The “Kicken & Kochen” event organized by Volkswagen Group together with the VfL Wolfsburg enabled a meeting between young refugees and trainees, during which they played soccer together and cooked together afterwards. A contribution to the International Weeks Against Racism.
Tedros briefly lifts his head and sees how his colleague in the front is open and shoots the ball precisely to Fabian’s foot. He sprints three, four meters over the right wing and the ball lands in the lower left corner of the goal. A really fantastic goal – for humanity and against racism.
Tedros belongs to twelve young men who fled from their home countries and now live in Germany; and Fabian is one of twelve young men and women who are currently participating in a training program at Volkswagen in Wolfsburg. Today, both of these groups want to meet each other on the soccer court, located next to the Volkswagen Arena of VfL Wolfsburg. Then, following the final whistle, the jerseys will be traded in for the kitchen aprons to prepare dinner together.
Kicken & Kochen – that’s what Volkswagen and Bundesliga team VfL Wolfsburg call this one-two pass. They have dedicated it to the global International Weeks Against Racism, taking place from March 12-25 under the banner of solidarity, diversity and integration.
Out of the twelve young men, there are nine who play soccer with the SSV Vorsfelde team. They originate from different continents and their trainer Peter Pöche refers to them as “our global selection”. Wearing his sweat suit, he stands behind the line and explains why this day is so important for his players. “Today, they have the chance to come into contact with people from Germany. This is otherwise not that easy for them, also because of the language.”
But that doesn’t matter today. Soccer is a game played throughout the world, according to the same rules. And it focuses on pursuing a common goal together: focusing on defense in the back and the offense in the front. Right before kick-off the refugees and trainees from Volkswagen are divided into teams. And shortly thereafter they celebrate goals with a gesture that everyone is well familiar with – the high five.
Change of scene: He just shot three goals for his team and now Fithawi from Eritrea is standing behind the kitchen counter and cutting up chicken breast. The menu at the indoor market, located in the heart of Wolfsburg, is international: In the improvised professional kitchen there is falafel, naan bread, baklava and tabbouleh. And the African dish Matoke, to which Fithawi will soon add the meat to the plantains. Playing soccer or cooking – which one does he prefer? “Both are good,” he says laughing.
Two groups have evolved into one.
There is not only room for the young men and women at the long counter. They are also accompanied by two professional chefs from Volkswagen Catering and an Olympic Champion: Babett Peter, who plays for VfL Wolfsburg and who won the gold medal for Germany at the Olympic soccer tournament in Brazil two years ago. “In my club there are a lot of soccer players from other countries,” she said. They support one another not only on the field, but also off of it. “Integration is a topic we address every day. But we don’t think a lot about it – we just do it.”
“Integration is a topic we address every day. But we don’t think a lot about it – we just do it.”
That is also how Madleine Schramowski handles the situation. She is currently training to become an industrial mechanic at Volkswagen. “I want to help people that have fled to Germany – so that they have the opportunity to achieve something.” This is not the first time that the trainee has become involved with refugees. Based on past experience, she knows “how to quickly strike up a conversation. This is also reflected today while cooking.” And afterwards when they enjoy the meal together: Two groups have long since evolved into one.
“I want to help people that have fled to Germany – so that they have the opportunity to achieve something.”
“If the young women and men return home with a lasting impression, then we have accomplished a great deal,” said Carolin Krautz, project coordinator for the Group’s Refugee Assistance Program. The trainees had the opportunity to learn a great deal about the refugees: about their home, their situation in Germany and their goals. And the refugees experienced what it means to feel welcome in Wolfsburg. “And know that they can approach people here, because they are interested in their lives and would like to help them.”
“If the young women and men return home with a lasting impression, then we have accomplished a great deal.”
The Volkswagen Group's Refugee Assistance Program was established in the fall of 2015. Language, qualification, cultural understanding: Those are the keys to integration for Volkswagen. In the past two and a half years, the Group and its brands have helped to prepare some 3,500 young people for the educational and job market – for example, by promoting language training coupled with internships and entry qualifications.
The experience today made an impression on Fithawi from Eritrea. “It was a great day,” said the 23 year old. “I met many people and had a lot of fun.” It is even easier for him to speak German now and he laughs while saying the German words for “defense player and forward”.