German Town of Osterholz-Scharmbeck (Population 30,000) Now Home to Refugees from 19 Countries
Since 2014, more than 1.5 million refugees fleeing conflicts, war, and poverty have arrived in Germany, often with little more than the clothes on their backs. The challenges these newcomers face are immense. They must learn new languages and customs, find new homes and jobs. They also have to figure out where to buy groceries, how to furnish homes, and when to enroll in schools.
To help refugees adapt to their new home and neighbors, Germany has launched a unique competition in towns and communities. The initiative calls on local governments, the private sector, and citizens to work together to ease integration and build public understanding and trust.
The competition, “Living Together Hand in Hand Creating Communities” (Zusammenleben Hand in Hand – Kommunen Gestalten) rewards outstanding efforts by local governments to promote integration. For example, the city of Minden has helped more than two hundred refugees gain language qualifications, in cooperation with local clubs, businesses, and the German Red Cross. These skills have been a “springboard” for many to find work or training opportunities. The town of Osterholz-Scharmbeck has welcomed around five hundred refugees from 19 countries, offering daily lunches for students, sewing workshops, men’s talk circles and a parents’ cafe at its community center.
The most promising and scalable local programs will receive a share of the total one million Euro prize money to reinvest in their communities.