Integration through partnerships

“It's so simple!”

Although integration is a key factor in successful migration policies, government agencies often find themselves struggling to cope. They depend on the help of volunteers. The student members of the “Campus for Change” association assist and support refugees and migrants. Carolin Köne is the project leader. Her projects bring migrants and local people together in tandems.

MRF 
Mrs. Köne, in your projects you bring migrants and students together. The aim is to accelerate integration. How do you go about this?

Carolin Köne
We cooperate with three partner schools where we organise introductory meetings between migrants and students. At the moment, we have around 60 mentors who do things together with migrants. Often it's just everyday things like visiting a museum, sports, or going out and exploring the city together. Many migrants have been living in Munich for months in simple accommodation or centres and haven't even been to see the English Garden yet. Sometimes newcomers also need support, for instance when they have to complete formalities at government offices or fill out forms. The tandem partnerships often develop into friendships. They also make learning German a lot easier and speed up integration immensely.

MRF 
What gave you the idea of forming tandems?

Carolin Köne
In Germany there are countless mentoring programmes, for everything from childcare to homework tuition. It seemed obvious to us to develop something similar for migrants too. Unaccompanied young people under 18 years are usually well taken care of, but finding help for migrants between 18 to 27 often proves difficult. Without wanting to, these young people have a lot of free time, but little support. This is where we come in.


Martina Mayerhofer (Munich Re Foundation, left) talking to Carolin Köne. 

MRF
How long do the tandems last?

Carolin Köne
We just started in 2015, so we can’t make any conclusive statements yet. However, the drop-out rate is quite low. Around 60 to 70% of the mentor relationships or partnerships have existed since the very beginning. We’re just introducing an evaluation system at present that will allow us to make clear statements in this respect.

MRF 
Have there been any unpleasant incidents or problems? Carolin Köne The programmes usually run smoothly and harmoniously. Of course, it sometimes happens that a tandem mentee doesn’t turn up. That’s not nice for the mentor. And once, one of our participants was put on remand, which was a shock for all of us. However, the tandems usually work without problem. Julia, a medical student from Munich (left) and Astou from Senegal got to know each other through the mentoring programme. As Astou wants to become a nurse, this has been an ideal match.



Carolin Köne (on the right) is one of eight project leaders in the “Campus for Change” tandem project.

MRF 
Are you faced with any challenges?

Carolin Köne
Yes, of course. At the moment, our biggest problem is that we have more female mentors, but actually need more male tandems. We try to set up same-gender partnerships, but we now are meeting our limits. We have mentors from all fields of study, and can offer a great deal. But we need more men to become active in volunteer work.

MRF 
Many of your mentors are still studying. How much time and effort does their participation cost them?

Carolin Köne
That depends on what the tandem partners arrange with each other. I invest roughly five hours a week, in the beginning phase of new tandems, more.

MRF 
Is there a lack of funds?

Carolin Köne
Money isn’t the biggest problem, the public authorities luckily provide enough funds. Mentors often don’t even ask for their expenses to be reimbursed. Which is also a sign that friendships are developing. What we need is more people, rather than more money.

MRF 
So what lies ahead? Carolin Köne We need to continue working at making our programmes grow. At the moment, things look good. And getting involved is rewarding for everyone: for the migrants, for society, for the mentors. When I see new tandems being created and young people who were at first very shy beginning to interact and relate – this is always a moment that fills me with great joy. And it’s worth every effort.

28 September 2017