When was the last time you talked to someone who’d been attacked with bottles in Saxony? Who’d fled from police through a Hungarian forest? Someone who talked with sadness in their face about a friend who was never the same after seeing a baby killed before his eyes?
That’s the conversation I had, rather unexpectedly, with Khaled Ghazi – 21 year old Syrian refugee in Berlin – on Thursday last week. He and I happened to both be at the same event organised by Publixphere, and spent hours talking. He speaks brilliant English, talks with a passion and determination that’s immensely inspiring, and comes up with ideas faster than he can manage to express them. Anyone who knows me in person will understand why I could immediately relate to him at a personal level.
It didn’t end there. In discussions with some of the other people at the event I explained my work situation, and that my flat in Berlin is empty a quarter of the time as a result. “But I live in a Turnhalle” (a sports hall turned into a temporary place to live) says Khaled. Out of that came a deal – Khaled gets my flat when I am not there, for free, until he has a way to move somewhere on his own (once his papers are in order, and he can find work).
But that’s only the start of it.
“But what do you actually want to do?” I ask him. “I want to tell the stories of life in Germany as a refugee” is his response. This is where it really gets interesting. Telling the stories of refugees’ lives in Germany from their perspective, in English and eventually also in German. Communicating in that deeply human way that Khaled could to me in person.
That’s the essence of the project.
This is not going to be a Refugees Welcome style project about locals helping refugees. It is not going to be journalists reporting about refugees. It’s not going to be about the macro politics of the refugee situation.
It’s going to be refugees telling their own stories, in their own words, of humanising things. Stories of hope, of joy, of loss, of frustration. Ideas about how Berlin and Germany can better handle things – from the refugees’ own perspective. It’s going to have stunning visuals, and video too. As far as I can tell there’s nothing quite like it in Germany yet – think of it as a kind of Humans of New York remixed with the refugee situation in Germany.
I have the tech, the skills, and the experience to support this. I’ll coach, I’ll edit, I’ll network. Ideas, and practical support, from my blog readers and Twitter followers are also going to help. But the content is going to be Khaled’s, and similar from dozens and even hundreds of people like him – if it all works out. Khaled has the drive and the language skills to make this work, and there’s nothing to lose by trying.
I’ve not been so optimistic about something for ages – roll on 2016!