Article by: Alžbetka Hudakova
Photos: private archive
Edited by: Ana Alibegova
From a girls’ club promoting au pair, the Club International from Stuttgart, Germany has gradually become an international place and a meeting point for young adults from all over the world. Now the center aims to end the multicultural barriers and is open to all who want to help, share ideas and help to improve the living together between the different cultures in Germany. Marie Skripec from Club International presents her organization to Mladiinfo’s readers.
Mladiinfo Slovakia: How long is this organization active? Do you have any interesting story connected with your beginnings?
Marie Skripec: The Club International is part of the VIJ, the “Verein für International Jugendarbeit e.V.” (Organization for International Youth Work). The organization “VIJ” was founded 130 years ago by a group of Christian women from 7 different countries to prevent girls and women who went abroad from sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Today the organization consists of: traveller’s aid, an international youth hostel, Fair Connect (a programme to help young professionals from Spain, Portugal, Greece and Romania who want to work as kindergarten teachers or at nursing homes in Germany), Fair Care (a programme to negotiate between private household of elderly people and care takers from abroad), Fair Start (a programme to help foreigners to start their own business), FIZ (women information centre concerning prostitution, human trafficking, forced marriage and other issues) and the Centre for Integration. The Centre for integration includes the department of German language classes, integration counselling for employers and employees, immigration counselling for adults and the Club International.
The Club International was founded 1962. It used to be a girls’ club only and was than a meeting point for au pairs. But over the years the target group has changed a few times. For example, there was a time where there were mainly Greek migrants attending the club, then it changed from a girls’ club into an international club for men and women. And then again it changed back to an au pair club, but for girls and boys where they could exchange experiences, get helpful advices, take part in activities and find friends. Today, in the Club International, young women and men from different countries, cultures and religions come together and spend time together.
Marie Skripec: Club International is situated in the city center of Stuttgart. People from different countries and cultures can meet here to exchange experiences and take part in our various activities. Our target group is around 18-27 years old and they are e.g. expats and students, au pairs, voluntary workers, refugees, participants of exchange or outgoing programs and everyone else interested in intercultural exchange. Our goal is to bring people from different countries together and to help especially those who are new to Stuttgart getting to know people and to make friends.
In addition, our opening hours are on Friday from 6 – 10 pm and Sundays from 4 – 8 pm. The program consists of: dancing nights, movie nights, cultural evenings, game nights, karaoke, trips to other cities, language café, au pair evening, evening with information on how to study in Stuttgart, theatre group and much more. Except of the trips to other cities, all our activities are for free. What we are most proud of are our cultural evening. On a cultural evening, visitors get the chance to present their home countries. Usually a couple of people from the same country or same region prepare a power point presentation, bring some typical food, play music and dance. For the people who present and for the visitors, it is not only interesting to get to know different regions of the world but it is also a great possibility to practice their German.
Mladiinfo Slovakia: Most of the people involved in the International Club are volunteers? How hard is to motivate volunteers to get engaged on a daily basis in your activities?
Marie Skripec: At the moment, there are 12 volunteers supporting my colleague and me. In our team meetings we plan our new 2-month programme together. Very often our volunteers come up with new ideas, which is something great and enriches our work a lot. But not only the volunteers, also the visitors of our events are always welcome to bring in their own ideas. As most of our volunteers are also internationals and have come to Germany a few years ago, they are always happy to help and give advice to our visitors. At the moment our volunteers are from Georgia, Greece, Russia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Germany.
We appreciate the work and engagement of our volunteers a lot and are glad to have their support. They have the possibility to participate in training courses and we try to arrange a small gathering every second month. Last time, for an example, we went bowling. The other day we just went for a drink and chatted.
Mladiinfo Slovakia: What has personally changed in your life since you have become engaged in this organization?
Marie Skripec: My time management has definitely improved :). I have also learnt a lot about different countries and cultures and about the possibilities and problems that international young people are facing here in Germany. I have made new friends and got to know other institutions and people who are engaged in youth work in Stuttgart.
Mladiinfo Slovakia: The Club International is based in Stuttgart and you mostly work with its residents. To what extent you perceive this city famous for the automotive industry and as an intercultural city promoting diversity?
Marie Skripec: Over 40 per cent of the people living in and around Stuttgart have a migration background. When you walk through Stuttgart or take the subway you can listen to so many different languages because you are surrounded by people from all over the world. It is great how so many different cultures are merging in our city. The city of Stuttgart puts a lot of effort into intercultural exchange and the integration of migrants. In addition, there are many institutions and programs which help especially those who are new in Stuttgart.
Marie Skripec: Our vision for the future is to reach even more people who are interested in intercultural exchange. We want to extend our network and are constantly looking for new partners, ideas and projects. We want to have an impact on a better integration and a warm welcoming here in Germany.
Mladiinfo Slovakia: What would you like to recommend to the youth following Mladiinfo’s web-page?
Marie Skripec: I would recommend them to come and visit us of course, if this is possible somehow :). I want to encourage them to be open-minded and look around themselves because there is still a lot to do if we want to overcome prejudices, bring cultures together and live together in peace.