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Lessons in German

When the employees of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation conduct different trainings, conferences and seminars in Russia, they regularly talk about examples from American and European development experience. We are convinced that these skills and technologies applied in Europe helped achieve higher living standards is also applicable in Russia. This does not only include material achievements. A comfortable living environment for each person to live in, with harmonious, calm and easygoing relations between people is also important. Therefore, a world secure for everyone to live in is created.

Unfortunately, such remarkable conditions do not appear by itself. The tolerant attitude towards nature and other people needs careful cultivating. It is especially important to teach such an attitude towards nature and social conscience to children and youths. Therefore, we were very lucky to witnesses the performance of such a program aimed at education of tolerance.

Ashot Ayrapetyan, the Director of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation, and Victoria Shukhat, Director of programs of this Center, were invited as part of an international expert team to evaluate the success of the project "The Education for sustainable Development, Global learning and intercultural Education in Lower Saxony and Bremen" in Germany. The organizer of the project, the German Association Lower Saxonian Educational Initiatives VNB, focuses on the education of children and youths in two ways: the protection of nature and the promotion of interethnic attitudes. This was also reflected in the choice of experts.

It should be mentioned, that it is common practice to invite foreign experts for an evaluation of the efficiency of a project. The different perception of outsiders as well as their recommendation can be very useful for the success of such a project. Other international participants included Jake Abraham, a principal from South Africa, Marlen Patricia Aguirre, a university professor from Ecuador, and Violet Kajubiri-Froelich, an ecology teacher originally from Ghana now living in Germany. It was a great pleasure for us to meet, work and converse with these remarkable persons.

We encountered various projects such as the social and cultural exchange between German students and their Brazilian, African, Nicaraguan and Honduran counterparts. Furthermore, there was the Ecopark, with an interactive museum for natural energy sources. There was also an ancient mill, which got renovated thanks to the efforts of enthusiasts into a living reminder of the uneasy history of country. There also was a small shop filled with very interesting hand-crafted items from all around the world, making it possible to become part of different cultures. We took part in special lessons for students of different ages to learn about other peoples and we saw a wonderful library full with the fairy tales of different countries. To be closer to nature, a school made it possible to keep bees on the school site and promoted products, such as coffee and chocolate, which were cultivated naturally in South America to remind Europeans about natural products and a also to help South Americans. Furthermore, there was a resource centre for teachers, who wished to make their lessons more exciting. The exposition "Cafe Africa" allowed children to look from the inside of the mysterious world of the Black Continent. There were also trainings regarding integration and for mutual recognition between migrants and local residents. A representation of youth groups danced the Brazilian Caporeira and other dances. All these various projects were optimistic and shared the common belief that it is possible to make this world better simply by knowing more about it.

It is also desirable to tell about the people which organized this program. They are united by their enthusiasm and energy. They are actively changing the world. Thus they can be cited as an example of the excellent organization of the program and precise work, so atypical for Russian NGOs. We express our sincere gratitude and deep admiration to Gabriele Janecki, Harald Kleem, Uwe Erbel, Reinhold Boemer and to other colleagues. We hope that in the future we shall find an opportunity to start joint projects. Certainly, we very much would like to apply the gained experience of our German colleagues on Russia. But besides joint projects, it was also an opportunity to communicate with such unique people. Fascinating and interesting for all of us.

A point which shall also be considered is the question of financing, which we personally found very interesting. Any public activity without the appropriate support does not bring appreciable success. Sources of financing for German NGOs seemed a lot. Grants of the European Union and private foundations were not surprising to us. We were surprised, however, by the practice that part of the gains of lotteries where distributed to German NGOs. However, we very most surprised by the active role local and federal authorities took in realizing this program. Support from social organizations are to them not simply a line in the budget. Our impression from Hannover was, that of an extremely beautiful city. We were welcomed by an official working for the mayor. He greeted us with an enthusiasm that surprised us, and the official told us about the special program of the regional government on involving public organizations for the development of the Lower Saxony. A similar reception was held in the mayoralty of Oldenburg. In Bremen an official met us at the station and spent the day visiting the different public organizations, probably being proud of their successes. It is obvious, that the authorities of Germany have built a strong and effective interaction with the public organizations. This is what we also want to achive in Russia.

It is necessary to add, that by the end of our inspection trip a big two-day conference was held. Our international working group prepared a report which was met with great interest. Apart from our opinion on this project, the organizers of conference were also interested in the situation in other countries - South Africa, Ecuador and Russia, as to how the teaching of these important values, care environment and multi-culturism, is done. The interest for our problems which was shown by the German colleagues present at conference was sincere, and raises the hopes that these problems can be tackled. However, it is necessary to solve them together.

As a background to these events, the World Cup in soccer took place in Germany. We envied the Germans, seeing their patriotism and unity. Tolerance has many different displays. We observed one of them who was in the centre of a huge field in front of the big screen broadcasting a match. Around him were approximately fifteen thousand excited people, we felt absolutely safe and could share the pleasure of a victory with all the German people.


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