The Integration Workshop is a non-profit volunteer-run citizen's initiative supported working to build a People's park on the former open-air swimming pool grounds in Unkel as an intercultural meeting point for "old and new neighbors". The project is a contribution to integration, to increasing the economic opportunities of the disadvantaged and to combating prejudice and radicalism both among refugees and in German society.
For more than 10 years, the 22,000m² site of the former Unkel open-air swimming pool has been abandoned. In 2017 we started to build a People's Park there. We started with a do-it-yourself bicycle workshop. Soon a meeting room with kitchen followed, which was then extended by a children's play corner. Meanwhile there is also a multilingual library and a barbecue area. The park is already used for various events. In addition, we have been able to win various partners for the creation of a community garden and a bicycle training path. These plans are to be implemented in the near future. The park-like grounds will remain public, so that this green oasis will enable and promote encounters between all citizens.
What is the project goal and who is the project for?
The municipality of Unkel is home to about 13,000 people, of whom about 1,300 are migrants, including about 300 refugees. Most of the work that has been done in this People's Park over the past two years has been the work of migrants, especially refugees, who want to give something back to their new neighbors and society. The Integration Workshop is intended to serve both refugees and people with a small budget, e.g. by providing them with premises and know-how to repair their bicycles on their own, to learn and practice cycling and the rules of the road, or to grow vegetables and fruit together. In addition, the People's Park has been designed as a barrier-free meeting place for neighbors, where everyone is welcome.
Why would you support this project?
The key to sustainable social integration is to create a leisure area in which old and young, and new and old, can meet amicably. Unkel has a wonderful "welcome culture" and cultivates peaceful coexistence, but in recent years some green spaces and playgrounds have disappeared. Today there is unfortunately no central place where people of different ages and backgrounds can meet without having to buy anything. If a society wants to achieve real integration of all population groups, it needs a suitable meeting place. In the People's Park we create opportunities for encounters by working together, playing together, barbecuing together, gardening together, celebrating together. Our communal kitchen serves as a meeting place for many possibilities, where you can meet to play board games, make music or exchange books. With ongoing conflicts and environmental catastrophes creating more refugees than at any point in history, social integration is a hot topic in many countries. In Germany, most of the focus of refugee integration has been on major cities, but the case of Unkel shows that the answer may lie in small towns and rural settings. The Integration Workshop aims to provide a model for intercultural integration in these smaller communities.
How will we use the money if the project is successfully funded?
We have received a great deal of support in the form of in-kind or capital contributions in order to realize and operate a specific project element. These projects are supported by renowned institutions such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Muslim-Jewish Conference, the Catholic Archdiocese of Cologne and smaller local institutions such as the city and municipal administration, the local kindergarten or the environmental group "Unkel Tomorrow". What we need, however, is the capital to actually continue our entire People's Park Program beyond 2019. Operating costs such as electricity, water, lawn and tree care as well as insurance are between 5,000 and 20,000 euros per year, and while Unkel's administration was previously responsible for the costs, from 2020 the city will be forced to reduce its contribution significantly through austerity policies at the regional, state and federal levels. With your donation you give us the opportunity, after this loss of municipal financial support, to run our projects, building friendships between migrants and longstanding Germans and to win further partners who are able to finance our People's Park on a long-term and sustainable basis.
Who are the people behind the project?
The ground-breaking for our community garden has already taken place thanks to the support of our cooperation partners from Unkel: The Integrative Kindergarten has reserved a section as a learning garden in which the little experimenters can now dig, sow and plant to their heart's content. With the ecological group "Unkel Tomorrow" we are in the process of creating a garden for rare vegetables worth preserving. A bicycle training path is planned in cooperation with the traffic police of the Neuwied district. In 2017 we won support from the Muslim Jewish Conference for an interreligious prayer room, which is also supported by pastors, rabbis and imams. Meanwhile we are also a founding member of the European Institute for Dialogue, together with intercultural projects from Berlin, Paris, Stockholm, London and Amsterdam. The mayors of Unkel and the Catholic parish association as well as numerous citizens of Unkel have expressed their support. And now we look forward to welcoming you among our supporters!