Europe

Dutch Embassy Embraces Berlin's Social Side

Berlin's Former Homeless Show the City From Their Own Perspective

September 22nd, 2016
Daniel Erhardt, Berlin Global
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Members of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Federal Republic of Germany experienced a unique culturally integrative tour of their host city last Wednesday, the 14th of September. The tour was organized on behalf of ‘Querstadtein’, an organisation that gives Berlin’s former homeless the opportunity to express their own view of their city.

This original, socially and culturally engaging initiative is already two years old. It’s aim is to give the homeless, an otherwise largely neglected social group, an opportunity to express themselves and share the unknown, harder side of the huge metropolis that is Berlin: life on its streets.

The initiative gives the homeless an opportunity to work and embrace the society they once felt separated from. It is also an important step on the path towards an integrating culture in Berlin, where cultural diplomacy is built through direct contact with the people.

During their business trip, the delegation from the Embassy of the Netherlands enjoyed a tour through Berlin guided by Uwe and Klaus, two former homeless men who were keen on showing and explaining to them everything about their former life on Berlin’s streets. The delegation was very grateful and saw this as a valuable socio-cultural initiative.

Indeed, this cultural experience was very illustrative, as homelessness is a persisting social issue and a part of everyday life in Berlin, seen by passers-by but often overlooked. Querstadtein’s initiative provides the opportunity for participants to change their views on homelessness, as being face to face in dialogue with those who have directly experienced being homeless illustrates how human the issue really is.

The social non-profit project has been moving on and embracing new initiatives focused on social and cultural integration in Berlin. One of these new initiatives is tours of Berlin guided by refugees. The goal of this project is to break down stereotypes and give refugees a platform to voice their own views and experiences living in the city. While this allows refugees to engage in political education, participants of the tour are also given the opportunity to become familiarized with the diverse issues that lead refugees to make the hard journey towards a better life.

This direct dialogue with socially vulnerable groups is the best path towards promoting understanding between lifestyles and cultures. Thus, Querstadtein has been promoted by the German Federal Centre for Political Education as a model project on the issue of asylum. The engagement of official foreign representatives, like those from the Netherlands, with the project again exemplifies its importance.

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