130 young people from all over Europe and the Middle East met for a week over New Years Eve 2012/2013 at Kurt Löwenstein Education Center. They discussed how to overcome exclusion and inequality in society, learned a lot from each other and had lots of fun.
Having a New Year’s Eve party five times in a row? That´s only possible at the “International Winterschool” at the “Kurt Löwenstein” Education Center. The New Year was celebrated each time the clock stroke midnight in a participant´s home – and that was often, with over 130 people from over 20 countries, from Ireland to Georgia. The participants of 18- to 27-years spent an intense week together, with a lot of discussions and workshops and finally each group presenting its conclusion. Of course, there was also time enough to have great parties, in which the young people made a lot of new friends. The week was lived and experienced in exactly the opposite manner to the topic of this year’s International Winterschool: Exclusion and Inequality.
“The Winterschool has been taking place in the ‘Kurt Löwenstein’ Education Center for many years, all the time in cooperation with the partner organizations of SJD-Die Falken”, Tim Scholz, the Education Officer explaines. The "Sozialistische Jugend Deutschlands – Die Falken" is a youth organization which offers summer camps, weekly group meetings and especially seminars with political content in their Education Center in Werftpfuhl near Berlin.
“This year, the exchange among participants was really intense”, Finn Mc Carthy from England reported. It was his third time visiting a “Winterschool”. This year there were guests from twenty-four sister organizations of the "Falken", which was an exceptionally large variety. “There were a lot of exiting discussions besides the official program, too. And there were many people, who took part for the first time”, Julia from Austria added.
The program included five days of working on the topic. Nine working groups analyzed society and then compared their conception of an ideal society to the reality in the different represented countries. Mechanisms and consequences of exclusion were assessed and a special focus was put on “inter-sectionality”: how the combination of several factors of exclusion like gender, ethnic background or financial resources contributes to creating hierarchies in society.
“One conclusion of the working groups was, that the present capitalist system is perpetuated by exclusion”, Scholz reported: “Somebody who is excluded tends to exclude others as s/he is afraid of losing his/her social status, e.g. if an unemployed person is complaining about migrants.” Instead of raging against each other, it is important to integrate excluded people and fight together for more participation. “We must begin in our own organizations”, says Scholz, “and we must open them to approach those groups that we don´t reach at the moment”. How this could be done was shown in examples of “Good Practise” from several countries at Winterschool.
Newly gained knowledge and experience is what the participants now take home to their organizations, where they become “multipliers” by empowering and enabling others to get active against social exclusion and inequality. Scholz hopes that, by this “snow ball effect”, awareness can be raised and educational work can change our societies across Europe.
One special “informal” educational process took places between the participants from Israel and Palestine: It was not only Jewish and Palestinian Israelis who attended the Winterschool in Germany, but Palestinians from West Bank and the Gaza Strip as well. “These young people would otherwise not be able to meet”, Scholz pointed out. Here they could talk, discuss and understand each other’s daily lives, worries and also the political situation in their countries. Here you find the personal account of Yair from Israel, meeting Jihad from Gaza.
Exchange and understanding each other is a crucial point of Winterschool and this has been happening for many years. Three years ago, directly after the last Russian-Georgian war, people from both countries met and started a cooperation process to understand each other. This year both organizations also came to the Winterschool, Scholz said. This illustrates that the contacts made at the Winterschool are sustainable and keep getting stronger. The participants keep in touch via a Facebook group, moderated by the “Kurt Löwenstein” Education Center, and they often meet each other at other international events at Werftpfuhl – at the very latest at the International Summerschool.
Read the personal report of a participant: "My conversation with Jihad" - Yair from Israel gives an accout of his encounter with Jihad, a palestinian woman from Gaza.