وابدأ بالكتابة‬ ‫يف حال الغموض واملشاكل البرشية والسياسية واالجتامعية و التدخالت الدامئة‪،‬‬ ‫من الخري أن تكتب وتشارك بدال من أن تجلس وتنتظر املعجزات! هيا بنا‬ ‫‪.‬نكون معجزات كايرون‬

‫‪ing a path to accessing education and being digitally‬‬ ‫‪connected. We will reach our goals! It is not a proph‬‬‫‪ecy. It is reality, as long as every member of the Kiron‬‬ ‫‪community is giving credit and recognizing peers in an‬‬ ‫‪atmosphere of genuine engagement and fellowship.‬‬ ‫‪“Our goal is to create a beloved community, and this‬‬ ‫‪will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a‬‬ ‫‪quantitative change in our lives.” Dr. Martin Luther King,‬‬ ‫‪Jr., made it, and we can make it too. We know how to‬‬ ‫‪give a “real hug” and to be ourselves surfing bravely in‬‬ ‫‪the ocean of life-enhancing potential of information‬‬ ‫‪and communication technologies. To earn our place in‬‬ ‫‪this community, students, team, volunteers and spon‬‬‫‪sors invest in the notion of building on what we have. In‬‬ ‫‪so doing, we are re-imagining the world. Kiron’s world‬‬ ‫”‪is not a ready-made model of black and white; “for me‬‬ ‫‪or “against me”; us and them. We are all blooming by‬‬ ‫‪looking through the lenses of personal experience and‬‬ ‫‪holding each other’s hands in the shades of greys to‬‬ ‫‪achieve what what is truly vital, resourceful and authen‬‬‫‪tic to our community. Kiron is the virtual community‬‬ ‫‪where we can entertain ideas and devote ourselves to‬‬ ‫‪enacting change. Even if we do not wish to embrace‬‬ ‫‪others tightly, as long as we are spreading seeds of‬‬ ‫‪tolerance, manageable ambitions, cultivating realistic‬‬ ‫‪ambitions, managing expectations, caring and sharing,‬‬ ‫‪then we are on the right road. Our dialogue will lead‬‬ ‫‪to mutual understanding and build and to building a‬‬ ‫”‪healthy social environment where “I can do it with you‬‬ ‫‪is our motto which we seal with “a bear hug.” So pick‬‬ ‫‪your pen and start writing, because in the current social‬‬ ‫‪and political climate, it is far easier to write and share‬‬ ‫‪than to await miracles.‬‬

‫انه األسبوع األخري يف ترشين الثاين ‪ /‬نوفمرب متكنت من ايجاد مكان يل وسط‬ ‫الزحام قرب عاشقني يف ربيع العمر‪ .‬يحضنها بحب بينام يفرتشان األرض‪ .‬الوجه‬ ‫الجميل الباهت مل يخفي الربودة التي تسللت اىل جسدها إال أن االبتسامة‬ ‫الدافئة من رشيكها الوسيم شجعتني ألضع سرتيت السميكة فوق كتفيها الراجفني‪.‬‬ ‫أسندت ظهري املتعب واغلقت عيناي ألجمع صور اللحظات التي شكلت ذاكريت‬ ‫‪.‬عن لقاء طالب كايرون يف مدينة برلني لقضاء عطلة نهاية األسبوع‬ ‫موجة من الرهبة الحنون اجتاحت روحي و جلبت لهجة عبد الله املحببة وهو‬ ‫يناديني “يا خالة!” وتتالت صور لحامس وفاء‪ ،‬وشغف بالل‪ ،‬وحوار سامر‪،‬و‬ ‫إلهام فنسنت‪ ،‬و طيف ليندا ‪ -‬البوصلة البرشية ذات األظافر املطلية بأناقة‬ ‫اللون األحمر وهي تحل لنا ألغاز الرتام وحافالت برلني عىل هاتفها الجوال ‪.‬‬ ‫ورحلت ذاكريت مع ومضات الكامريا بينام املصور املحرتف يحاول جاهدا أن‬ ‫يحتوينا جميعا يف عدسته‪ .‬أبقيت عيناي مغلقتان يك ال يفر من خاللهام ذلك‬ ‫االحساس الجميل باالنتامء إىل “مجتمع كايرون”‪ .‬ابتسامات مرشقة وعيون تتألأل‬

Kiron Open Higher Education is a digital innovation to provide refugees VISION


A world where everyone has the opportunity to access and succeed in higher education.

Provide access to higher education and successful learning for refugees through digital solutions.




40% Syria

9% Afghanistan





7% Somalia











17.2% Female

82.8% Male













nonprofit EdTech organization that uses with access to quality higher education. PROGRAM

Tailor-made curricula, a digital collaborative platform and an extensive range of supportive services enable refugees to begin their studies online while they work towards fulfilling formal requirements to apply to a university.


Computer Science




Business & Economics


Political Sciences





Mechanical Engineering







Social Work









3 70 200 54


Empowerment of Refugees in German Society

‫دعم الالجئني ضمن املجتمع األملاين‬

At Kiron, we offer more than just the opportunity to access and succeed in higher education; we provide a support system, a place for students and refugees to feel welcomed, encouraged and empowered. Providing access to education is our foundation, but helping refugees better integrate into and engage with their new home country – whether it be through language courses, community events, online support and even our Buddy and Mentor Programs – are equally central to our mission. Through storytelling and sharing, our community can amplify the voices and share the messages of our students. We have the opportunity to not only encourage other Kiron students but also to give hope to 6

refugees worldwide. Kiron participants are more than just students to us. Being a Kiron student involves being motivated and encouraged to take a leap of faith, knowing that there is fellow support from fellow Kiron students, Kironistas and the Kiron community. Speaking out as a Kiron student is about speaking up on behalf

‫ نحن نقدم أكرث من مجرد الفرصة املتساوية للجميع للدخول‬,‫يف كايرون‬ ‫ نظام الدعم‬,ً‫ نحن نقدم نظام دعم أيضا‬,‫والنجاح ضمن نظام التعليم العايل‬ ‫ و‬,‫ محفزين‬,‫هو مكان للطالب والالجئني ليك يشعروا بأنهم مرحب بهم‬ ,‫إن تقديم الوصول إىل التعليم هو أساس أعاملنا‬.‫مدعومني للنجاح والتميز‬ ‫ولكن مساعدة الالجئني لالندماج واملشاركة بشكل أفضل ضمن وطنهم الجديد‬ ‫ الدعم‬, ‫ النشاطات االجتامعية واملجتمعية‬,‫– إن كان ذلك عرب دورات اللغة‬ ‫ كل‬- ”‫ و حتى برنامجي الرفيق “بودي” و املستشار “مينتور‬,‫عرب اإلنرتنت‬ ‫هذه الربامج هي مهمة بشكل متساوي ألجل قيمنا األساسية‬. ‫ قادرين عىل إيصال أصوات‬,‫ نحن كمجتمع‬,‫من خالل الرسد القصيص واملشاركة‬ ‫ ولكن أيضاً لرفع‬,‫ ليس فقط لتحفيز باقي الطالب‬,‫طالبنا و مشاركة رسائلهم‬ ‫ أن‬-‫ طالب كايرون هم أكرث من مجرد طالبنا‬.‫آمال الالجئني يف كل أنحاء العامل‬ ‫تكون طالب لدى كايرون هذا يعني أن تكون متحمس ومستعد لتتحىل‬ ‫ موظفي‬,‫ وأن تعلم أنه يوجد دعم مشرتك بني طالب كايرون‬,‫باإلميان الكامل‬ ‫ أن تتحدث باسم كايرون هذا يعني أن تكون‬.ً‫كايرون ومجتمع كايرون كامال‬ ‫ الذين يأتون من نفس‬,‫ وطالبي اللجوء واملهاجرين‬,‫كلمتك باسم كل الالجئني‬ ‫ أمل‬,‫ أولئك متحدين يشكلون مجتمع أفراده كلهم طموح‬,‫الظروف والتجارب‬ ‫ودعم لآلخرين‬

of all refugees, asylum seekers and migrants who come from similar circumstances. Together, we make up a vibrant community of promising, hopeful and empowered individuals. We would like to thank our project partners BMFSFJ, Allianz Kulturstiftung and ZEIT-Stiftung for supporting our mission. Thanks to the project “MIT-DIR- Miteinander und Teilhabe in digitalen und von Diversität geprägten sozialen Räumen,” this Kiron Community Magazine and so much more was made possible. As part of the federal program “Demokratie leben!”, the project MIT-DIR encouraged refugees in Germany to overcome online and offline barriers to social participation. This project also engaged volunteers working with refugees, civic-society actors such as NGO representatives, as well as the general public. In line with these goals, Kiron was able to: 1) Develop an interactive Webinar on the topic of stereotypes and discrimination; 2) Bring together Kiron students, volunteers and representatives of a number of change-driven organisations for a Community and Workshop Weekend; 3) Encourage a group of Kiron students to become trained moderators in digital spaces such as the Kiron Forum, where they act as “multipliers” and empower other students to deal with challenges related to discrimination; 4) Use the digital space to share success stories focusing on female empowerment and on countering Islamophobia; 5) Extend our Kiron network with other organisations in order to facilitate long-term cooperations and develop synergy in our strategic development; 6) Create this Student Community Magazine! We are truly thankful to our project funder, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) and the co-funders Allianz Kulturstiftung and ZEIT-Stiftung for making this incredibly unique and powerful project possible. Thank you! Danke!

‫شك ًرا لكم‬

Migration in Germany

Asylum Applications 2016/2017 Potential in Germany Various projections have shown that up to 50,000 refugee interested in studying and suitable for studying came to Germany in 2015 alone and thus have the qualifications to study. (Quelle: DAAD)

Country of Origin Syria (36,9%) Afghanistan (17,6%) Iraq (13,3%) Eritrea (8,6%) Iran (4,1%)

Age Groups

Volunteering in Germany 43,6% of Germans participate in volunteer work, with numbers increasing among women, young people and seniors. Bundesfamilienministerium, März 2017, Volunteering in Germany: The high number of people seeking refuge in Germany since the summer of 2015 has led to a considerable

18 - 25 years (23,5%) 25 - 30 years (14,1%) 18 - 30 years (37,6%)

Gender female applicants: 48,4% male applicants: 51,6%

increase in commitment, practical help, in-kind donations as well as donations for refugees: Almost half of the people living in Germany became active in one of these forms. In addition, new and innovative forms of voluntary involvement in refugee aid have emerged.

Educational Level

highest educational institution attended Secondary school: 21,6% University: 16,6% 28,1% English skills 1,8% German skills

BAMF, Januar 2017, Schlüssel Zahlen Asyl 2016 BAMF, Dezember 2016, Aktuelle Zahlen zu Asyl BAMF, Februar 2016, BAMF-Kurzanalyse: Sozialstruktur, Qualifikationsniveau und Berufstätigkeit Bundesfamilienministerium, März 2017, Zentrale Ergebnisse – Zweiter Engagementbericht 2016


Framing the Problem GLOBAL CONFLICTS HAVE FORCED OVER 651 MILLION PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD INTO EXILE, AND ROUGHLY 34,000 PEOPLE ARE FORCED TO FLEE THEIR HOMES EVERY DAY. Less than one percent of the world’s displaced population has access to higher education. Barriers to education hold back the aspirations of millions of motivated and talented people worldwide, meaning that less than one percent of refugees are able to attend University. Even after resettlement in a host country, it can take years before one can resume university studies. The barriers refugees face when trying to access higher education include:2

Missing Documents Universities require items, such as a valid passport, that can be near to impossible to attain when arriving from a war-torn country. Kiron enables students to study online before they can formally register at a university. Kiron allows students to begin studying while they work towards collecting the necessary documents to apply to university.


Lack of Guidance & Information Recent refugees must contend with an entirely new bureaucracy and education system. A lack of guidance and support can deter potential students from accessing higher education. Kiron offers guidance and support for students as they navigate a new educational system, helping them to understand university application requirements and providing support and information that prospective students need to succeed in their new countries.

Language Barriers Universities require sufficient language skills for enrollment, which refugees typically do not possess upon arrival. Kiron offers language courses to assist students in meeting the language requirements needed to attend university in their host country. In addition, all of our online coursework is provided in English, a language most of our students are fluent in.

Capacity Universities have limited capacity and are unable to cope with an unexpected increase in new students. Kiron’s online study phase requires no university capacity. Once students fulfill university requirements, they can apply to regular university degree program.

Costs High tuition fees at universities make enrolling for a study program in the host country cost-prohibitive. Kiron students can study online on at Kiron Campus entirely free of charge. During this period of online study, students can inform themselves about ways to finance their offline studies. 1 UN Statistics

2 UNHCR - The UN Refugee Agency

“Challenges particular to refugees often relate to the certification and recognition of prior studies by officials and academic institutions in the country of asylum. Refugees often flee without important documents, including academic track records, which may impede their access to institutions of higher learning. Due to frequent marginalisation in the country of asylum, refugees may also find it harder to access support services to obtain necessary information, advice and individual guidance, which is sensitive to their specific context – compared to, for example, voluntarily migrating international students – and takes into account the implications of their legal status as refugees. Limits in the capacity of academic institutions or lack of financial resources to open up national scholarship schemes to refugee applicants also count among frequently mentioned barriers in accessing higher education.”

UNHCR Ths UN Refugee Agency


Looking Beyond the Numbers Kiron Academic Specialist - Sophia Burton


In my educational work and volunteer engagement,


It is my hope that we can go into 2018 with a com-

I’ve come across countless pieces of research and per-

mon goal of moving past the increasing polarization

sonal stories that challenge the mainstream narrative

of “pro” and “con”, “us” and “them”, and “migrant” and

we hear about refugees and migration. Kiron students

“native”, to having sensible and solutions-oriented discus-

are a prime example: we have students who consistently

sions about our increasingly global world. As our student

demonstrate their hope and willingness to make some-

Ahmad said, “All refugees are humans, and all humans

thing of themselves and contribute to their new homes,

are citizens of the world!”

despite the many barriers put in their paths. As the statistics on the previous pages show, numbers are certainly important when it comes to educating the public on the refugee situation. However, I have learned in my work with both Kiron Open Higher Education and Migration Matters (which produces bite-sized videos to make the research about migration and refugees more accessible) that numbers can only tell us so much. Context, perspectives and nuance matter! We know, for instance, that the general public fears the scope and effects of immigration - on their jobs, national cultures, security, and ways of life. But we also know from studies like Ipsos MORI (2016) that the public is prone to misconceptions, and tends to greatly overestimate the number of refugees, migrants, or Muslims in their countries. The scope of migration is a good example. Despite current public debate about “unprecedented numbers of migrants”, the percentage of migrants in the world has actually remained very stable at 3.2%, a figure that hasn’t changed in decades. And while Europe is indeed experiencing more refugee arrivals than it has since World War II, 84% of the world’s refugees are still hosted in the developing world. Opportunities for local integration and resettlement are few and far between (less than 1% of the world’s refugees have a chance at resettlement).

“All refugees are humans, and all humans are citiens of the world!” First Kiron Transfer Student, Ahmad

11 11

‫‪Digital Education Space‬‬

‫فضاء التعليم الرقمي‬

‫يدرس الطالب مع كايرون من كل أنحاء العامل عرب اإلنرتنت من أي مكان‬ ‫هم فيه‪ :‬من مخيامت اللجوء أو املكتبات العامة أو يف أماكن استقرارهم‬ ‫الجديدة‪ ،‬أو يف مواقف الباصات ويف الطريق نحو العمل‪ .‬أن تكون عضو‬ ‫يف مجتمع كايرون هذا يعني أكرث من مجرد أن تستحوذ عليك فكرة حب‬ ‫العلم واملعرفة ومالحقة أهدافك األكادميية والتعليمية‪ .‬يف مجتمع كايرون‪،‬‬ ‫أنت عضو فعال يف الحرم الجامعي اإللكرتوين‪ ,‬واملجتمع اإللكرتوين ‪ .‬واألهم‬ ‫أن تكون فردا ً ضمن مجتمع كايرون و تشارك بفعالية يف النشاطات عىل‬ ‫املوقع اإلليكرتوين أو يف الواقع‪ .‬إن تبادل األفكار يف منتدى كايرون أمر‬ ‫فعال جدا ً لتحقيق غاية التعلم‪ .‬أن مشاركتك تساعد وتدعم بقية الطلبة و‬ ‫تحافظ عىل روح التعلم‬ ‫الراقي‬ ‫الدعم الرقمي عرب مواقع التواصل االجتامعي يهدم عوائق مشاركة الالجئني‬ ‫يف التعلم لذا قم باملشاركة الفعالة ضمن مواقع وقنوات كايرون للتواصل‬ ‫االجتامعي والدرايس‬

‫‪consuming knowledge is quite literally at our fingertips.‬‬ ‫‪We can access knowledge from everywhere; we stream,‬‬ ‫‪absorb, dive in and swim in this great ocean of digital‬‬ ‫‪information. Knowledge has become borderless, while‬‬ ‫‪the walls of the ivory towers – and elitism itself – crack‬‬ ‫‪and crumble. In this immense pool of knowledge, we‬‬ ‫‪connect with others and find new ways of learning, con‬‬‫‪structing new worlds and new communities. By offering‬‬ ‫‪refugees access to free higher education, Kiron chal‬‬‫‪lenges the dusty, outdated hierarchies of the academy.‬‬ ‫‪Kiron students are studying with us from all around‬‬ ‫‪the world. They access our online courses from refugee‬‬ ‫‪camps, public libraries, new homes, even at the bus‬‬ ‫‪stop on the way to work. Being part of Kiron is about‬‬ ‫‪much more than just absorbing knowledge, following‬‬ ‫‪academic goals and learning. It is about being a Kiron‬‬ ‫‪student: being part of a digital campus, a digital com‬‬‫‪munity, a Kiron family that engages online and offline,‬‬ ‫‪that exchanges ideas on Kiron Forum, that helps and‬‬ ‫‪supports each other and that stands together in the‬‬ ‫‪spirit of learning.‬‬ ‫‪Digital empowerment makes it possible for refugees‬‬ ‫‪to conquer the barriers they face both online and in dai‬‬‫‪ly life. With our Platform and Forum, as well as our Kiron‬‬ ‫‪Blog and Social Media, Kiron students can share their‬‬ ‫‪perspectives and learn from each other.‬‬

‫‪“Kiron is being‬‬ ‫‪part of a digital‬‬ ‫”‪community‬‬


‫إننا نعيش حاليا يف العرص الرقمي – يف هذا الزمن الرقمي حيث مشاركة‬ ‫واستهالك املعرفة أصبحت مبتناول إصبعك عىل هاتفك الجوال‪ .‬لقد أصبح‬ ‫بإمكاننا اليوم الولوج إىل املعرفة من أي مكان‪ ،‬بإمكانك اإلبحار والغوص‬ ‫والسباحة بكل حرية ضمن هذا املحيط العظيم من املعلومات الرقمية‪.‬‬ ‫لقد أصبحت املعرفة بغري حدود أو قيود‪ .‬إن جدران األبراج العاجية التي‬ ‫خصصت املعرفة سابقا فقط للنخبة قد تحطمت اآلن أمام املعرفة الرقمية‪.‬‬ ‫لقد قفزنا برباعة ضمن هذه الربكة الكبرية من املعرفة والعلم وإننا يف سعي‬ ‫مستمر من البحث والتواصل ألجل إيجاد طرق جديدة للتعلم وبناء عوامل‬ ‫جديدة وخلق معنى جديد للمجتمع‪ .‬إن كايرون تحدت وبكل قوة الشكل‬ ‫التقليدي الهرمي للتعليم العايل و أوجدت عاملاً جديدا ً‪ ،‬حيث بإمكان‬ ‫‪.‬الالجئني الولوج إىل التعليم العايل بشكل مجاين‬

‫‪We live in the digital age - an era where sharing and‬‬


Kiron Forum

The Kiron Forum was originally envisioned as a digital

we can organize student events, hackathons and soc-

space where Kiron students could find answers and

cer matches against other universities outside of the

share experiences, just as they would on a real campus.

Forum.” This quote portrays perfectly why the power

While at first the Forum was a place where students

of a community lies in the community itself, not in the

posed study-related questions and received answers

organizers of that community. Our task should be to

from moderators, it quickly evolved into something

organize the community so it can organize itself. This

more fluid, community based and user-driven. The Fo-

quote also shows that the best way to empowerment

rum users started sharing stories, experiences and issues

is to turn users into multipliers. And ideally, let those

only indirectly related to their studies. It is the beauty

multipliers turn other users into multipliers. By using an

of community-driven platforms that users usually find

open-minded and collaborative approach, our students

new, unanticipated ways to use the platform.

taught us how to set the course for a self-sustaining and

Recently, two workshops brought together existing moderators and community managers, external experts and active forum users. These workshop participants collaboratively developed a new moderation guideline, incentive and role system, and set of community rules. After an exhaustive assessment of user needs, best practices in digital community building, forum management and student empowerment, we collaboratively developed new moderator guidelines with our students that allowed them to essentially moderate themselves. As one of the students mentioned in a workshop: “You don’t need to organize us within the Forum. Give us some tools and resources, so that within the Forum

empowering future Forum community: simply allow the students to become moderators themselves.


“The power of a community lies in the community itself”



Kiron Webinar With large numbers of refugees entering Germany, various NGOs are working to address migration and integration. Kiron finds it essential to support the volunteers of these organizations and equip them with the tools necessary to work together with migrants. Kiron recently piloted a digital seminar to help volunteers effectively with issues related to stereotypes and discrimination. Our recent two-hour Webinar titled, “I don’t judge! Do I?,” was targeted at volunteers working in social impact-oriented organizations and intercultural communities. Using the online conference tool Google Hangouts, two Kiron staff members guided the groups through the session and encouraged open discussion

‫لدي رأي خاص حول أولئك الذين يعتقدون أنفسهم غري‬ ،‫ نود أن نعتقد بأننا أحرار من إصدار األحكام املسبقة‬.‫متحيزين‬ ‫ فنحن لسنا كذلك‬-‫ولكن عندما نفكر يف ذلك‬ ‫مشارك ضمن الندوة‬

and the sharing of personal experiences with stereotypes and discrimination. Participants also received an reveal how we are all influenced by cultural stereotypes - consciously or unconsciously. While all participants have worked in multicultural settings, the majority appreciated the theoretical insight and gained a new perspective on a topic relevant to their work. Although their awareness of issues related to multiculturalism is likely above average, participants felt that stereotypes and prejudice nevertheless influenced their everyday life. In an evaluation of the Webinar, several participants indicated that the theoretical understanding of the unconscious thought processes underlying bias helped them to address these issues of prejudice and discrimination more effectively.

“I think especially for people who consider themselves unbiased, we like to think we are free of judgement, but when we think about it we aren’t.” Webinar Participant

Based on this pilot, we have defined the following best practices for conducting interactive online seminars. First, no more than four to five people should participate in an interactive webinar session. While in offline settings larger groups can efficiently work together, online sessions benefit from a small group size. Secondly, at least one of the facilitators should share his or her personal experience with the topic first, before asking participants to contribute their ideas and experiences. This approach creates a safe environment in which participants speak openly. Lastly, it is recommended to use a variety of presentation methods. In this webinar, slides were used to present some of the theoretical information and to illustrate practical examples. It is not necessary to use the video function (as this often impacts sound quality in case of poor internet connection). Instead, it is recommended to rely on audio. An interactive webinar can blur the line between educators and learners, empowering all participants to contribute to the content and its understanding. The active engagement of all participants refuted the claim that online learning is passive and not interactive. The piloting of this Webinar illustrated how to successfully equip volunteers with the skills needed to work with refugees. Organisations such as Kiron who operate internationally and use a variety of digital channels to reach their target group can benefit from using online webinars.


introduction to some of the psychological theories that

Khaled’s Story

language. I am fluent in English, German, Arabic, not so much French and Spanish anymore, and if we want to count them, of course a few programming languages! Even though it was difficult for me to get out of my comfort zone, I have found myself making more use of my spo-

I wanted to study, so I started my Bachelor at 17 as one of the youngest in my class. I wanted to become a chemical engineer, and I had an incredible passion for programming. Amongst all the numbers and codes, is where I found myself. My name is Khaled, and my passion for programming and for learning has continued to push me forward over the last five years. I am from Hama, INTERVIEW BY ALISHA MERK LE

a small city in the middle of Syria, but two years ago I


moved to Erfurt, which is the middle of Germany. When I first came to Germany, I felt like an outsider. In the beginning, I didn’t really have the opportunity to do anything. I was only taking language courses, which was nice, but it made me realize how much I missed my education. Then I found Kiron, and I felt a sense of belonging. I felt like I was back, and that I had refound myself through my studies! Erfurt has become my new Heimat-Stadt. It is very nice here and even though I am not very social, I enjoy the company of the friends I have made. The little bit of socializing that I do here is a big deal for me. I always was – and mostly still am – the guy who is always in his room, in front of his computer, hidden away from the rest of the world. One time, my entire family even went on a trip to Morocco together, and everybody went - my parents, two sisters and brother - except for me. But I preferred it this way. I wanted to stay home, tucked away behind my computer screen, looking at codes and numbers, making sense of the world I truly felt I was a part of. Going out and travelling never really appealed to me. My parents mostly respected my introverted ways, but from an early age, my dad had encouraged me to be a doctor. He wanted me to be able to help people. But I found my passion in IT, and I defended that passion and studied everything I could about it. Everyone should find the key to their inspiration. I truly believe that people need to find and defend their dreams and then try hard to achieve them, to never give up. My mom always told me to do what I wanted, to follow my dreams and that she trusted in me. So here I am, trying to do just that. As I said, Kiron gave me a sense of purpose again, so I pursued it. My courses with Kiron and Saylor Academy were very well-built and explained. I have been studying with Kiron for two years now. I am on the computer science study track, which I love because it reminds me of my studies back in Syria. I actually liked the tests and how they made you practice a lot. I did extra online practices because I think repetition is important for memorizing programming languages - just like learning any spoken

ken languages since I got to Germany. It is easy for me to stay in a room all day behind my computer, but it’s been good for me to interact a bit more in the outside world. I am going to be 23 this month, and I wish more than anything to go back to a real brick-and-mortar university and to challenge myself. I studied IT for two years before I had to leave Syria, and all of my interests have been in IT and programming related since I was 14. I wasn’t the teenager who went out with friends, or thought about girls, or got caught up in sports. There was a time I enjoyed playing soccer, but at 15 I suffered an injury, and since then, my happy place became the comfort of my solitude in my room, in front of my computer, with nothing but me and the ways of the online world. I enjoyed finding problems and loopholes in online systems, and even found a way to hack my own university. I told the college minister that there was a default in the website and database, but he was convinced that I must be wrong and even challenged me to hack it if I could. So I did, and I gave myself straight A’s. It was one of my proudest moments, and I even got an award for hacking into my own university! The feeling this gave me is exactly what I am trying to pursue; I want to be the IT and security expert guy at a top programming company. I’d love to go to Canada one day - Canada has the best companies. I could also go for France or USA, as they have some good job opportunities too. My dream is to be an IT expert. As an IT expert, I want to help people and companies. It is like being a police officer from inside a computer. I know this dream wouldn’t be possible in Syria anyway, so to be honest, I don’t want to go back to Syria. Even if I had been able to finish my university there, I would have had to leave eventually to find a good programming company to work for. My family and friends are still in Syria. I miss my parents, my siblings, my friends - even though we stay connected through online gaming - and I miss my university and room too. The atmosphere is just different back home than it is here, not necessarily better or worse, just different. I live alone now, but I don’t mind – after all, I was always alone in my room, so as long as I still have access to a computer, I can find a way to feel at home.

“Everyone should find the key to their inspiration.” ‫كل واحد يستطيع أن يجد املفتاح املميز اللهامه‬. ‫ طالب كريون‬،‫خالد‬


The German education system can be overwhelming and difficult to navigate. All universities are free to choose their own admissions and requirements, and there are differences between the Länder, the universities themselves and the study programs. This means there is a huge variety in admission requirements and no one pathway to get into university. This is especially bewildering for refugee students, as they also need to arrange for the recognition of their formal education, legal documents, and they must demonstrate adequate language skills. Despite these challenges, in 2017 over 30 Kiron students transferred to universities – exceeding our original goal of 20 - and our strategic goal for 2018 is to facilitate even more transfers. Behind these numbers, there are amazing stories. We would like to share with you the words of two Kiron transfer students, Moataz and Wafaa, who are now studying at university and serving as role models for future generations of Kiron transfer students.





Moataz’s Story

were tumbling around drunk, singing, shouting, sleeping and acting crazy. I thought: “What is going on? Where am I?” Someone explained that this was absolutely normal during Oktoberfest. I was so confused. At the same time and place, I met many other refugees who had also just arrived. They told me that it is very difficult to gain a residence permit in Germany and that Germany was not the best country to be in. I was told that it would take a lot of time and that there were many


obstacles to staying here. I realized later that I was con-


My name is Moataz. I am 27 years old, and I came from

fronted with a lot of rumors and opinions about Germa-

Damascus, Syria. I have been in Germany for three

ny. Still, I wanted to stay, and I made my way to Berlin. I

years now. When I first arrived, I studied with Kiron and

believe that the greatest problem for refugees and new-

worked as a social worker for almost two years. Today I

comers are these rumors! You hear something, and you

am proud to call myself a Kiron transfer student, and I

immediately believe it is true. You hear about what you

am very happy to be studying Business at BAU INTER-

can and cannot do, about how difficult everything is, and

NATIONAL in Berlin.

that you won’t be able to work or study. There is so much

Back in Syria, I began my studies in Aleppo in 2009

of this floating around that you start believing it and you

and then transferred to Damascus, where my family is

get discouraged. I think the first lesson I learnt in Germa-

originally from. We – my parents, my five brothers and I –

ny was: Do not listen to rumors! Just do it!

used to live in the rural part of Damascus. Unfortunately,

The integration of refugees in German society is a very

I do not have any sisters. My parents are still there with

complex topic. The greatest problem we face is that there

two of my brothers. My other brothers made it to Ger-

is no plan at the moment and no perspective for the fu-

many with me. One of them lives in Halle, the other one

ture. I worked as a social worker here, and I worked with

in Heerlen. It is very nice that I have relatives here whom

immigrants, the Ausländer Behörde and the Job Center.

I can visit. But I miss my family and my home!

None of them have a long-term plan. They just work with

It was difficult when the revolution and war began

what they have. That’s really difficult, since there is no

in 2011. And it was not easy to juggle work and student

real direction, and we do not know what the future will

life during such turmoil. It was extremely hard with

look like. It gives us no perspective, and it is hard to go

the shaken government, the war, the explosions – so of

forward without any perspective. What is our future going

course I could not have a real student life. On top of my

to look like? Right now, I have just received the honor of

studies I was also working in customer service and mar-

an unlimited residence permit. But what about all the

keting at a video games company in Damascus. How-

others? This is not just about the right to be able to stay

ever, the war forced me to fail my last year of studies

in Germany, it is about making plans for the future. I was

- even though my grades were very good. I knew that if I

lucky. I will have a German passport in three years. But

graduated, I would have to join the army. Hence, I failed

still - there is no real plan.

on purpose. That was a strange feeling. It was difficult for

The best thing we can do to promote integration is to

me, especially because I always felt passion and ambi-

talk to each other. I lived in Ostdeutschland for two years.

tion for learning, studying and following my goals. But in

As a refugee, it is not easy to live in the east of Germany.

the end, I saw no hope in gaining my degree. I had no

There we were something new for everyone – something

future. I needed to leave!

they did not know. What is a refugee? What is this new

In Syria, you do not have any perspective for the fu-

religion, culture, custom and language? We tried to show

ture, so you are forced to find your own way. My journey

them who were are – to show them that we are just

was dangerous, but I had already seen so many hor-

normal people with ideas and dreams, just like everyone

rible things back in Syria that journey just felt like an

else. And they accepted us. At least that was my expe-

extension of our brutal everyday life of war and tears.

rience. Before 2015 everyone was very welcoming, but

We made our way not through the Balkan route, but

then the atmosphere shifted. In the town I lived in, I was

through Lebanon, Algeria, Libya and finally made it over

part of an English club with the elderly. We were friends,

the sea to Sicily in 2014. It took us three horrible and

just like family. But when the “wave” - as they called it –

dangerous weeks to get to Italy. On the first of October,

came in Summer 2015, everything changed. Suddenly,

I finally arrived in Munich, Germany. I could not believe

everyone started talking about headscarves, the Arabic

my eyes when I saw Munich’s central station. People

language, Muslims, and everyone seemed to be fright-

ened and close-minded. I was shocked about this drastic change of spirit and atmosphere within only a few months. Unexpectedly, they were asking so many questions about women in our religion, and they treated me differently. Only a few months before we had celebrated Christmas together. Now stereotypes about Ausländer were dominating the conversations. I talked to them, explained my culture, language and traditions. But it was difficult for me to be put into a box. And I felt that I did not want to explain my culture and language – because I felt that I am who I am, an individual who should just be seen as Moataz and not be labeled. I believe that I can be judged by my behavior, by myself, and not by the behavior of others who were squeezed into the same box and labeled with the same stereotypes. This was my first big problem in Germany. Everyone started saying: “you are Syrian, you are from Damascus, you are a refugee!” That was annoying. We are not all the same, we are all different, we are all human. When I worked as a social worker, that was especially troublesome. A co-worker was very critical about migration and Islam. He asked me every day, “Why are you here?” He said he was no racist, that he just had few questions. But these questions turned out to be my nightmare. I could not work there anymore because I constantly had to defend myself. In the end I told him: “I am an individual. I am just working here, let us just work side by side - despite our differences.” But this was very difficult. Every time a refugee or Ausländer stepped out of line, they were blaming everyone, myself included. I was constantly attacked. This is why I wanted to come to Berlin. Here I can just be Moataz. I started studying with Kiron in 2015. I learned German via my smartphone and on YouTube. You just pick up words and then some phrases and then you just dive in and start talking. That is how I learned German. I believe that learning German helps integration, and I would advise everyone to get to know the German culture. Each and every city and place has its own atmosphere. Every-

and my successful transfer came from my past experience. I had to leave my country to come to Germany. My life – everything I am, was and will be – was at stake. Every refugee should look back and see what he/she has achieved since their journey and ask themselves – was it worth it, or not? I do not think about the past – it would not allow me to move forward. I only look to the future. Many refugees are captives of their past and the war. They have to be in the moment not the past!. I fear a lot of things, but I do not fear trying new things. A lot of Syrians do not want to leave the Job Center. They are not trying to make it work. When I transferred, it was miraculous. The Kiron Family, especially Thomas and Ronny, helped me take that leap. I was afraid to apply for university, and they helped me overcome my fear, face the German bureaucracy and supported me with my paperwork. What did I have to lose? I thought I have to challenge myself in order to grab this opportunity. Today I live I Moabit where I share a flat with another German student. I like to cook my own Syrian food and live a normal student life. My plans are to finish my Bachelor’s degree and then to combine Business and Social Studies. My journey has changed my life. This is why I want to give something back. My greatest dream would be to start an organization that encourages integration between the Germans and non-Germans. I want to build something where they can share and learn from each other. We have to learn to be flexible and accept each other. We are living here now, and we cannot just go home. This is not a solution. For refugees my advice is to just talk to each other and find someone who is open. Learn about this culture. The German culture is so rich and unique. It is about so much more than just Kartoffeln, Bier and Wurst. Every German is an individual. There are no boxes, there are only building blocks that need to be combined and used to build something together. We are on an adventure – starting our life together is an adventure – so we have to be courageous, to try new things we encounter. I have no fear of trying. Failure is just one step. Just do not fear anything.

thing is different from the rumors that I had heard about

We are all human!

the German culture. That it was a cold country, a machine

“Kiron for me means hope. As a transfer student, I am able to follow the path of my dreams.”

country - where people have no feelings. My favorite German phrase is “Habt Spaß!”- “Enjoy yourselves!” I always thought, why wouldn’t I enjoy my time? I didn’t understand. In the end it is all about community spirit. Looking at Syrian culture, we can learn a lot from German culture. At first, we can learn to just be objective and pragmatic. But we should accept our differences. Germans can learn from Syrians to be more heartwarming, socializing and friendly. Like the greeting “Salam peace.

‫”سلام‬, which means

My motivation for my studies, my ambition, my drive

‫كايرون بالنسبة يل هي األمل! كطالب انتقل إىل‬ ‫ أستطيع متابعة طريقي نحو‬،‫جامعة يف برلني‬ ‫تحقيق أحالمي‬ ‫معتز‬


Wafaa’s Story Wafaa means both joy and faith. It means achieving what you have promised. It has become much more than INTERVIEW BY FLORA ROENNEB ERG

just my name - it is who I am and what I stand for. I al-


good English, we tried to help and translate for others at each and every step of this long and difficult journey. I have followed my dream and finally made it to uni-

ways want to be joyful, keep my promises and follow my

versity. Being a Kiron student already helped to shape

dreams. Maybe this is why my favorite German word is:

my new identity. Kiron helped me to integrate. I owe so

“schaffen,” because I believe that I can make it. Ich kann

much to Kiron – I don’t know how to return this favor.

es schaffen!

Thanks to Kiron, I met a lot of new and important people.

I started studying with Kiron in 2015 and just recently

It helped me connect. I even met the German Chancellor!

managed to transfer to one of Kirons partner universi-

When I met Merkel, I immediately felt safe, and I felt that

ties, the University of Duisburg-Essen. Now, I am in my

this country is truly welcoming. Moreover, through Kiron,

first semester of Business Administration, with credits

I improved my intercultural experiences. Suddenly I had

from my fully recognized Kiron course, Einführung in

friends from other nationalities, and I learned that there

Betriebswirtschaftslehre – a MOOC provided by RWTH

is more than one plan in life and certainly more than one


perspective. I learned that there are many catastrophes

I grew up in Damascus. My father used to have a café

in the world and that I am not the only one who has had

in the city, and even a restaurant before the war. It was

that kind of experience! With gaining such new perspec-

very popular. Everyone loved playing backgammon, drink-

tives and learning about others, I changed my goals and

ing tea together and watching people pass by. After I

my personality. I am learning from others each and every

had finished school, the situation had already become so

day, through both education and different perspectives.

difficult that we moved to Jordan where I started study-

My friends and other students at Kiron study in different

ing Human Resources for one year. I was happy because

fields, which again helps us all to exchange thoughts and

I had a place to study. I had left Syria in 2012 and stayed

engage in interdisciplinary discussions. We are always

in Jordan for another three years, when my whole family

learning more together and gaining new insights.

decided to leave again – this time for Europe. My father

On my first day at the University of Duisburg-Essen, I

asked, “What do you think, Wafaa? Should we leave?” and

felt as if I were one of them, part of the group, a real stu-

I immediately said yes – even though I knew the decision

dent. I felt that I had once more gained a new identity

would mean a lot! If we would have stayed in Jordan, my

that I can carry with me, just like my school bag. I was no

brother would have had to join the army, and I could have

longer held back by language barriers; instead, I was able

never had my education and the future that I was dream-

and ready to learn and be educated. I wanted to be with

ing of. Before long, I took off with my two brothers and

students who are here to think and to achieve something.

sister. We made our way to Turkey. Before leaving, we took

Now I made it, and I can. And I was finally able to appreci-

a close look at the calmness of the sea between Turkey

ate myself again, rebuild my self-confidence and truly start

and Greece to make sure it would be okay. Then one day,

the beginning of my future.

when the weather was promising, and the sea seemed to

I am a Muslima, and I wear a hijab. I am against all

have calmed just for us, we jumped on a rubber boat with

these people who think Islamic culture is radically differ-

30 other people and got lucky! After arriving in Greece,

ent – and that Islamic culture does not fit within German

we made our way through the Balkans and Austria until

culture. From my experience, Germans do not pretend;

we finally arrived in Munich in October of 2015.

they are really honest. Islam praises honesty and is very

I cannot describe the feeling of our arrival. We were

straightforward - just like the Germans. I don’t think being

too tired to really experience our first impression of what

a Muslima is difficult in Germany or even at my new uni-

would become our new country. We were happy but

versity. There are many Muslims in our department, and

overwhelmed and exhausted. In Munich, everyone around

we are able to pray without feeling uncomfortable. I still

us was immediately put onto busses, and my family and

do not get how people misunderstand Islam. I believe the

I were shifted to a camp near Dortmund. Since we spoke

problem has to do with a societal and traditional Islamic

idea that clashes with modern perspectives. However, this is not related to the religion itself. Islam says that we should always learn more. The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, ‫صىل‬

‫قال رسول الله‬ ‫ طلب العلم فريضة عىل كل مسلم‬:‫“( الله عليه وسلم‬Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim”). So I believe in seeking knowledge. And I tell every other woman:

feel worthy of always being the best educated woman within your Islamic custom! This is important because it means independent – whether male or female – because we are all human, and we are all equal. One must have a career, one must learn. We have to be an educated generation - especially in times like these. It is important to be independent whether male or female because we are all human and we are all equal. I believe that Islam is saying exactly this. We can only learn from each other – but we have to listen! I advise refugees to try to get a job or get into university, to learn German and respect German laws and culture. And I advise the Germans to become friends with refugees and learn about their perspectives. In Germany, I learned that everyone is allowed to believe and think for him- or herself, and that it is possible to have a culture where everyone respects each other. But without education, there is no civilization. Education is the key to change!

‫كايرون ساعدتني يف التواصل وبناء جرس‬ ‫ألستطيع االنتقال إىل الجامعة وأكمل‬ ‫دراستي وأحقق أحالمي‬ ‫وفاء‬

“Kiron has helped me connect with others and build bridges, to transfer to university and follow my dreams.”




A number of initiatives have been founded in the past years to facilitate refugee integration. Whether it is language support, labor market integration or intercultural encounters, organizations have been looking for solutions. However, the integration work of associations, NGOs and governmental initiatives varies tremendously. In order to exchange knowledge and share resources, organisations working in the field of migration need to network with one another. To this end, Kiron is in constant exchange with international NGOs and local organisations. Through collaborations with other organisations, for example welfare organizations in Germany or NGOs like Syrian Researchers, Kiron works together with our support network to empower and integrate refugees. In the spirit of community and collaboration, the German Youth Red Cross participated in the Kiron Community Weekend. Sabrina Konzok and Sarah Mardini held a workshop for our students on the subject of mental health, which helped our students approach the sensitive topic. Furthermore, representatives of other NGOs also shared their knowledge in other workshops. The results were fruitful talks that led to common action plans for the upcoming year. Organizations all face similar challenges but solve them in different ways. If we come together and build upon our skills, we will then have the skills and resources to tackle global challenges.


Hannah Wuzel


Communication & Advocacy Manager at Migration Hub

Describe the work of the Migartion Hub and your tasks... Migration Hub Network is a platform for social

What are your experiences of working with volunteers? Thus far our experiences with volunteers

innovators working toward the successful inclusion of

have been thoroughly positive. The volunteers we have

migrant populations. We gather, connect and match

worked with have not only been reliable, fearless and

social and migrant entrepreneurs as well as supporters

resilient, but we consider them to be full members of

from other sectors. As communication & advocacy man-

the team that contribute to shaping the organisation.

ager, I am in charge of the organisation’s public relations,

This is probably a major takeaway: contributing to

of our social media, press relations and event participa-

shaping a young civil society organization with a

tion. Further, I represent the interests of our member

powerful vision is a great incentive for people to put their

organisations in front of the public and private sector.

heart and soul into the work. I also consider volunteering

What do you like most about your work? The opportunity to work with and learn from individuals from all kinds of cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds every single day.

a wonderful opportunity to empower migrants and refugees, to increase their participation in the public sphere and to hone skills.

What does Kiron have in common with Migration Hub? Kiron and the Migration Hub Network share the

What does successful networking mean to you?

same spirit of promoting bottom-up integration and

Without question, transparency and cooperation. The

involving civil society in our solution-finding processes.

willingness of all sides to support one another in order to

This is why our work has been so complementary over

minimize the risk of losing focus of what actually mat-

the last two years.

ters: the human beings at the center of our work. I am always delighted to observe increased complementary efforts and mutual openness instead of competition.

How can the cooperation between NGOs be strengthened, and what potential do you see in digitalization? It would be fantastic to foster even more targeted dialogue between NGOs and to encourage them to share information. We already do this on a daily basis with the Migration Hub Network, but we can barely meet the demand. While I do believe face-to-face exchange to be indispensable, digitalization offers brilliant opportunities to cooperate and communicate with organizations in other regions of the world that could offer entirely new insights to influence our work here in Europe.

“We gather, connect and match social and migrant entrepreneurs as well as supporters from other sectors.�

Bahar’s Story Kiron Volunteer

I truly believe that education - not just in the traditional sense - is one of the most powerful forces in the world. Education isn’t just about scholastics and grades, it is about the process of growing as a person, opening one’s mind to new ideas, learning from different perspectives and cultural exchange. I am grateful for having had the


upbringing I had and for all the educational opportunities


I too have a refugee background, but not in the modern

my parents and life were able to provide me with. After

sense that today’s generation thinks of when they hear

obtaining my PhD at the University of California, Berkeley,

“refugee.” I was born in Afghanistan, but at the age of

back in the USA, I still felt I had unfinished business in my

seven, my family and I had already left my home coun-

home country, so I took it upon myself to return with pur-

try because of the Soviet invasion and occupation of

pose. I studied Near Eastern Studies for my PhD, meaning

the country - it seems a lifetime ago already. When the

I am an historian particularly of the languages, literatures,

Soviet Union invaded my home country, my parents had

and civilizations of the ancient, medieval, and modern

no choice but to leave. Looking back on it, we were some

Near and Middle East. And while I felt prepared to return

of the luckier ones whose journeys saw a more fortunate

to Afghanistan thanks to my studies, I knew it would only

outcome. Our fleeing led us to America, which, despite

get me so far. I first returned to my home country for a

not knowing it at the time, resulted in a pleasant and

brief period for research purposes before eventually tak-

lucky childhood and adolescence. I consider myself as a

ing a job offer as a professor, and even then, I could see

hybrid-American. I had all the opportunities of any other

that the country had become something so unfamiliar

American child, yet at the same time, I had a second

and war-torn compared to the Afghanistan I had known

layer of identity which allowed me to look at things from

and cherished from my childhood. This brief glimpse of

more than one perspective. My name is Bahar, and I am

change I saw during my first trip back only became more

a woman who has more than one culture, identity and

evident and unavoidable during my eight and a half years

belonging. I am an international woman on a mission to

of teaching at the American University for Afghanistan in

help educate those who need it, and support those who

Kabul. And seemingly just as quickly as my new life in Af-

will accept it.

ghanistan had begun, I can still recall the moment where

My story is long. It is one comprised of many aspects, one that weaves together different corners of the world that don’t seem like they would amount to a beautiful

I knew everything had changed all too drastically and all too fast, leaving me yet again with no option but to leave. It was the evening of August 24, 2016, during the mid-

tale, but charm, mystery and reason hide in the fine print

dle of my lecture in my history course when everything

of my story. Firstly, I am a proud mother of a beautiful

went upside down. It took me a moment to realize what

and brilliant little girl. My Roxana recently started Kita

was happening, and even longer to accept that it was

here in Berlin. She is very happy here, as am I. Although

reality. A bomb explosion shattered the glass windows

being a mother is the most important role in my life,

onto to the floor in the classroom I was teaching in. We

I am also many other things. I am a strong and inde-

were under attack by terrorists. Pandemonium broke out.

pendent woman, an educator, an intellectually curious

Students were screaming and running around - some

person, a constant life-learner and, most of all, I am a

took shelter under desks and behind cabinets while oth-

believer. I believe not only in the good in the world and

ers ran out into the hallway. Despite being on the second

the people, but I believe that people can discover their

floor of the building, some students even jumped out of

innate talents through altruistic works, kindness and

the window afraid that the stairways would be blocked

always keeping an open mind about the diversity of

by terrorists. I followed my instincts, and with a few oth-

human experiences through knowledge sharing and

er students we followed another student, a young man

exchange of information. This is why I want to contribute

who told us the coast was clear toward the back exit. It

to helping the refugee population in Germany to acquire

was one of the scariest moments of my life, but luckily

education as they work to build new lives. I am happy to

autopilot took over and led me to safety. Some of us took

be a new resident of Berlin, and I am excited to get in-

refuge in a stranger’s house near campus, where eventu-

volved in the best way I know how - through education.

ally security picked us up and took to us a UN compound,

That is why I decided to get involved with Kiron, because

while others were less lucky. The attack lasted nine hours

Kiron is so much more than just a source of education

- some escaped, some injured, and others were killed. I

for refugees; it is a community of thought sharing and

was deeply shaken.

personal growth.

It wasn’t until the following March of 2017 that the

University finally resumed normal classes. I too returned, determined to help my students, but only after a few months made the difficult decision to leave Afghanistan yet again. The threat level had increased since the attack, and I had other personal concerns. As a single mother, I often have to do a balancing act with having to be a sole financial provider and full-time mother for my daughter. Juggling so many responsibilities as a single parent has been made easier with the assistance of my loving and dedicated family. So I joined my parents in Berlin that next July of 2017, where my father - who I admire very much - is currently the Ambassador of Germany for the Government of Afghanistan. I have always co-parented my daughter with my parents since she was born, and Berlin is a wonderful place for children. Until I discover my next career move, I have decided to devote my time to Kiron. I am used to teaching at a university based on international standards of excellence, which is why I decided to join the forces of Kiron’s incredible volunteer support. I strongly agree with what Kiron is doing, and I truly believe that as an organization, Kiron is doing important work. Most refugees come to Germany without a status, and through Kiron, they get exposure to the German and international system, giving them a leg up on their next step. I am still new in my volunteer work with Kiron, but I already see so many undeniable similarities between my students in Afghanistan and those of Kiron here in Berlin. Images of war reflect in their eyes, and the exhaustion of constantly struggling with post-conflict trauma bears down on their shoulders in the same ways I saw in my students back in Afghanistan. But just as I see the familiar dark circles under their eyes from sleepless nights, I also see the same sparkle in their smile from their eagerness

diversity from an educational context, making it all the more important to bring these issues to light. And when I talk about gender diversity, I am not just jumping on the overused hot buzz-phrase of ‘gender equality’ - I am talking about breaking down male stereotypes and their attendant social consequences just as much as I am talking about women’s rights. Education – in all of its senses – is so much more than absorbing the words from an overweight textbook. Education is and should be linked to cultural exchanges, peace efforts, thinking outside the box, reconstruction of misrepresented contexts, empowering women who suffer under extremists, empowering students to instill confidence to pursue their goals and aspirations. The concept of extending the learning space beyond the confines of a classroom and cultivating a community is exactly what drew me to Kiron. I believe in what Kiron is doing; their work is what the world needs right now – and not just refugees. Working with an organization like Kiron is rewarding. Not only am I imparting knowledge, but I am helping people grow and evolve as individuals so that they can become better international citizens of the world. I see a lot of polarization among, between and also within countries, but what we need is to look at and accept different perspectives. And being a volunteer for Kiron allows for exactly that. Volunteering at Kiron is more than giving back to my community and helping refugees. It is about engaging with people who can also help you in return. Increased interactions with diverse groups of people is self-enriching. It is a two way process - you give something, but you also get so much back in return. The more you engage, the better. It is a true win-win for everybody involved! I am very excited for what the future of Kiron holds, and I feel lucky to be

and motivation for a better tomorrow. It is important for

a part of it.

us to help these students feel less small and vulnerable

“I am a woman who has more than one culture, identity and belonging, an international woman on a mission to help educate those in need”

and more empowered and capable! These students at Kiron, like those at my old university, are determined. Education is their passport to a quality life and the only way to get that passport is to earn it. In many ways I feel I can relate to Kiron students through my personal experiences of fleeing Afghanistan in my childhood and also through my professional experience of teaching Afghani students for nearly nine years. Refugee students need so much more than just a place to study; they need a place they can feel safe and welcome. I think I can help with that. In fact, I know I can. Currently, I am volunteering with the direct academics team for Kiron, and in February I will run an Introduction to Political Science course. I am also working on projects designed to target and deconstruct gender mainstreaming. Many Kiron students come from places with less exposure to issues regarding gender





Kiron students receive a variety of support services to ensure success with their studies. One of these services is the online study mentoring program, provided to Kiron students in partnership with Volunteer Vision, a Social Business connecting professional volunteers with Kiron students via 1:1 online-mentoring formats. Many Kiron students have had long breaks in their education, have never been to university before, or have no experience with learning online. Our online mentors, usually from the corporate sector, help students stay motivated and overcome the challenges of studying online. Mentors can also give valuable insight into the labor market and local academic structures. After participating in a recent training Webinar conducted by Kiron and Volunteer Vision, the mentees and mentors were matched based on criteria such as interests and professional background. The mentoring pairs then met on Volunteer Vision’s online platform and structured mentoring sessions are held on a weekly basis. During the Community Weekend fifteen mentors and mentees came together for a workshop about “Online Mentoring - Learnings and Prospects,� hosted by Kiron and Volunteer Vision. The goal of the workshop was for participants to reflect on the mentoring program. The group developed recommendations on how to adjust the program according to student needs. Simon Fakir, the developer of the online platform, also presented several new tools, such as a digital whiteboard that provides more opportunities to work together.


Sarah Delahaye from Kienbaum MENTEE


Mentor Interview Julia Jürgens Head of Leadership Development at Metro AG

Why are you involved with Kiron as a mentor? I am convinced that every person, no matter where he/ she is from, has great potential to contribute to our society in a meaningful way. Especially young people have great visions and dreams about how to become valuable, self-sustaining citizens. We should support them at that stage of their life! For someone with a different mentor I can assist to maintain focus, and I can encour-

Describe briefly your tasks as a mentor... As a

age positive action.

mentor I ensure that my mentee progresses with her/his

What does volunteering mean to you? Volunteer-

put myself in his/her shoes. In a way, I let the mentee

ing is a good way to do something meaningful in your life, and it brings many intrinsic rewards. If we look at the bigger picture, volunteers are the backbone of a social, caring and mutually supportive community and society.

ambitions and goals. It requires me to listen deeply and benefit from my own experiences, but without “telling” what to do. There are no “one-size-fits-all” solutions in mentoring.

Why is mentoring important? Mentoring for me means being there for another person with my experience, my encouragement and an open mind and heart. I

“Someone hears you, who is qualified to hear, asks, helps, shares, and records for you. It is a wonderful feeling that your plans are more clear now!”


have been lucky myself to have received the above from coaches and mentors at crucial moments in my life. I would like to give that back.

Which possibilities and potentials result from digitization for voluntary work? With my busy work schedule, I am glad about the opportunity to mentor someone online. It allows me to work with someone who benefits profoundly from my support, without needing to travel to meet each other physically.

What could be improved in the mentoring program? More pick-and-choose modules for certain potentially relevant topics, instead of a rigid sequence of content. Less fixed text, as it often proved not relevant,


e.g. when the mentee is already enrolled in a regular

Julia’s Mentee

certain challenges mentees face.

university. Suggestions for mentoring approaches, for


cultural background, it is particularly challenging. As a

“Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development.” Kofi Annan

‫ بناءاً عليه وجدت الركائز‬.‫التعليم حق من حقوق اإلنسان مع قوة هائلة للتحول‬ ‫ كويف عنان‬.‫األساسية للحرية والدميقراطية والتنمية البرشية املستدامة‬

Democratic Participation 33

Being part of a community means not only sharing a community spirit – whether online or offline – but also being able to speak one’s mind, engage and be active. Real integration means being an active member of a community, despite cultural differences and other barriers. This can be about telling your story, like our student Yousuf, who has just published his first book, “Second Chance: From Somalia to Germany,” or our student Nyima who is working for a German refugee radio project called “Listen,” or our student Ahmed who is training to become a journalist, or our student Ehab who is the founder and president of the UN Syrian Youth Assembly, just to name a few examples. In the end it is all about being a real community, sharing and exchanging ideas and standing together for what we believe in.


Ahmad’s Story


the Taliban sent people to my family and said: “If he doesn’t leave his job, we’ll kill him. If we see him we will cut his neck.” I responded, “I have everything I need, but there are a lot of people out there who have problems – Afghan people. They need help. They need somebody to help them, someone to talk to.” It did not matter to me whether the Taliban wanted to kill me. I just wanted to help. The Taliban were killing my people, the Americans were killing my people. Everyone was killing. Like when they dropped a bomb on a wedding ceremony with more than a hundred women, children and men. They were celebrating love. I was shocked and in pain about what was happening to my country. Once when we were searching a house at night,

“It’s none of your business! You are just a translator, we

there was a woman who was lying on the ground and

give you money, you are working for money.” But I did

refused to get up. She was pregnant and in pain. The

not care about the money, I wanted to help my peo-

soldiers got angry and kept shouting, “Wake up! Get

ple. My name is Ahmad, I am 23 years old, and I come

up!” In Pashto she replied, ”I can’t stand up! I’m sick!”

from Afghanistan. I grew up in Kandahar, but the war

And the Americans got really angry, and one of them

changed our city, and I finished school in Kabul. It is

kicked her in the stomach. That was the moment I

hard to say when the war broke out – because we al-

stepped out of my role. I could not stay silent any lon-

ways have war in Afghanistan. I grew up with war.

ger. I - the translator - shouted at them. I ran outside,

During the time I was working with the American

and I shouted at one of the Afghan soldiers, “Give me

army, I was injured twice. Two times a bomb was placed

your Kalashnikov!” Back inside, I pointed the gun at

in our car. Despite this, I decided to become a transla-

them and said, “All of of the Americans, go outside! All

tor. I did not know what difficult times were awaiting

of you: out!” They called me a terrorist and threatened

me. I did not know that I would be perpetually caught

to shoot me. I replied, “You call me a terrorist? You

between two cultures, between Afghan people and

always say you are saving the Afghan people but here

Americans, between the Taliban and the army, between

you are hitting this pregnant woman? They are not Tal-

rivalry and hate, between conflict and dialogue.

iban, they are just families trying to sleep.” By that time,

They always called when it was already too dark to see, with a mumbling voice on the phone grunting:

the whole village was on the street. But in the end the woman and her husband were brought to a hospital.

“Tonight!” Then we went off to one of the villages where

I had broken my trust with the American army. I

the Taliban had been. It was always at one, two or three

knew that if I would have continued with them after

o’clock in the morning when we took the cars and went

everything that happened that night, they would have

off searching houses, always looking for the Taliban.

killed me. So I stayed with the Afghan army. The next

Everyone was sleeping, so we woke them, and of course

day an official meeting was held to clarify the situation.

they were terrified. Women and their children were cry-

A lot of people came together – US forces, Afghani

ing. The soldiers frightened them by banging on their

generals, everybody. I told the story of the house search

doors, entering their homes with their weapons and

and how this innocent woman had lost her baby. They

their loud and foreign language in the middle of the

said, “Ok, this was a mistake.” My response was: “If

night. The Americans were very rough and inhumane.

your army does something wrong, it’s a mistake. If our

I tried to tell them that it’s not good. But I was just the

people do something wrong, we are called terrorists.”

translator! Both sides were suspicious and did not trust

After that moment, I left my position as a translator.

me. The Americans did not trust me because I was an

I knew they wanted to kill me, so I went to India

Afghan, and they did not understand what I was trans-

for a few months. It was my first time out of Afghani-

lating, and the Afghans did not trust me, because I was

stan, and it was quite a cultural contrast. But I loved it.

working side by side with the Americans, and they did

However, I could not stop thinking about my country,

not understand what I was translating. So I was con-

and so I went back. That was when I decided to study

stantly the enemy on both sides.

Political Science in Kabul, in the hopes that maybe in

When I started to work with the American army,

the future I could do big things for my country and

change the situation. I had only finished my first semester when they tried

and gained new hope. I started studying Political Science with Kiron and spent my time in the library at

to kill me. I had just come back from university when

Friedrichstraße. The first months were really difficult, but

two people crossed me with their masks, guns and mo-

I felt welcomed and part of the Kiron family. I started

torcycles. Everyone thought I was dead, but I survived.

speaking German and enrolled in a course about In-

The second time was after a picnic with my cousins and

ternational Justice at Humboldt University. After that I

some friends. It was a bit outside of the city, very green

founded a refugee theatre group in Berlin, with people

with gardens – a beautiful place. When we came back

from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Then I took part in the

I went to a small supermarket. Stepping outside again

welcome program at Freie Universität Berlin with the

with my grocery bags in my arms, they were waiting

United Nations Security Council, where I also did an

for me. Two people with their black car, one driving the

internship. One day I saw a posting on Facebook about

other one holding a gun. It was then that I knew I had

a program for refugees, and I wrote to Brigitte Zypries

no choice. My mother cried, but I packed my bags and

and applied for an internship at the Bundestag. I got

left for Europe.

very lucky and stayed there for seven months before I

I walked from Kabul to Pakistan, through the moun-

applied for Tagesspiegel’s refugee project, “Jetzt Schrei-

tains. From Pakistan I went to Iran where I met some-

ben Wir.” I started this journalism project on the 1st of

one who promised to bring me to Istanbul for a horren-

May 2017. It is a great program, we have courses at the

dous amount of money. I paid and barely made my way

school of journalism, German lessons and are able to do

to Turkey. We had walked 15 hours through snow when the police shot us right before the border to Turkey in Iran. One of my friends died, and the other one was injured. We were put in jail. We were about 200 people crammed into jail. When I was just about to give up and go back to Afghanistan, I met the prison translator at the police office. The next day, the translator helped me, and I was free to go. It seemed ironic that I had to leave my country because I was a translator, and in the end, it was a translator who saved me. I made my way to Istanbul, got on a small boat and went to Greece and then walked to Bulgaria. After three nights and four days of walking, after we had successfully passed the border, the Bulgarian police came. They captured us and hit us with very big sticks and took everything we had. Then they sent us back to Greece. I walked barefoot from Bulgaria to Greece. I was in a lot of pain, and when I finally arrived in a small village, the

“I believe the biggest problem is education. People are not educated. I have talked to the Taliban, it was my job. ...If they were educated they would not kill!”

police put us in jail again. There was no food, and we drank water from the toilet, all squeezed into one prison cell. Then they sent us back to Turkey. I then made my way to Greece again. Another journey, another small boat. In Greece, I spent some time in the camp and then walked to Macedonia and then

internships in different media departments, such as taz., Deutsche Welle, rbb Radio and Television, Bild Zeitung, etc. I am so happy and proud to be part of it. However, my main goal remains to one day become

Serbia. The border police in Hungary made me pay and

a politician. Many politicians were previously journalists.

allowed me to pass. The police put me into a camp

My big dream is to become the president of Afghani-

near Budapest. From here I took a white van to a village

stan and to stop the situation in my country. I’ve been

near Munich where they dropped us in the middle of

in Germany for two years now, and since then nine of

nowhere. A German woman passed by with her car and

my family members have been killed. The Taliban came

helped us to get to the next S-Bahn Station. From there

and burned down my house. I keep asking myself: Why

I made my way to Munich and finally Berlin. I arrived

do people have to die in my country? Why is Afghani-

with the Flixbus on the 20th of August in 2015.

stan not free and living in peace? I believe the biggest

In Germany I was faced with another kind of mountain: German bureaucracy. I finally heard about Kiron

problem is: education. People are not educated. I have talked to the Taliban. It was my job. I realized that they


are not educated. Some believe that women should be killed when they go to school, and others think women should be educated. They all believe that when they die, they will go to paradise. They believe all of this, because they are not educated. If they were educated, they would not kill. Instead, they do horrible things – like when they bombed my school. I saw my friends dying. Losing their heads, their hands, and their feet. I held the severed hand of my friend in my own hand. I will never forget this moment. It is horrible if you cannot forget, and your mind forces you to remember. So I have no choice. One day, I will go back and help my country, because I am a person who always wants to be helpful. If my enemy knocked on my door and asked for help, I would welcome him, because we are all human and that is what being human is all about. We have to do something. We are not here in Germany to sleep or be passive. We need to be active. We are here because we have a big responsibility. Our country needs 36

us! We have to rebuild our country and create a better future for the next generation so they can live a secure and peaceful life. This is why we should study and do something – to bring about change!

“ I decided to become a

translator. I did not know what difficult times were awaiting me. Caught between two cultures, between Afghan people and Americans, between Taliban and the army, between rivarly and hate, between conflict and dialogue.




Ehab’s Story


Ehab came to Germany in 2015. Today he studies Political Science with Kiron and lives with a German Family in Bielefeld. After completing his studies in Mechanical Engineering in Syria, his journey took him to many different countries, working for the Red Cross, for UNICEF, leading his own humanitarian project in Turkey, working for the UN in Istanbul and Geneva and now studying with Kiron. His dream is to finish his Bachelor’s at Kiron’s Partner University of Bielefeld and work in a humanitarian field one day. Ehab is full of energy and always has a big smile on his face wherever he goes. “My smile says a lot about me. It says who I am. Someone who cares!” Ehab is a sunny, cheerful and wise person who believes in his own words: “Do not let life shape your future. Shape your future yourself. You need to be serious and take it into your own hands.” Today he is part of our Kiron family and shares his incredible story with us: I left Syria because I did not want to kill anyone. I did not want to go into the army, so I had to leave my home. You receive a letter from the government telling you that they want you for the army. You do not have a choice. The government will come to your house or catch you at some checkpoint. In every street, we had checkpoints because they were afraid of the revolution. There were so many controls. But I did not want to kill anyone, and I did not want to be killed. So I tried to ask if it would be possible to study again, but I was not allowed to since I had already studied Mechanical Engineering at Homs University. Therefore, I decided to pretend to have been asked to take a course in Lebanon for my work with the Red Cross. I had been working for the Red Cross since 2011 when it all began. I was working as a paramedic and ambulance driver. It was all very difficult and confusing. Who was fighting whom? I encountered many problems with the police, and they stopped us several times. They asked, “Why do you help the people who fight the government?” But I always felt that one needs to help

and do something! Whenever I helped, I forgot all about who the injured man was. I just cared that he needed help and had to go to the hospital. I did not think about the political situation or whose side he was fighting for or against. When I worked in the ambulance, we moved from neighborhood to neighborhood. We had people dying in our car and still, the police blockaded us and let us wait for hours. I did not understand how the government could be against people helping people. My mother was always afraid that something would happen to me when I went to work. Then I received the letter from the government. I immediately knew that I had no choice but to leave. I had to leave my whole family behind. It was the most difficult decision imaginable. My mother said to me, “Ehab, try to find a life! Here in Syria you will not find a life. We have war, and we don’t know when the war will finish. Go and find your future. Do not stay here and lose time! ” My mother pushed me to leave, and I had to leave quickly so they wouldn’t stop me at the checkpoint. When I left, I thought a lot about how everything had started. How my country had changed so quickly and how it had become more and more difficult to trust someone – anyone – anymore. Everybody was suspicious, everybody was afraid. In our close family it was okay, but with friends, you had to be afraid. Maybe they worked for the government? Maybe they would provide them with information? I never wrote about the government on Facebook, and I never spoke my mind, because if one of my friends told the government what I wrote, they would detain me at the checkpoint. A lot of people were taken at the checkpoints and at the university and put into prison. But really it all started much earlier. The government was afraid that the youth could initiate a revolution, and they were especially afraid of the students. In 2010, the atmosphere already started changing, in 2011, with the Arab Spring in Egypt and the Arab revolution, they were afraid. When the revolution started, we began to see some old people coming to the university. They came to “study” with us, they said, and attended our university classes. But in the end, they were there to find out things from the students. They were spying on us! My friends and family were afraid. The father of Assad had already killed many people. From the beginning, my family saw it coming. My family was discussing politics when the revolution began. In 2011, we thought it would only take a month for the regime to go down. Now we have had seven years of bloodshed. My family did not allow me to take part in the demonstrations. I believed in the ideals of the revolution. We are Syrian, we need this new mind for our country, we need

the feeling of life, like the people in Europe, we need to be able to speak our minds, we need freedom! We need this for our future, for us, for our children. We are the people, and we need to change our country. But the government started to arrest people, and then the revolution turned into war! A lot of guns, a lot of killing and so many different sides and groups fighting each other. Then support came for the army from outside when Russia and Iran got involved. So many young Syrians leaving to go to Turkey, most of them, because they did not want to go to army, did not want to fight. Just like me. If it had not been for the war, I would have stayed and helped save more lives and souls in Syria. Instead, I left Syria in 2013 and found an opportunity to work with UNICEF in Africa. My project was to build schools for the community on the Ivory Coast. I did research on what was needed in the area and helped children to get education. Everything was so different from Syria, so colorful and cheerful. It was total cultural immersion, and I was the only white amongst blacks, being confronted with cultural identity for the first time. Then I became very sick and got malaria twice. When Ebola started, I wanted to leave. The situation in the country had changed. People were afraid, everything was difficult, people were preparing themselves for crisis. Again, it felt like such a similar situation to Syria. But I could not go back to Syria, even though I missed my family so much. The situation in Lebanon was very hard – in Jordan as

“When I arrived as a refugee I had no plan, Kiron helped me to shape my future – to study and to focus and to have a plan!”

‫ مل يكن لدي‬- ‫حينام وصلت كالجئ‬ ‫ كايرون ساعدتني ليك أبني‬.‫أية خطة‬ ‫ ألدرس و أركز وأن أملك‬- ‫مستقبيل‬ ‫خطة‬



well – with with just too many people being there. The best situation was in Turkey, and I had to decide to leave, all by myself – again. This was hard! I was only 20 years old, and it was such a big decision. I had to grow up quickly and again take responsibility for my life and future. After living a month in Turkey, I slowly began to understand the situation there. I had a friend, Mohammed, who helped me, but it was a challenge since I barely spoke Turkish, and it was hard to find a job. First, I started working with an export company. However, seeing the Syrian children in the streets, who did not speak Turkish but only Arabic, made me decide to help out at the shelter, and I created a project for the children, called “Roh,” which means “soul,” Since I believe that children are our soul! If we do not educate our children, we will not have a future for our country. We started in small schools, teaching the children and I was organizing the teachers from the refugee group. But again, the situation in Turkey became really difficult. Everyone was leaving and I did not want to go to Europe by boat, but a lot of my friends took off, and I found myself alone again. I got lucky, I was invited to a conference in Geneva. This gave me the unique opportunity to come to Europe. I was so happy, I could not believe it! When I arrived in Geneva, I felt strange. I had taken all my baggage, everything I had, to go to an event at the Humanitarian Summit. At the airport, they asked me: “Why do you have so much baggage if you will only stay for a visit?” Everything felt unreal. I was in Geneva for one week, and then I should have gone back to Istanbul. But instead, I bought a ticket to Germany, and I took all my belongings and went to Munich, and then to Bielefeld, to start a new life. It is hard to feel at home when you miss your family and do not know when you can see them again. This is the biggest challenge for me, after four years of being alone, of moving from country to country, always starting from scratch – four countries, cultures, languages. You start focusing on tomorrow and just taking one step at a time. Again, I was alone, but again I was lucky. I arrived at the camp and got to know a friendly civil servant named Nadine at the social welfare office, who helped to find a family I could live with. Again, I got to know a new culture, society and language. The people here eat a lot of Kartoffeln and are in love with bureaucracy. I believe the Greek god of bureaucracy must have had a German name. But the people here are so great, and I have a lot of friends in Bielefeld and through Kiron. I heard about Kiron when I was still living in Istanbul, and I wanted to support this great idea, so I contact-

ed Vincent and did a presentation about Kiron at the UN Summit in Istanbul. This is how everything started. When I came to Germany, I joined Kiron and met the team. I even had the opportunity to join the first team weekend, and I remember that I was so proud to meet all these Kiron heroes fighting for us to have equal opportunities. Studying Political Science with Kiron means so much to me since I feel that I have a lot of political – but not much academic – experience. The political experience comes from my own life. Therefore, I hope to be able to transfer to Kiron’s Partner University of Bielefeld in order to finish my Bachelor’s degree and one day help shape international politics. Currently, I am the President and Co-founder of the UN Syrian Youth Assembly. I dream of one day becoming a UN Humanitarian Ambassador promoting peace and helping to rebuild my country.

“My smile says a lot about me. It says who I am. Someone who cares!”

Syrian Youth Group “We aim to strengthen the capacities and capabilities of Syrian youth in order to make them effective humanitarian actors, and empower local youth-led initiatives.” Ehab Badwi, Co-Founder & President of the Syrian Youth Assembly



The Syrian Youth Assembly (SYA) is a platform for young Syrians to work together on peacebuilding and development in Syria. The Assembly was set up by a number of Syrian youth present at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016. The initiative is fully youth-led and includes the voices of the youth from the Syrian Peace Talks. In this regard, the SYA functions under the Security Council resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security. The SYA’s goal is the integration of Syrian youth into the spheres of politics and diplomacy and to strengthen the capacities and capabilities of Syrian youth in order to make them effective humanitarian actors. The SYA network has grown considerably among Syrians, gaining the confidence of young people and effectively delivering a message in their voice. The assembly has also gained international recognition and was invited to represent SYA at the United Nations headquarters in New York for the UN Youth Assembly and International Youth Day. In turn, the organisation also received support from organisations concerned with youth matters and peacebuilding. The SYA’s primary focus in the upcoming period will be on supporting Syrian society and peace in Syria. The SYA has 160 active members in more than 15 countries around the world and aims to involve Syrian youth in conferences and international events to empower and increase youth participation at all political, social and economic levels. Moreover, they have partnered up with one of Kiron’s partners, the Coursera platform, who is offering Syrian youth free training courses provided by international universities.



Dear Kiron Family,


Just to mention a few – the workshops dealt with discrimination and diversity, with storytelling and the production of student magazines, with mental health and time management as well as with the development of ideas for the new mentoring programs. The theatrical piece, “Letter 2 Europe,” music, delicious food and great talks guaranteed inspiring evenings. During these three amazing days, roughly 100 people shared their visions and stories, fostered their talents, and grew together as a family that cares and treats each other with respect, that mutually supports and empowers its members. A student and participant of the weekend summarizes it as follows:

“All of that made me feel that we were a big family together.”

I would like to say THANK YOU to all who have participated in this great successful meeting we had last weekend in Berlin. Big thanks and appreciation to Kiron’s staff and volunteers who really showed their welcoming spirit and passion for helping others from the first gesture of sending us invitations to their follow up, welcoming event, the organized workshops and finally the nice warm evenings that we spent together. All of that made me feel that we were all one big family. I am also thankful to Kiron’s students who participated and shared their smiles, jokes, stories, hopes for the future and sometimes also their philosophies about life. I wish them the best of luck with achieving their goals using what we have already learnt in this weekend alongside the powerful hope and positive energy from Kiron’s staff. One more thing I want to say to all Kiron’s students: let us keep hope alive, think positively and try to do our best, even if sometimes it isn’t easy. All of us want to be successful in our lives, and because of that, we decided to be students here. Let us do our best by managing our time, having some patience and asking for help when we need it. We are lucky that we have the chance to be part of Kiron, so let us all write our successful stories with the honest support of Kiron’s staff. We are almost at the beginning of a New Year so I wish all of you a healthy, wealthy life full of joy and success.

Kiron Student Al Jundi Pfaff

‫‪“I want to say to all‬‬ ‫‪Kiron’s students: let‬‬ ‫‪us keep hope alive,‬‬ ‫‪think positively and‬‬ ‫‪try to do our best,‬‬ ‫‪even if sometimes‬‬ ‫‪it isn’t easy. All‬‬ ‫‪of us want to be‬‬ ‫‪successful in our‬‬ ‫‪lives, and because of‬‬ ‫‪that, we decided to‬‬ ‫”‪be students here.‬‬ ‫‪43‬‬

‫أ�عزائي عائلة كايرون‬

‫أعزايئ عائلة كايرون‬ ‫يسعدين أن أقول لجميع من شارك يف هذا االجتامع الناجح يف آخر عطلة يف برلني ‪,‬‬ ‫شكرا ً لكم‬ ‫شكر كبري وتقدير عايل لطاقم عمل ومتطوعي كايرون الذين أظهروا ترحيب عظيم‪.‬‬ ‫و شكر كبري ألجل شغفهم العايل يف سبيل مساعدة اآلخرين وخاصة ألجل املهنية‬ ‫واالحرتافية العالية ابتداءا ً من أول خطوة يف إرسال الدعوات لنا ومتابعتهم لألمر‪،‬‬ ‫مرورا بنشاط الرتحيب وورشات العمل املنظمة وأخريا ً األمسية الدافئة الحميمية التي‬ ‫أمضيناها سوية‪ .‬كل ذلك جعلني أشعر بأننا عائلة واحدة كبرية‬ ‫إنني شاكر أيضا لطالب كايرون الذين أسهموا يف النشاط وشاركوين باالبتسامات‬ ‫والدعابات والقصص واآلمال والطموحات ملستقبلهم‪ ،‬ويف بعض األحيان فلسفتهم‬ ‫الخاصة بالحياة‪ .‬أمتنى لهم جميعاً كل التوفيق يف تحقيق جميع أهدافهم‪،‬مستفيدين‬ ‫ألجل ذلك بكل ما تعلمناه يف هذا االجتامع الرائع باإلضافة لألمل والطاقة اإليجابية‬ ‫الرائعة التي وصلتنا من فريق كايرون‬ ‫وأود أن أقول شيئاً أخرا ً لطالب كايرون‪ ,‬دعونا نبقي األمل حياً‪ .‬لنفكر بإيجابية ونجرب‬ ‫أفضل ما ميكننا فعله حتى لو كان أحيانا ليس باألمر السهل‪ .‬نريد أن نكون ناجحني يف‬ ‫حياتنا وألجل ذلك قررنا بالفعل أن نكون طالب لدى كايرون‬ ‫دعونا نقدم أفضل مالدينا عن طريق إدارة وقتنا والتحيل بالصرب وسؤال املساعدة يف‬ ‫حال احتجنا لها‪ .‬إننا محظوظون ألنه لدينا الفرصة لنكون جزء من كايرون‪ .‬لذا دعونا‬ ‫جميعاً نكتب قصص نجاحنا مع الدعم الصادق من فريق كايرون‬ ‫إننا تقريبا يف بداية العام الجديد لذلك أمتنى لكم جميعاً عاماً ملئ بالصحة و حياة‬ ‫غنية ومليئة باملتعة والنجاح‬ ‫‪This student’s letter not only shows the success of the‬‬ ‫‪weekend, but it also truly reflects how important such‬‬ ‫‪a weekend is for how it motivates Kiron students to‬‬ ‫‪keep going and to dedicate themselves to their studies.‬‬ ‫‪Furthermore, it empowers the participants to develop‬‬ ‫‪and believe in their potentials, it strengthens the‬‬ ‫‪community to grow closer and thereby to support and‬‬ ‫‪care for each other.‬‬



Stereotypes & Prejudice

‫القوالب النمطية واألحكام املسبقة‬ 46

Even within the familiarity of your own family, everyone wants to be seen for who they are, not as just another typical person from a certain background. Yet still, people put other people into groups, using labels to inform their evaluation of the person as a whole—a process that often carries grave consequences. Facts are things known or proven to be true. Prejudices are preconceived opinions that are not based on reason or actual experience. It is fact that there are 65.6 million forcibly displaced people worldwide and it is prejudice to think that refugees and asylum seekers pose a threat to one’s economic and job security. It is fact that 22.5 million refugees worldwide, and it is prejudice to think that refugees and asylum seekers are extremists and a threat to one’s safety and national identity. At Kiron, we work hard not only to fight against stereotypes and prejudices, but we strive to address even the subtle biases that often go unexamined but can be just as painful and real in their consequences. By creating a welcoming atmosphere in our community both online and offline, we stand together with our diverse students and team members united behind one common mission: to help buildto help build a world in which everyone has the equal chance to access and succeed in higher education.

‫ كل شخص يريد أن يتم التعامل‬-‫ ضمن عائلتك الخاصة‬- ‫يف الجو املألوف‬ ‫معه بحسب شخصيته وليس كـ “ مجرد شخص تقليدي آخر من خلفية‬ ‫ مستعملني‬,‫ البعض يصنفون األشخاص اآلخرين ضمن مجموعات‬.“ ‫معينة‬ ‫قوالب بحسب تقييمه للشخص أو للمجموعة وهذا قد يؤدي لعواقب‬ ‫جادة‬ ‫ األحكام‬.‫الوقائع هي أحداث معلومة أو مثبتة بأنها حقيقية‬،‫بالتعريف‬ ‫املسبقة هي عبارة عن تصورات مسبقة وآراء وهي ليست مبنية عىل‬ ‫ مليون‬65.6 ‫ لذلك الحقيقة تؤكد أن هناك‬.‫أسباب أو خربة وتجارب حقيقة‬ ‫ و‬.‫شخص أجربوا عىل االنتقال من مكان سكنهم األصيل يف العامل كله‬ ‫الحكم املسبق أن تعتقد بأن الالجئني والباحثني عن اللجوء يخلقون تهديد‬ ‫ مليون‬22.5 ‫ إنها حقيقة أنه هناك‬.‫عىل االقتصاد أو عىل األمان الوظيفي‬ ‫الجئ يف أنحاء العامل ولكنه حكم مسبق أن تظن بأن الالجئني وطالبي‬ ‫اللجوء هم متطرفون و يشكلون خطر عىل أمنك الشخيص أو الهوية‬ ‫الوطنية‬ ‫ نعمل بجد ليس فقط ملحاربة القوالب النمطية واألحكام‬,‫يف كايرون‬ ‫املسبقة بل و نسعى جاهدين لنعالج حتى التحيز املخفي الذي يأيت غالبا‬ ‫بدون وعي أو فحص ولكن من املمكن أن يكون قايس وله عواقب جدية‬ ‫وذلك عن طريق خلق بيئة مرحبة ضمن عاملنا عىل األنرتنيت أو حتى يف‬ ً‫ التنوع املوجود بني طالبنا وفريق عمل كايرون جعلنا نقف جنبا‬.‫الواقع‬ ‫إىل جنب مبهمة واحد ة لنساعد يف بناء عامل يكفل للجميع فرص متساوية‬ ‫للدخول والنجاح ضمن التعليم العايل‬

Rima’s Story in the camp, until I finally could take a language course and was allowed to start learning German. Back in 2015, a friend of mine told me about Kiron, and I registered right away to study Computer Science. Working with the computer really interested me; I wanted to learn JavaScript and learn to construct and build things online. The courses were incredibly useful, and I was also able to improve my German. To me, Kiron means: a new beginning! Kiron truly helped me to begin my new life in Germany. Now, I am in my first semester of Architecture in Weimar. I always loved Architecture. In school, I was in the drawing club, and since those early days, I just knew I wanted to build things and create all kinds of new things. One day I will be a successful architect, and I will make new things that people have yet to discover or make. My studies here are so different than at the University of Aleppo. In Syria, we have to study for five years; here we only study for three. In Germany, you have to learn faster than in Aleppo. I like the atmosphere at the university - it is really cool! I have friends from all over the world including Germans and even friends from China and Afghanistan. At Weimar University, everyone is open-minded and treats me like a normal person. Of course, they were interested in my being a refugee from Syria and asked a few questions, but they were always genuinely nice. They never treated me strange. Instead, they helped me! Here, I am just a normal woman simply going to school, studying Architecture. Being a woman in Syria is of course very different. You are treated like you are no more than a weak person who cannot handle herself. Even though there were a lot of girls in my university in Aleppo, everyone always looked at the girls as if they were weak, did not belong and should stay at home. The problem for many refugee women is that often they have not had the chance to


I like to listen to what my heart says and do what I want. My name is Rima. I am a Kurdish 21-year-old girl from Aleppo, Syria. First, my family lived in the Kurdish regions in Syria, but there were always problems with Arabs and Kurds. Even though Syria is Arab in origin, the Kurds were living there before. Many people dislike the Kurds. However, with the war, everything changed. People used to be impolite to us, but with the onset of the war, no one had the energy for such conflicts anymore. My parents were employed by the government before we came to Germany. My father was working in the train station, and my mother was an engineer. I came to Germany with my whole family. My mother came first, then the Familiennachzug allowed my two sisters and my father to follow, and eventually I too, along with my uncle, joined my family. Our decision to leave is hard to explain. You have to leave your country behind. However, in a way you do not recognize your country as your country anymore, since it has changed in so many ways. For me, it was really difficult because I had to finish school first. Going to school during war time is tough. I was still doing my A levels when the war started. Of course, we did not know that it would become even more difficult. So, we stayed for another two years in Aleppo. I finished my Abitur and even started studying Architecture for one year. But it wasn’t long until I had to stay home because going to university was too dangerous. During war time we had no internet, so we had to work with what we had. I never used a computer or mobile phone, and if one stops using them, one forgets. This empire of knowledge that the internet provided was, at least for us, unable to reach for so long. However, when I came to Germany, I was able to dive into this ‘online knowledge’ again and read and learn about German culture and so much more. When I arrived in Erfurt, I simply stayed, doing nothing, for two months


discover themselves. They still have the idea in their heads that girls have to marry and have kids. They should learn to allow themselves to follow their dreams and educate themselves. Being an educated person will open doors! I don’t want to see myself as a weak person. Education makes me strong. Here in Germany, any person is just like the other. It is not important if you are male or female. You can can get a driver’s license or even do heavy labor such as construction, regardless of your gender. You are able to simply do what you like and you don’t have to justify yourself. I am a Muslima, but I do not wear a headscarf. Here, it is not important if I wear a hijab or not – I can wear what I want. My advice for female refugees is: Be yourself! Believe what your heart says and be more courageous! Back in Syria, everyone’s focus is on society and religion. However, religion and society are two pairs of shoes that should not be tied together. The society does not understand religion. Society misunderstands these two pairs of shoes too often and is shaped by male perspectives. People have to find their own way. It is neither the fault of society nor religion. In Germany, I see the benefit of learning and being influenced by German culture. It affects me, and in turn, both cultures will influence each other. I believe that cultural exchange benefits and enhances society. While German society has welcomed us warmly and genuinely, I believe that integration will take time. In time we will just learn to accept each other. I think it can be done if we simply have our hearts clear and open to others. The problems always seem the same - each person has his or her own ideas. It is important to listen to each other, hear different ideas and work with one another to find the best ideas together. I try always to look at the souls of people and treat people as they treat me, and I believe this to be the best approach. When I first came to Germany, it felt very strange to be in this new country with all these new faces, new behaviors and this language that I did not understand. Now, I do not feel strange anymore. I like Germany. There are so many things that I like about this openminded culture. However, of course I often still miss Syria terribly! I miss my friends and the places that I used to go. I miss my home – even though it is no longer my home. I hope the war in Syria will finally end so that we as Syrian engineers, doctors and whatever we are can come back and build up our country again with all that we have learned. As an architect, it would be an honor to help rebuild my country.

“As an...

...architect, it would be an honor to help rebuild my country.�

Sarah’s Story

all share a lot of similarities. Judaism and Christianity, and even the message of Islam, are very similar. Except that Islam is in a way very political and economic, since, unlike Jesus, prophet Mohammed was a statesman. He followed state policy and therefore his religion is based on politics. When you grow up with your own religion, you believe it blindly. When you read another religion, you look at it critically. Ironically, this also taught me to look critically at Islam. I realized that I have a mind of my own – and that I can use it. It took me two years to break free from my indoctrinated identity, this heavy


Islamic coat that had been put upon me and this mind


cage that had captured my thoughts. I had to overcome My name is Sarah, I am 27-years-old, and I am from

a lot of fear, since I had learned to constantly be afraid,

Lahore, Pakistan. I am agnostic, even though I was born

living in fear, that God would punish me or my family. I

into a Muslim family – but I transitioned out of the reli-

was afraid of many things, including my own thoughts.

gion, and this is a big part of my identity. I grew up in a

I was even afraid that my mother would be struck by

highly conservative and dogmatic family. Hence, I was

lightning if I thought about things that I should not

made to believe everything you are told. You are not

think about.

supposed to question, and you are supposed to fear this

However, the internet saved my life! Since I was

“God figure.” I thought I needed to fear and love him at

neither able to talk to anyone about the strange things I

the same time - a relationship that was put upon me

was thinking about, nor the things that I was not al-

like a heavy cloak of Islam identity. This was part of my

lowed to think about, my only solution was to go online

upbringing and part of myself; I was dressed with this

and find other people to talk to. I wanted to find people

identity and constantly afraid. I believed I would be sent

who thought like me. I almost gave up, thinking there

to hell if I thought wrong. This was really stressful for me.

would be no way out of this mental prison of fear that

It was like growing up in this mental cage, in which your

I grew up with, and then the internet showed me that

own way of thinking is constrained by the bars around

there are so many other doors, and that there is a way


out. On the internet, a lot of Arabs had formed ex-Mus-

When I was 15-years old, I shoplifted a copy of the

lim communities. That gave me hope and showed

Bible. Again, I was afraid, as looking into other religions

me there was a way to leave. They helped me with my

isn’t permitted. There is no other god! So looking into

thoughts and led me to this spiritual renaissance.

other religions could have gotten my family into trouble

When I was 18-years old, I went abroad to study in

and even imprisoned. Therefore, I did not want to show

Qatar. This was the next door I opened to leave my past.

the book to the shopkeeper. I still remember everything

Even though it was still an Islamic country, and I had to

that day – the shop, the books, the smell, my heart beat-

study Medicine, I had a way to step into new territory

ing. I was buying Harry Potter, like any other girl my age.

and think for myself. I was so happy to study abroad,

But unlike other girls, I carried a secret with me: the

even though the field of study was not my choice. In

Bible! I had covertly slipped it underneath my coat and

Pakistan and India you either become an engineer or

squeezed it to my tense body. My heart was pounding

a doctor – otherwise your family loses face. Women

when the shopkeeper asked me to pay for Harry Potter.

should be doctors, whilst engineering is much more a

I feared that he might see through my coat and realize

man’s domain. Hence, my family wanted me to study

what I was carrying. I paid with shaking hands and ran

medicine, and I was happy to do anything to get out of

home quickly. However – again out of fear – I did not

Pakistan. For a woman, Pakistan is terrible. You are only

read this secret book for six months. The fear of even

half a human to a man. As a woman, there is no true

possessing this forbidden secret was already too much.

freedom! You cannot wear normal t-shirts, you always

I couldn’t even bear looking at it, and reading it was

have to cover yourself and you have to be indoors after



But one day I somehow over came this fear thanks to

In school, I had the opportunity to be educated by

my love for books and my curiosity. I realized that books

the Cambridge system, which allowed me to get in

are all created by humans; they are all human stories,

touch with Western culture, English movies and litera-

even books of religion. And despite the differences, they

ture, the Western images of gender and general free-

dom. This was always very frustrating. In Pakistan, the

refugees, especially men. They said: “You are not what

word “free” is an insult. “Freedom” in the sense of a “free

a Muslima should be,” and called me names. It was not

country” is different from “personal freedom,” which

easy, but I was so happy to finally breathe the sweet air

has a negative connotation. Even though the rights of

of freedom.

women are similar in Qatar, it is very international and

In 2016, it was again the internet that helped me! I

you can easily blend in. Nevertheless, it is still not real

found out about Kiron and started studying business

freedom since you cannot be free openly. But at least

administration. Kiron helped me a lot during a tough

in Qatar, I could be free indoors. However, falling in love

time of transition. Kiron gave me a chance to study

is a lot of stress, since you always have to hide from the

instead of just sitting at home waiting. I was learning

law - just because you are doing something normal.

more German and felt truly integrated as a free woman.

I studied medicine for three years, then changed to

I was finally allowed to be free without being judged.

business administration when I was 22. I felt at home in

Nevertheless, I was constantly thinking about these

Qatar. I liked my university, my friends, and was very ac-

two different worlds. I thought about my past, my

tive writing and debating about religion versus rational-

friends and my family back home. I reminisced about

ity. The American University campus I was studying at

my mother and sister and pondered the life they – and

felt like a free zone, where my mind was finally released

other women – must live. How they are suppressed, how

from its cage. But this was when the problems began. I

I changed, how we could all change. How this mentality

could not hide underneath this identity cloak anymore.

over there could change and how they could taste the

Eventually I felt comfortable enough and openly said

true sense and beauty of freedom as well.

that I had lost my faith, and people around me – to my

Today I study business mathematics at the Karlsruhe

surprise, even my friends – got really angry and could

Institute of Technology. I feel very happy, grateful and

not seem to understand.

satisfied that I am able to take control and plan what I

It was during this difficult time that I travelled to Eu-

want to do with my life. I am finally able to be myself,

rope as a tourist. When I was just about to go back to

without hiding underneath a cloak. I am just me - a

my home in Qatar, already lining up to board at Zürich

crazy free-thinker who is extremely rebellious! My dream

Airport, with my boarding pass in hand, I received a call

is that one day the whole Eastern world will become

from the Dean of my university, that I should not come

secular. This does not guarantee freedom, but without

back. He told me that if I came back they would deport

it, the policies are governed by religion. Politics and reli-

me back to Pakistan. I was standing in line, feeling stuck

gion should never be tied together. For myself, I want to

and unsure of what to think or do. It felt like in a mat-

be a strong, free woman who follows her career. Maybe

ter of a few seconds, they had turned off the switch to

one day I will work in business consulting. I will have my

my whole life, and I had to turn on a new one. I did not

own home, my own roof and maybe even a vegetable

know what to do. I was in the boarding zone - a prisoner

garden with hens running around. It will be a life of my

of no-man’s-land. I was not in Switzerland, nor any-

own without dependency on anyone else. Because if

where else. So, I sat down – and again, I turned to the

you are independent, you are free!

internet to help answer my questions and find a solution. I asked for political asylum. This concept seemed absurd to me. Something only famous people would ask for - people like Edward Snowden and certainty not people like me. The border police took me to the transit zone where I had a room to sleep and eat. I was stuck. I could not go out, I could not open the windows and my feelings were like a shaken cocktail. I did not know if I should feel happy, sad or angry. Since I had arrived in Germany at the beginning of my tour, this is where they transferred me back to. I bought a ticket to Konstanz and then to Karlsruhe in order to follow the asylum application process. As a political refugee, I was allowed to stay in Karlsruhe. I started learning German. Again, the internet helped me arrive in my new country and learn German. I started living a ‘normal’ western life. However, there was a lot of harassment by other

“It felt like in a matter of a few seconds, they had turned off the switch to my whole life, and I had to turn on a new one.”



Female Empowerment 53

Currently, we have more than 3000 students, yet only 17 percent of our students are female. It is important that our student demographic represents our beliefs in equal opportunity for men and women. To foster this, we are devoting efforts to promote female empowerment through education. We believe that educating women means educating the future – at Kiron, we want to enable female refugees not only to educate themselves, but also to transmit their knowledge further to their kids, friends and community. Together with our headstrong female students, motivated female Kironistas and supportive Kiron community, we are working together to empower every woman to take her future into her own hands.

‫ إنه من الهام جداً أن يكون طالبنا‬.‫ باملائة منهم إناث‬16 ‫ فقط‬،‫ طالب يف كايرون‬2700 ‫ لدينا أكرث من‬,‫يف الوقت الحايل‬ ‫ وألجل تحقيق هدف املساواة فإننا نسعى بكل‬.‫ممثلني ألهدافنا ومعتقداتنا وهي – تساوي الفرص بني الرجال والنساء‬ ،‫ يف كايرون‬.‫ إننا نؤمن بأن تعليم املرأة يعني تعليم أجيال املستقبل‬.‫قوتنا لنقوي املرأة عن طريق حصولها عىل التعليم‬ ‫نريد مساعدة النساء الالجئات ليس فقط لتعليم أنفسهن بل أكرث من ذلك لنقل املعرفة إىل أطفالهن وأصدقائهن‬ ‫ بالتعاون مع طالبات كايرون الطموحات و موظفات كايرون املتحمسات ودعم مجتمع كايرون نستطيع‬.ً‫واملجتمع كامال‬ ‫أن نعمل سوية ألجل دعم املرأة ليك متسك زمام األمور لجعل مستقبلها أفضل‬


Nyima’s Story



Today, she lives in Lörrach, works for a refugee journalism project called “LISTEN” and helps make refugee voices heard.

and as a Muslima. I have always advocated for independence, and I don’t want people to tell me what to do. I decide and think for myself as a free woman. But this path I chose is a very difficult one, a path that

“Kiron is a dream come true. It helps me to follow my studies and become a successful journalist!” Niyma, Kiron Student

took many turns and ultimately led me to leave my home country and my family. It was never my intention to leave my home, but I had to leave Gambia, because I wrote about the truth. And back in Gambia, that was not possible. I was writing a story about human trafficking from Gambia, about the women from my city who leave to Lebanon with the dream of a new life, then wake up in a foreign country with a nightmare, crushed hopes and realizing that everything was based on a lie – a trick – a trap.

My name is Nyima. I am a black refugee woman who wears a headscarf. I feel the same as everyone else, but people often do not see me as being equal to them. I feel that they look at me differently. Maybe it is the label I am wearing without even noticing, the label of being a refugee, a black women, a Muslima. I do not like these labels. I want people to see just me. This is why I write and want to tell my story. I want people to listen, and I want the media to change their labels and their ideas about refugees and Muslims. That’s why I dream of becoming a successful journalist, one that tells our story through our eyes, with no blurred vision of labels and stereotypes. I want to speak out as a refugee woman

This is the truth, but nobody wanted to hear or publish it, so I had to leave. Today, I find myself in Germany, living in Lörrach, studying political science with Kiron and doing the preparation program for university at Studium Duale Hochschule Baden Württemberg. Kiron is a dream come true, and I believe that with the help of Kiron, I can strive to become a successful journalist. I feel more independent and courageous today. Germany has given me another life, even though I never thought of living without my family and friends, without my home. It is a different world with many advantages and disadvantages. But here, I feel that I can be myself and the person I want to be! Back home, things are very

different. I come from an old tribe called Mandinka, one of the richest cultures in West Africa. We have values and traditions that are hard to grasp from a European perspective. Our language sounds like music – fast and loud and not like German at all. We like dancing and dressing up. For a traditional wedding the bride wears beads all over her head. They are called Calama and they are normally used for cooking rice. It is a different world, one where females are still circumcised. Even though the country has tried to ban female genital mutilation, the female circumcision prevalence rates among the Mandikas are still very high. I had to fight for my cousin not to live through this experience. It is a different world, a world in which marriage, religion and tradition play another role. A world where I had to fall in love secretly. But it is also a colorful, bright and magical world. German culture is very different. People here seem to be in hurry all the time. They are always running and always have to be on time. They eat a lot of potatoes, and they are very friendly. I am part of this culture now. I am learning German, I love riding my bicycle and enjoy eating Spätzle. Sometimes, I just walk the streets of Lörrach and window shop. I have met many great people here in Germany, and I feel welcome. Nonetheless, I have also faced some difficulties, especially being a Muslima wearing a headscarf. I have been denied a work placement just for wearing it, and especially in summer, German people ask funny questions, like “why are you choosing to cover up your hair?” For me, it is normal, I do not talk about religion, I pray and I carry it in my heart. I think that we are all the same, no matter where we come from, or what we believe in, or what color or gender we have. I am living with two other refugee women from Eritrea, East Africa, and their children now. Even though we do not share the same language, we share the same experiences and often sit together and talk about what it is like being a female refugee in Germany, and how difficult it is being away from home and our families, how hard it is to integrate and the struggle with so many things, especially bureaucracy. I believe it is important to speak out for women. I have always done so. Back in Gambia, I had my own column reporting about women’s issues. We should speak out and make sure that we are heard and should not hide. That is why I work for the journalism program “Listen,” a radio project with five different refugee voices, languages and cultures all telling their stories. One reason why I wanted to be part of this project is because there are so many negative things reported about refugees and Muslims. I want to change that and give refugee women a voice!

“I am a black refugee woman who wears a headscarf. I feel the same as everyone else, but people often do not see me as being equal to them. I feel that they look at me differently. Maybe it is the label I am wearing without even noticing, the label of being a refugee, a black women, a Muslima. I do not like these labels. I want people to see just me.”



Linda’s Story


I am a mechanical engineer, an electrician and a doer - and one day I will be my own boss. My name is Linda, and it is because I am a woman that I work even harder and am even prouder to be in my chosen field. People always look at me funny, not when I tell them I am a refugee from Zimbabwe, but when I tell them my profession. The word “refugee” on its own rubs me the wrong way. It has a sort of sad connotation, and I am not sad, nor do I want pity. I like to refer to myself as an “immigrant” rather than a “refugee”, I can say this with more confidence, which gives me strength. I know it’s not everyday you meet a female electrician, let alone one like me as proud and confident in my abilities to do the jobs other people are afraid of. I like being a technician, a fixer. I enjoy tackling challenging jobs and taking risks - even just the thought of working with high voltages and electrical hazards gets my blood pumping. Before I left my hometown, Zvishavane, I would have considered myself rather successful. I obtained my diploma at a technical school, or as Germans would say “Technische Hochschule,” and I had already worked for four years as an electrician. No matter where you are, my line of work is male dominated. common; otherwise, this place is a completely different world. I have been in Germany for almost one and half years, and I still do not feel at home. “Home” seems an abstract concept these days. Home used to be a place where I was surrounded by my parents, my two brothers and my two sisters. Holidays meant driving out to the village to visit my grandparents, cousins, childhood friends, aunts and uncles. In Africa, at least from what I know, Christmas isn’t about presents and buying into the commercial season of Santa Claus and reindeers. Christmas is about family and about being together. For me, the holidays were about love, laughter and especially rituals. If we were lucky, it meant slaughtering a cow, and if not, then at least a goat or chicken! I miss the days I used to retreat to the village, where time seemed to slow down, and worries were easily replaced by the warmth of familiarity of being in a place where everything in the world was right and safe. The mere fact that it is December is enough to set off these memories, and it makes being so far away from home that much more difficult. The rest of my family is still in Zimbabwe. Speaking to them over the phone – not to mention that impossibility of seeing them – is rare. It’s the season to

be lonely - at least for me. It hurts knowing you don’t have access to free internet and phone calls even just to say hi to your parents or to simply ask your siblings how they are doing and what the weather back home is like. I am hoping to get my own room sometime soon, but the process is long and difficult. Right now, I share a room with three other girls. We are all from different countries, speaking different languages and practicing different habits and religions. The only way we can really communicate is in German, but I still have a lot to learn. I just finished my German B2 and recently started my B2 course, but it is at times difficult and frustrating. In fact, it seems that all I’m doing for months now is taking German courses. I was really beginning to feel stuck in my routine and in life in general. Most days consisted of going to language school, trying to go to my friend’s place to use her internet a little, and like a bad habit I couldn’t shake, I would always end up in my tiny little room, with nothing but time, endless thoughts and no privacy. But things are finally starting to change, and I am more positive about my future. Two months ago I started studying with Kiron. It is difficult for me to focus on my studies due to the lack of internet and not having access to a laptop, but so far, I am managing. I hope to progress with my studies and eventually transfer to a university and finish my degree in engineering so that I can get back to working again. My career and education are the only things on my mind these days because I know that once I am independent again, everything else will fall into place. My studies with Kiron are still young, but so far, I really enjoy my courses and all the incredible people I have met. Despite being so new to the Kiron world, I was lucky enough to attend the Community Weekend they had in November. Everybody was so nice, and I received answers to my endless list of questions! Mostly I spoke with Kiron staff and volunteers, but we talked about lot of different issues. We covered everything from small talk about the horrible cold and rainy Berlin weather to - at least in my opinion - the lack of meat served at most of our meals, and of course we also had introspective and deep conversations on sensitive political issues and the consequences of gender equality issues on both a personal and global level. One of my favorite workshops was “I don’t judge! Do I?” because despite our diverse backgrounds, stories and challenges in life, we were able to come together as one and connect about the love and respect we have for one another and ourselves regardless of the injustices and wrongs in the world around us. We discussed and shared ideas on how to deal with issues of racism and negative attitudes. It gave me a chance to talk with and relate

to other Kiron students, which was nice. I would like to meet more students. I am hopeful about the prospect of making some friends through Kiron - people I can share ideas with, study with and laugh with. Personally, I feel I am fortunate in that I haven’t been the target of very difficult or frequent racist or discriminative issues. Sometimes I don’t feel welcome here, as though I don’t belong. But I am strong and brave; I walk with my head held high. I have learned to live with a lot of different people, and I have adapted. It has become second nature to turn a blind eye and ignore what will not influence me in a positive manner. Sometimes it is easier said than done. It hurts the most when you let your guard down, when you think you are in a safe place, but in reality, you are not. That moment, the combination of disappointment in yourself for believing in the good in people and the sadness of knowing you need to keep fortifying your self-built wall, is a moment that can linger over you like the weight of water. But in the end it does nothing, so I do what I always do, especially as a female refugee immigrant: I hold my head up higher, and I start each day ready to take advantage of what the new day will offer. Being an immigrant is not easy, and especially as a woman, it can be even more difficult. But for me, being an immigrant woman - knowing that it is more challenging - gives me all the more reason to fight hard, to stay strong and to be proud. After all, I am far more than what the label of “immigrant women” might tell. I am a proud woman from Zimbabwe. I am a mechanical engineer, an electrician,

“Being an immigrant woman - knowing that it is more challenging - gives me all the more reason to fight harder, to stay strong and to be more proud!” and I am “mukundi” - meaning I am an achiever - and that in its own is enough to encourage me for my future. One day, I will have my own electrical business, and I will be my own boss. I will run a female-operation where other female engineers will not only be welcome, but where they will belong and where they will excel in their dreams. Despite my circumstances, I remain positive. And I believe that all refugees and immigrants, especially my fellow females, should do the same. I mean, in the end, we don’t have any other choice, do we? We have to work with what I have. We are all humans, and we are all capable of doing anything we want in life. Whatever it is you feel like doing in life, I say go for it! Push through the challenges and be focused - just do it. Be positive and aim to achieve your goals.



Recommendation for Action


To enable refugees to settle into their host societies and realize their potential, Kiron and large numbers of other change-driven organizations came up with new and innovative approaches to empower refugees to continue their education and to enable them to integrate well into our society. Kiron’s model focuses on providing high-quality online university-level courses and on giving individuals the support necessary to start studying at a university. However, the complexity of the challenges refugees face in Germany’s immigration system requires a broad range of equally complex and novel solutions. Despite the success stories of many individuals who have benefited from the services of Kiron and other organisations, we still have a long way to go. As part of the federal programme “Demokratie leben!,” the Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ), the Allianz Kulturstiftung and ZEIT-Stiftung supported the project “MIT DIR,” in which a number of new ideas and concepts were piloted and evaluated for their effectiveness. We have learned a lot from the project and outline here some of our key findings here. A variety of online channels can be used to reach refugees and volunteers across the country and to engage in meaningful discussion of relevant topics. An online seminar was piloted to train volunteers on the topics of prejudice and discrimination. Using relatively few resources, Kiron was able to reach people from all over the country. The format of a webinar – an

interactive online training session – serves as an excellent example of how digital channels can be exploited to serve the needs of people who may not always work in the same geographical location. After all, challenges related to integration are global and are best addressed by collaborating and learning from each other, even though we may live and work toward our common goal in different locations. Moderated online environments create a sense of community and serve as a powerful motivator for students. Kiron students were trained to become online forum moderators in order to contribute to the nourishment of Kiron’s online student community. In their new role as moderators, forum users themselves became multipliers of social participation by encouraging other users to share their experiences online, to organize offline events themselves and much more. Key to the project’s success were the moderation guidelines and community rules developed collaboratively during workshops by the forum users themselves. “You don’t need to organize us within the Forum. Give us some tools and resources, so that within the Forum we can organize student events, hackathons and soccer matches against other universities outside of the Forum.” – Kiron student during a workshop Online interaction should be accompanied by regular encounters offline. Around one-hundred refugees, volunteers and repre-

sentatives of a number of change-driven initiatives and organisations came together at a Community Weekend in November. Feedback by participants indicated that meeting fellow Kiron students and volunteers in person, and working together on challenges related to migration in a number of workshops, was highly motivating for everyone involved. A range of new ideas were generated to overcome some of the challenges related to migration and education. Organisations should increase their efforts to create synergy by collaborating in the generation of solutions to migration-related challenges. Different social-impact oriented organizations can bring in unique perspectives from their field of work. Networking events and workshops in which refugees, NGO representatives and volunteers come together face to face to work together on solutions have shown to lead to a variety of new insights, the generation on novel ideas and foster motivation. We have a lot to learn from each other and should seek more opportunities to

connect and collaborate. We should stop talking about refugees and instead empower them to share their own stories and create new ways for social participation. The content of this Community Magazine has largely been created by refugees who are willing to share their personal stories. Again, we would like to thank our project partners BMFSFJ, Allianz Kulturstiftung and ZEITStiftung for supporting our mission. With the project “MIT-DIR- Miteinander und Teilhabe in digitalen und von Diversität geprägten sozialen Räumen,” this Kiron Community Magazine and so much more was made possible. The Kiron Family says, Thank you! Danke!

‫شك ًرا لكم‬


“We should speak out, and make sure that we are heard and should not hide!” Nyima, Kiron Student

“I realized that I have a mind of my own - and that I can use it!” Sarah, Kiron Student

“My advice for female refugees is: Be yourself! Believe what your heart says and be more couragous!” Rima, Kiron Student


“Without education, there is no civilization! Education is the key!” Wafaa, Kiron Student

“Do not let life shape your future. Shape your future yourself! You need to be serious and take it into your own hands.” Ehab, Kiron Student

“What ever it is you feel like doing in life, I say go for it!” Linda, Kiron Student

Support our mission! Get involved!


Flora Roenneberg TRANSL ATOR

Mohammad Moataz Ghannam & Samah Al Jundi-Pfaf ART DIRECTION, L AYOUT AND DESIGN

Flora Roenneberg & Vanessa Enríquez PHOTOGRAPHER

Kolja Raschke EDITING

Alisha Merkle, Clare Börsch & Emily Lundin WRITING AND COPY EDITOR

Flora Roenneberg, Fabienne Huber, Alisha Merkle, Clare Börsch

Profile for KIRON_NGO

Kiron Community Magazine  

At Kiron, we offer more than just the opportunity to access and succeed in higher education; we provide a support system, a place for studen...

Kiron Community Magazine  

At Kiron, we offer more than just the opportunity to access and succeed in higher education; we provide a support system, a place for studen...