First meeting

The media are reporting more than ever on the subject of refugees. The issues being discussed are where they should be sent, how long they will be able to remain and what they are entitled to. As soon as refugees are placed in homes, tents, converted shipping containers or other emergency accommodation, very few ask them in all of this how they are actually doing. Refugees should integrate themselves. However, not all of them have the opportunity to learn German. Our "HalloFoto!" project is about getting to know refugees as equals and talking to them rather than continuing to talk about them. This project is specifically aimed at girls, as they are usually more reticent when in large groups and it is harder for them to establish contact than it is for boys.

We, as German-speakers, will teach the other girls the 100 most commonly used words in German via a communication tool whilst at the same time doing activities together. For example, talking about ourselves, fashion or photography, getting professional make-up and photography tips or cooking together. During this time, each refugee is allocated a partner. At the end, we will take photos of each other that comprise our personal statement, and inspired by the global photo art project "InsideOut", we want to exhibit these photos in a public space.

For the first meeting to get to know each other, all participants met at Herkulesheim. In total we were about 18 girls and the "HalloFoto!“ team, consisting of the project manager Lidia, the pedagogical manager Lina and the two photographers Peter and Sandra. As we were all nervous and excited at the beginning and didn't really know what to say, Lina danced a few Zumba songs with us. We noticed immediately that we were all a bit more relaxed and that the ice had been broken. In the subsequent round of introductions, we gave our names and ages, as well as pointing out where we come from on a map of the world. We then introduced each other to the rest of the group. Although at the beginning it wasn't very easy for some to communicate, in the end it worked very well. It was impressive how well some were able to communicate in German after so little time and how quickly others picked new things up. The communication tool aided this process greatly. For us it was very interesting to hear from the refugees themselves about how they were doing here and whether they liked it. This gave us a very different and new perspective on the whole situation. We quickly discovered that we had many similar interests. Gradually a relaxed atmosphere developed and we were all enjoying ourselves. Regardless of the country we come from, we are somehow similar. We all helped each other and were happy to learn new things. We are all looking forwards to the next meeting and getting to know each other better!

I am writing on behalf of my friends: Ferdana from Kosovo, Imrane and Mirsada from Bosnia, Daniela and me, Ester from Albania. We all agree that these meetings are really good. Making new friends is one of the best things you can win in this project. New friends are never too much. We think that these girls are the coolest people and we'll never forget the first meeting. First we had to introduce ourselves to get to know the girls. It was fun and we felt a great harmony between us. We can also learn a hundred things not only the German language. For example: different cultures, the traditional food in different countries, new sports, new words, new feelings.... And a new unforgettable experience! This is only the beginning.... Only the first meeting.... And the next meetings we think they are going to be so interesting and so beautiful. At first we were a little shy but then we understood that the girls are here for us and all we have to do is to help each other in this project.... To show that we are able to help and to create something different... To give this project a meaning. It's a big step in our lives, a big step for all of us... A giant step for the whole world. Steps that will bring change.

By Merle, Jana and Ester

Odysseum meeting

From Ehrenfeld train station, we travelled to the Odysseum. On the journey we sat in such a way that each refugee was next to a German girl.

Upon arriving at the Odysseum, we were welcomed by the employees. They guided us to an introductory show about electricity. A woman who was dressed as a scientist explained to us how electricity works. We then got involved in the show, with one or more of us going up on stage for various tasks. Even when certain foreign words were difficult to understand, the show was well done, so that in any case everyone was able to understand some of it. The woman played her role very well.

We then moved on to the high rope course in the Odysseum. One refugee and one German girl went on the high rope course together. Through this mutual support, many were able to come out of their shells and participated despite having a fear of heights. We all understood each other very well during this activity. In the themed worlds, we carried out a number of experiments together. It was a lot of fun to show the girls new things because they were really interested. The experiments allowed us to interact better with the girls.

To say goodbye, we sat in a circle inside a huge globe and played a clapping game that was very funny. As we have done each time, we then joined hands and each person said a word linked to the day or the project in general. It was the nicest goodbye so far.

Overall, the day was very exciting, interesting and educational. From time to time it was difficult because not everyone could speak German very well, but we managed it somehow for the most part. We have become much more close-knit as a group and we all understand each other better.

By Merle and Jana

Baking meeting

We met at St. Anna's community centre. Some new girls came, whilst unfortunately some others were not able to attend. Once we had all greeted each other, we sat down together and explained to the girls what the plan for the day was. In order to relax us all, Lina danced Zumba with us, which we all really enjoyed.

To have two cameras present and be filmed for a documentary was unusual but also very exciting. We divided ourselves into four mixed groups. Two of the groups made pizza and the other two made muffins. As we had a lot of space, unfortunately we couldn't really interact much with the other groups. Within the groups themselves, we learnt a lot about the girls' interests and we taught them new words, above all the necessary ingredients. Whilst the pizzas and the muffins were in the oven, the girls chose some clothes and make-up from what we had brought with us. They all found something and were delighted, which in turn also made us very happy.

After this, there wasn't much left on the programme and things became a bit chaotic. We were in small groups, mostly not mixed, and spread out in different rooms, which meant that we often didn't know where the others were or what they were doing. The new girls completed their personal statements with the help of our girls, others tidied the kitchen, some danced or at least tried to, and others sat around talking.

After a while, we all came back into one room and first played a clapping game together, though unfortunately it didn't work with everyone. So we then played "I pack my bags and take with me...", instead changing it to "I make my pizza with..." so that the girls could repeat the ingredients and learn them again. Although it isn't easy to learn so many new words at one go, on the whole the game worked well and was fun. We noticed that we were all much more open to each other than at the beginning and understood each other better, although not everyone could speak perfect German. In the meantime, we ate the pizzas and muffins, which tasted really good.

Lidia then thanked us all again and we did too. As always, we each said a word that was linked to today or to the project in general. To say goodbye, we all hugged each other again.

By Merle and Jana

Last meeting: Taking photos

Today we met our friends from the refugee home for the last time. As always, we started the meeting by dancing Zumba, whereby everyone joined in informally. Then we were split into groups in order to take photos of ourselves.

We not only took photos outside in Anna square, but also inside in front of a screen. We took great photos with the refugees in front of the screen. In the meantime, we prepared a surprise in the next room for one of the German girls for her birthday. There wasn't just plenty of cake, everyone had also brought presents.

Once we had taken enough photos, we surprised the German girl and celebrated her birthday, which she was really happy about. For everyone else, there was also a surprise. The project managers had prepared posters for all of us with portraits of everyone, so that we could all leave our mobile number and a short message underneath our photo.

At the end, we performed our goodbye ritual of saying one word that summed up the day for us. Overall it was an emotional day, with highs and lows, that we will always remember positively. Although it was the last official meeting, fortunately we have exchanged mobile numbers with the other girls and will remain in contact. During the project we were all able to deconstruct prejudices and inhibitions and see just how many similarities girls from very different cultures have. As Heinz Hilpert said: "Experience is the best protection against prejudice."

By Lisa and Hannah

Hallo Foto! Bye bye prejudice!