<p style="text-align: justify;"> <span style="color: #ff6600;"><em>By Anne-Ruth Schussler (Non-participant and Journalist from Germany)</em></span><br /> <br /> One by one the youngsters enter the kitchen of their spacious accommodation in Weissensee, in the North-East of Berlin. Some of them enthusiastically start telling about a streetart tour they just returned from. Others take a minute to retreat and relax in their rooms. There’s a good atmosphere.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> A participant says: “There was a great vibe as of the very first moment. We all felt comfortable and connected right away.”This connection is special, because this is not just any other group of people. It consists out of twenty-four youngsters from six different countries. The participants switch on and off between German, Arabic, Dutch, English, French, Moroccan and Turkish – and that all in the same room.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> <br /> <br /> <strong>Stereotyping</strong><br /> All these different backgrounds sometimes result in comical situations. Jihane, Soumaya and Zaynab, three Dutch girls with a Moroccan background, describe that at the first day, one of the project leaders asked where the Moroccan girls where. Jihane, Soumaya and Zaynab immediately responded fiercely: “Why did he call us Moroccans?” Soumaya explains: “In the Netherlands, when people say ‘Moroccan,’ it sometimes has a negative implication.”</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> But what the girls didn’t know was that there were actually participants from Marocco attending the program, and that with ‘Maroccans’ the staff actually just meant Moroccans. “It was a funny situation, but it also showed how sensitive we are when we think people are stereotyping us, Zaynab adds.<br /> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> The objective of the program is offering the participants the possibility to transform. “We want to discover in what way we can be better leaders in our own community and how we can make changes,” Soumaya explains, “and meeting all these different people of my own age makes me aware of my possibilities and limitations.” Jihane adds: “I came to Berlin with several ideas about changing things in my community. I always felt shortened in my creative skills. But now that I’m here, I see how other people of my age find ways to express their voices.”</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> <br /> <strong>Tab water</strong><br /> The Dutch girls seemed especially impressed by the stories of the Egyptian participants. Nahla, is one of them. Earlier in the program everyone was asked what they would want to change in their own community. Nahla had a clear goal: “I want to help people in their basic needs, like tab water and food. In Europe this might seem very normal, but in Egypt lots of people still live without it.” For Nahla this the first time abroad. Everything is very different, but one thing here caught her eye: “Today we went on a streetart tour. We saw many graffiti paintings. This reminded me of Egypt. During the Arab Spring there were many artists who protested against the regime by making graffiti paintings.” But unfortunately, unlike Berlin, many of these forms of creative activism, have already been removed. “After the revolution, many walls were painted white again.” Nahla explains.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> <br /> <strong>Sparkle</strong><br /> Cenk, a Turkish participant, loves exactly that about Berlin: “This city here gives everyone the opportunity to express themselves, also when it’s in a critical way.” For Cenk this too is his first time abroad. “At first I was already so happy to just go abroad. But now I can tell I’m changing. I’m already transforming into a more open minded person.”</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> The interaction with some female participants who wear headscarfs, was for example eye-opening for Cenk: “Here I see how these girls have strong opinions and big ideas. It’s very impressing.” Therefore to Cenk, this trip with all these different nationalities, religions, cultures and backgrounds has already been very inspiring: “I have learned that you can change whatever you want, you just need the sparkle to do it!”</p> <p> </p>
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<div class="entry-content"> <header class="entry-header"> </header> <div class="entry-content"> <p style="text-align: justify;"> <span style="color: #ff6600;"><em><span style="color: #ff6600;"><em>By Anne-Ruth Schussler (Non-participant & journalist from Germany)</em></span></em></span><br /> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> Two weeks of sharing, learning and exploring. That is what twenty-four young people from six different countries will be doing in Berlin. It will not be just like any other city trip. Initiators Dennis Fraters (29) and Jan-Willem Koelewijn (37) are on a mission: “we want to help every person to find out in what way he or she can be a hero. We want them to transform!”</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> Their idea of organizing a trip with young people from different countries already exists for a longer time. Three years ago Dennis and Jan-Willem, both originally from the Netherlands, decided to start a project like this in Berlin. They founded Schoolclash: an exchange program that brings school groups together from different nationalities. They encourage the students to interact and exchange thoughts: “by offering a different program to explore the city, we try to let them interact and relate. We want them to clash, but in a positive way!”<br /> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> <strong>Creative activism</strong><br /> Now Fraters and Koelewijn want to raise the bar and look beyond Europe’s borders. But most of all, they want to start transforming. This time, besides accomplishing understanding and interaction, they want to encourage young people to actually become active and do something. “We’ve seen lots of young people with great energy, wanting to change things. Sadly, lots of them don’t have the tools or opportunities to work out their ideas,” says Koelewijn. Fraters adds: “we hope to stimulate these people and give them ways to actually become active, even if it’s on a small or local scale.”<br /> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> <strong>Arab spring</strong><br /> “Transformers” is the name of the project they came up with. A project to strengthen young people to transform into community leaders in their own neighborhood, to become active and experiment with creative ways of doing so. It is a project for young people who want to change things, but don’t know how yet.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> The participants are from six different cities: Paris, Amsterdam, Rabat, Istanbul, Cairo and Berlin. This combination is no coincidence, Koelewijn: “we were wondering what youngsters from Morocco, Turkey and those with a North-African background living in Europe, could learn from people of their own age in Egypt. In what ways were they active during the Arab spring? Can they inspire one another?”<br /> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> <strong>Heroes</strong><br /> During the first week the participants will be encouraged to look for their own talents and flaws. Several workshops and trainings are offered to help them during this process. Fraters: “to become a true hero it is important to be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses. You don’t need superpowers, you need motivation and the willingness to work together”.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> The second week will focus more on the practical tools and ways that the participants can use to express themselves when they get home. Especially the advantages of multi-media and art are emphasized. According to Koelewijn, Berlin is the best place to do all of this: “In Berlin you can literally find creative activism everywhere on the streets. We will also visit several local initiatives, where people work tighter and try to change something in their own neighborhoods.”<br /> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> <strong>Pass it on</strong><br /> When will this project will be successful? Both Fraters and Koelewijn simultaneously agree on the answer: “First of all, we just hope all participants will have a great time full of wonderful and inspiring experiences. It would be great if they go home with energy and motivation to start making changes in their own communities. But it would be like a dream coming true, if at some point, they will help and inspire other people to transform into local heroes too!”</p> </div> </div> <p> </p>
<p style="text-align: justify;"> <br /> <em><span style="color: #ff6600;">by Chaimae, Majdouline, Marike, Salim and Youness (Morocco)</span></em></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> <a href="http://transformers.schoolclash.eu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/rabat2.jpg"><img alt="rabat2" class="alignnone" height="223" src="http://transformers.schoolclash.eu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/rabat2-300x223.jpg" width="300" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> <strong>Before the Transformer! project</strong><br /> Before the Transformer Project all the participants from Morocco were to some extend active in art or in activism, but we didn’t know each other much. Through the selection procedure and the preparation of the project in Morocco we got to know each other better. Over several cups of coffee and tea it turned out that all of us did very interesting things that we were delighted to learn about. Majdouline has been active in women’s rights for years, Chaimae, a student of psychology does theater, Salim studies and works to find funds for art projects and Youness has made several documentaries. Now all this active and creative energy has come together.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> <strong>During the Transformer! project</strong><br /> Before the project, some of us had already traveled the world and others had never been outside of Morocco. To all of us the project has meant an introduction to a new world: Berlin first of all, with its art and activism. But also to Cairo, to the world of Moroccan girls living in Amsterdam, to Istanbul, to the struggle against discrimination in Paris and to the world of activism.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> During the two-week training we all learned different things. The content of the training course was rich and diverse and each benefited from it depending on their own needs and background. For Chaimae it was an exciting first time in Europe and she has seen that a different world is possible. Youness has extended his network tremendously into Germany and was finally able to get first-hand information from Paris, Cairo and Istanbul. This turned out to be often different from what you read about these countries. Majdouline enjoyed mostly the theater workshops and the creative campaigning workshop. The theater workshops for her was the first encounter of this theatrical, physical and sometimes emotional way of dealing with social issues. And the creative campaigning was a stimulating and inspiring new way of looking at the subject that she studies in Morocco. For Marike just the sheer experience taught a lot of things that cannot be named. One of the things that she has learned from this experience is the importance of working ‘slow’; pacing down the Dutch rhythm and taking time for communication and getting to know each other.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> <a href="http://transformers.schoolclash.eu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Rabat1.jpg"><img alt="Rabat1" class="alignnone" height="225" src="http://transformers.schoolclash.eu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Rabat1-300x225.jpg" width="300" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> <br /> <strong>After the Transformer! project</strong><br /> The last day of the training in Berlin we brainstormed on a project that we would like to do together. We thought of organizing a festival together. We have decided, instead of organizing our own festival, to unite our energy and put all of it into an existing festival that Youness was already part of and that could use some help. This festival is called Festival de Résistance et d’Alternatives (Festival for resistance and alternatives). This festival will take place the 21st, the 22nd and the 23rd of February in Casablanca. We work with the concept of a village. What kind of places do we find in a village and what alternatives can we offer for them? For example, in the restaurant, someone will cook vegetarian food, in the mosque there will be a discussion about freedom of religion and spirituality, in the school there will be theater, et cetera. Marike has joined Youness and his friends in the organization. Majdouline will give a workshop on women’s rights. Chaimae will assist Marike in the theater workshop that she will give during the festival and Salim will help with finding funds.<br /> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> <a href="http://transformers.schoolclash.eu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/RABAT%C2%A7.jpg"><img alt="RABAT§" class="alignnone" height="200" src="http://transformers.schoolclash.eu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/RABAT%C2%A7-300x200.jpg" width="300" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> Besides this very concrete output, the project has had a result that is at least as valuable and a bit less concrete. During the Transformer! Project in Berlin we have gotten to know people from different countries, but we have also gotten to know each other better. In the aftermath of the project we have profited from these connections in different ways. For Youness it was the first time in Europe, he has met so many people in Berlin that he could fly back a month later, to fill four weeks with screenings of his documentary My Mekhzen and Me in Germany. The connections and the trust between us has become so strong that we have also started helping each other with our projects. Through the connections with the 20 February movement Marike’s project of Theater of the Oppressed in Rabat has become a very lively and strong project. Many people of the 20 February movement now carry this project and the group is still growing. Marike is full-time active with theater now. Salim has offered his help to this project as well. Majdouline’s Womanchoufouch and Theater of the Oppressed Rabat now have a strong connection with a lot of solidarity and people of Womanchoufouch and TO Rabat have helped each other concretely in several projects. And Chaimae has had the chance to write her first play and see it acted out because of the theater group.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> <em>Five transformers, one family.</em></p> <p align="JUSTIFY" style="text-align: justify;"> <br /> <span style="color: #ff6600;">Chaimae, Majdouline, Marike, Salim and Youness.</span></p>
<p style="text-align: justify;"> <em><strong>By Zaynab Lasshab</strong><br /> <br /> Although I was already interested in refugees before the Transformers!- project, it certainly inspired me to do more.It was actually the week before the project that I had decided to become more active and set something up. Transformers! – project couldn’t have come at a better moment for me, I knew what I wanted to do. I just didn’t really know how.</em><br /> <br /> During the project we learnt skills to effectively set up a project, the starting point being: formulating your self-interest. It was aimed at determining what moves you as a person. Although at the beginning this seemed like an obvious step to me, it turned out to be incredibly helpful. Sure, I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do: help refugees in my community, but I had no clue as to why or how I wanted to do this. During the workshop we got to explore these ideas, that were very useful afterwards in structuring my plans.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> <em>Another interesting thing for me was how to find people who are willing to spend time and energy on the same cause. It is easy to find people who will support you, but how do you meet the ones who are really dedicated? </em><br /> <br /> Even though we all had different goals, everyone was equally enthusiastic and it was really contagious. In the end, much of what I took home from Transformers! wasn’t even from the workshops. Rather it was the atmosphere: being surrounded by people who are all working on something they are passionate about. Seeing this motivated me more than I had expected. Even though we all live in different places, Transformers! has brought us a great network. So that when you’re stuck, or need some feedback on an idea you always have someone to help you out.Along with the other Dutch girls I found another subject that I have become passionate about.<br /> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> <a href="http://transformers.schoolclash.eu/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/10.jpg"><img alt="10" class="size-medium wp-image-413 alignnone" height="199" src="http://transformers.schoolclash.eu/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/10-300x199.jpg" width="300" /></a><br /> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> During the two weeks of the project, we got to talk a lot about our Dutch-Moroccan identity. Especially by being confronted with Moroccans who were born and raised in Morocco, our own identification didn’t feel so obvious anymore. Suddenly when people were referring to ‘the Moroccans’ they didn’t mean us. And this certainly took us some time to adjust..Although it mostly resulted in inside-jokes and a lot of laughter from our part, it did get us thinking. Within Dutch society we are so used to being ‘the Moroccans’, and the word definitely has some negative connotations. So much so, that when we heard someone say it the four of us instantly reacted, even though we knew that it didn´t mean anything. In the end we all found that we wanted to make a positive change to this aspect of Dutch society, largely by empowering others. Our main aim was to turn our ambiguous self-identity into something positive.<br /> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> In order to do this we came up with a very ambitious nationwide campaign–<em> hey, we’re allowed to dream, right? </em>- that involved posters, famous spokespersons and festivals all over the country. Needless to say that this might have been a bit too much to ask for at once. But it definitely inspired us to set up a more realistic and local version of this idea.<br /> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> I guess, if I had to pick one thing that Transformers! –project has taught me, it is not to give up – as cliché as this might sound. Hearing about the initiatives that others have set up, showed me that it is not always going to be easy and everybody hits a roadblock once in a while. But that small ideas cán make big changes.And knowing that there are people who I can ask for advice is definitely an encouraging thought.</p>