In March, I was fortunate to be selected as part of a team to represent the NUS MBA Programme at the MBA Summit (conducted by QX–Quarterly Crossing) at Berlin. The summit bought together some of the best MBA students from around the globe. It was conducted over four days and I got the opportunity to interact with highly motivated, exceptional students from various B schools. We could co-create our agenda and one expedition which caught my eye was “Refugees Welcome”. It was hosted by Unionhilfswerk which is one of the biggest social organizations in Berlin. It offers a broad variety of social services including refugees’ rehabilitation.
When we were asked by Unionhilfswerk why we choose this social expedition, the first thing thatcame to my mind was ‘Why Not?’. The refugee crisis is a testament of our times. More than 65million people today are on the run as refugees or otherwise displaced from their homes and communities. Also, with refugees entering my country (India) daily it was interesting to understand how Germany, a frontrunner in providing humanitarian aid in the face of this crisis, is
taking steps to address this issue.
We started off with an introductory workshop about the various social institutions in Berlin with Christian Reumschüssel-Wienert (Senior Consultant) at the “Deutscher Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband”. This was followed by a tour of the rainbow-coloured-windows building of Unionhilfswerk. There we were introduced to the services provided by Unionhilfswerk and given a tour of the excellent facility. The opportunity to interact with the families was the highlight of
the expedition and an amazing learning experience. One wishes they would never be in this situation hence it is heart-warming to see how Unionhilfswerk is making conscious efforts to provide support and services to ensure these families from countries such as Afghanistan and Syria have a semblance of a normal life. Three families played host to us by cooking a delicious middle eastern spread. The food reminded me of home cooked food and it only reinforced my belief that all cultures are fundamentally intertwined. Just like us, the families wanted to raise their children in a peaceful environment and just like us, they would do anything to provide it for them, even if it meant leaving life, as they knew it, behind.
Most of the families were well placed citizens back in their country – one of them was Mohammad and his beautiful family of five. He was a policeman and his wife was a landscape architect back home. Although, due to the strict regulations in Germany most of their academic certificates are invalid hence they are ready to take up any work so that they could continue to live in Germany.
In times like this, a stable facilitator who can guide these families in the right direction is very much needed. Enter Unionhilfswerk. They have been providing German classes, skill-based workshops and they have been speaking to different firms regarding employment opportunities for the families they support. They also help in enrolling the children into schools so that they don’t miss out on education as well as providing childcare services for parents who work. It was then that I realised that everyone can help support Unionhilfswerk’s mission through very simple steps. The first step is to acknowledge that this is a humanitarian crisis. Then, we need to approach this with a mix of short-term quick responses along with a long-term strategy. A failure to act with urgency and a failure to recognize this as a global crisis, translates into a much more unsafe and despairing world. While all hope is not lost, we need to realize that if ignorance persists, this issue will soon spiral out of control.
Contributed by: Madhuri Kashyap