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The story of the Jugendwerk is also part of the founders Jurji Ils which reaches back into the 90’s. In the sping of 1993 Jurji immigrated from Siberia to Germany, to the East of Friesland in Wittmund. He found himself in the same position as many other immigrants, having the feeling of being detached and not yet having arrived in the new culture and environment.
Late noon in the summer of 1993, Jurji found himself wandering alone through the city. On his lonely walk he came across a play ground where he was surprised to understand what was being said as his Germany was still below average. In the playground he saw a group of youths smoking with a beer in their hand conversing in Russian, Jurji could relate to this situation as he himself has felt lonely and forgotten, and all he wanted to do was to help these youths and integrate himself into their society.
A few days later the youths met for a second time; meanwhile, Jurij had met with one of the guys and had asked him what he would rather do in his spare time. Vitalij had replied, “the Germans don’t want us, and we are left here on our own, I drink because I don’t belong. My friends and I would like to learn Sambo (Russian self-defense or Kick-boxing).
Since there was no offers for Sambo in such a small town, Jurji offered to teach the youths from the playground how to Sambo free of charge, whenever and wherever it was possible. With this offer Jurji and his first participants had asset a milestone for the Jugendwerk which they did not know yet. Through the course Kickboxing and his small groups of “lost souls”the Jugendwerk was able to gather a group of 40 men and women who would play and integrate over a range of games including basketball and volleyball. For Jurij sport was always an important aspect. His aim was to strengthen the self-esteem of migrant children which was often already injured through the culture shock and environment change.
During the time where Jurji was doing several jobs to make “ends meet,” the work with youth posed many questions; how do you bring these teenagers with little financial backing out of their isolated situations? How do you create interesting activities that will keep children from being bored, and in turn help them stay away from alcohol and drugs? Which activities minimize and reduce the consumption of alcohol or addictive substances? How do you provide the youth with a better perspective of a future? And how do you cross that bridge and enable integration between locals and immigrants?
During the first year, Jurji’s main focus was on Russian males and females. But he quickly learnt that he must open his groups door to other countries in order to stimulate integration. Youths and children from Poland, Vietnam, and Turkey joined, as well as the Kurdish areas of Iraq, and Kosovo which eventually motivated locals to join as well.
In the meantime Jurji had already found trusted volunteers who helped him discuss his concept of integration, as well as starting initiatives, evaluating different strategies and they threw away that what was not successful. Even in the weekends and holidays the volunteers where counseling hundreds of children and would not let their work end. Together the volunteers have worked over 80,000 hours or 111 months to help Jurji achieve his integrative aim.
Since his encounter on the playground in the summer of 1993, Jurji has been
putting his education to use utilizing his knowledge and training as
youth counselor, and a graduated social-pedagogic, but also using his
skills in sports and media alongside his volunteers to create and
innovative and target group orientated recreational activity.
Since each assistant and any helpers volunteered at the Work of youth Office and the association pursues exclusively charitable purposes, decided a group of the most active supporters (now Board) in the early autumn of 1997 to found the club, "Jugendwerk".
Inclusive education work of the Work of youth Office was from the beginning as a permanent institution in place; the first leisure projects with only one participating partners represented only the initial spark; within the nearly two decades that have passed since the founding joined other actors and institutions and actively participated in projects.
All events and projects are focused on a long term work plan, and long term integration. Through the large variety of projects and active networking Jugendwerk was able to create a large number of small projects that were carried out independently. With time the integration and youth work of the Jugendwerk became a long-term facility in both Wittmund and surrounding areas.
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Over the years a colorful program of breakdance, parkour, streetball,
self-defense for girls, running, and survival along with a range of options
began to motivate not only immigrants to join but also locals. The groups of
youths and kids that wanted to take part in this variety of activities
steadily grew. In this rainbow of youths, the single parties began to gain a
better understanding of one another and steadily began to integrate to a
point of diversity. Judgments and personal contact between both locals and
immigrants significantly reduced to a point of extinction, and where dirty
looks were exchanged, people started exchanging looks of joy and excitement
and began engaging in the same teams.
Through media constructed programs Jugendwerk children and youths began to express their fantasies, dreams, and wishes on their independently programmed games or films which allowed them to express their creativity and helped them advance themselves virtually. The kids learn with the help of the right “tools” (computers) to integrate in a fun and interactive way. With professional help kids are guided through age and skill orientated lessons on various programming platforms including Python and ActionScript. Jugendwerk projects do not require any sort of high level computing knowledge and teach the youth basic knowledge in programming and application software. The kids and youth will be provided with the entrance and application of modern future orientated audio visualizing media technology. The Jugendwerk makes it possible to bring together both youth and locals by using media work and interactive activities as a mediator. The interactive group work makes integration seem always joke like, helping youths to strengthen their ego, but also their trust in their own abilities and experiences learning that being “different” is an enrichment of its own. Especially in art and creative work, the variety is more of an opportunity than a obstacle.
The educational offers at schools and kindergartens for immigrant and local integration are only a small part of the integration work of the Jugendwerk. The Jugendwerk youth and children found out that there are other forms of exclusion and that ones birthplace is merely a trait. Many elderly and youth with a handicap feel that they are excluded and live on the edge of society. By now the Jugendwerk hosts projects in both Lebenshilfe and handicapped schools where the social integration of both handicapped and youths is promoted. The elderly are also incorporated in the work of the Jugendwerk in recognition of the collected stories and history of the elderly. While the children and youths teach the elderly to use a computer, the elderly return the favor by teaching the youths sewing, cooking, and also telling them stories.
Our supporting enviroment"
The successful model designed by the Jugendwerk became notorious quickly in the
area. Schools and kindergartens were made aware of their variety rich programs
and their exceptionally good youth work, which lead them to seek a way to work
together with the Jugendwerk. Currently the Jugendwerk is working in
partnership with nine schools and three kindergartens. At the schools the
youths lead medical services, music and sport groups. The youths lead first
aid lessons at kindergartens under the moto, “we’ll show you how to save!”
In light of the voluntary work, the acceptance and support of the public is very strong. The Jugendwerk is able to rely on its large support environment, as co-operation partners and helpers of the Jugendwerk are listed;
The concepts of the Jugendwerk are integration, the richness of variety,
working together and the sponsorship of parents and the community including
Integration for the Jugendwerk means building bridges over nationality, age groups and skills. The variety is due to the colorful mix of children and youths, that have come from many continents and nations of this earth and come to Ostfriesland to find their home. The variety is a result of young and old, boys and girls, and disabled and non-disabled youths.
The Jugendwerk work relies on the support and the help of the children and youths, the parents and families, the schools and kindergartens, and the council and locals. These keep the Jugendwerk alive with financial or material support and providing a helping hand. The voluntary work is one of the Jugendwerks greatest strengths, but also its greatest weakness when the success model is supposed to be achievable in other areas of Germany. The Jugendwerk is working on a concept and business model that links voluntary work and Partners with established organizations and full time coordinators, so that the integrative work is able to expand. The demand and interest is very high.
Honors and awards collected by the Jugendwerk
The voluntary commitment that the Jugendwerk upholds has been awarded from
many sides. The Jugendwerk was honored many times for its outstanding work.
The Jugendwerk with Jurji Ils;
In order to illustrate the successful work of the Jugendwerk, we would like to
let the children and youth express their opinions:
Ali (21 yr): "My parents come from Iraq. I was nine years old when I first went to the Jugendwerk. I felt very comfortable there. Jurji took care of us all. I have to thank the Jugendwerk for helping me take the right path. Sport and team spirit have made me strong. The special thing about the Jugendwerk is that the counselors opt their own free time in order to spend time with the kids, without a single penny! Till this day I maintain contact with the Jugendwerk. It is amazing that the fire of passion still remains in the Jugendwerk until this day! I currently study engineering in Hamburg, and I am very thankful to Jugendwerk."
Tim (16 yr): "Before I would always be mixed up in fights. I always had the police on my back. Today I am one of the 15 Jugendwerker who are leading the extraction of volunteers for rescue organistations. I have many friends and am not interested and have no more time for non-sense anymore."
Leila (16 yr): "My family and I fled from Syria. Since a few months we came to Germany. In school I was advised to come to the Jugendwerk. “they will also help with the language,” – I was told. Since a few months I have been at the Jugendwerk. I like to learn guitar, and found many friends."
Andrej (21 yr): "I was 10 when I joined the Jugendwerk. My parents had just divorced. I had extreme stress at home and in school. I was just fed up with everything. Today years later, I am an educated youth counselor and I’m engaged in the planning, I would gladly give up my free time to work with youth."
Michal (11 yr): "My parents come from Poland. Since I have been at the Jugendwerk many of my enemies became my friends. Here I am a good dancer and am liked by my other pupils."
Marcel (14 yr): "When I was 9, I was very restless and I easily became loud. Mein friend took me to the breakdance group in the Jugendwerk, since then I have significantly calmed down and have no problems in school. In the Jugendwerk I met many different cultures that are amazing. 70 percent of my friends have an immigration background.".
Elias (16 yr): "I come from Afghanistan. Through Jugendwerk I have become more purpose orientated. Here in the club I learnt that it is fun to be socially engaged. Last year I danced on the streets with my friends in order to collect donations for the flood victims in Sachen-Anhalt. Thanks to the Jugendwerk I have become opener and more self aware. Today I’m not scared to approach other people."
Leonie (16 yr):"Three years ago I came from a different state to Ostfriesland. I couldn’t find friends in school. I bumped class often. With the Jugendwerk I learnt to be independent and take care of others. Today I’m not only the leader of the tutor sessions, but I’m also the director of the youth advisory council in Wittmund."
Alexander (26 yr): "I came with my parents and my brother from Russia directly into a social burning point. It was hard for us. Parents had a hard time integrating themselves, and we had out problems in school and everyday life. In the Jugendwerk we learnt to develop our potential and follow our goals. We learnt independent discipline. Currently after my completed crafting education, I am currently working on my university degree, and want to study engineering in autumn. This strive to follow my goals is thanks to the Jugendwerk.".
Jurij (22 yr): "I grew up in a social burning point. Due to boredom my friends and I would constantly get involved in non-sense. Most of us had no decent plan for the future. Jugendwerk was an extremely lucky pick. I learnt how to use a PC, and learnt the basics of programming. Together with new friends I would go to do sport, and I filmed three action films. Currently I am earning my money with programming. In my spare time I love to go to the Jugendwerk and teach the seniors how to use a PC."
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Bettina (45 yr): "As a mother of three children I can see the efforts of the
Jugendwerk. Together with the other parents I support the great work in my
free time. Voluntarily I lead two groups of kids with parents who come from
four migrant backgrounds every week."
Liselotte (66 yr): "When I give children my care and attention, they often speak openly to me and are thankful. That makes me happy till this day and gives me the strength and happiness that keeps me going."
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