“Politics is politics and people are people,” says Natalia, mother of an average Krasnodar family. She moved out with her family during the pandemic to live a more peaceful life with chickens, dogs and goats on the outskirts of the city, which is located near the Black Sea. The family, whose son Dennis had already attended our annual youth camp in 2019 with 250 participants from 10 countries, gave our eight-member German delegation a very warm welcome with homemade Russian specialties.
During the almost eleven-day meeting with youth work professionals in Krasnodar from September 22 to October 2nd, interpersonal exchange was not neglected either: we met people who have been working for children and young people in art, culture and politics for decades. The delegation of experts of the Solidarity Youth of Germany (Solijugend) consisted of full-time and voluntary employees.
Especially in the current situation it is important for our association to cultivate relations to our international partners. Heike Adomat, who works for the Solijugend on a voluntary basis, has been in contact with our Russian partner for decades. This long-standing cooperation pays off: Our Russian group leader Vladimir organized a comprehensive program that enabled intensive contact and exchange with professionals from different organizations, facilities and institutions. The visits ranged from youth groups, where the focus is on preserving traditions in the form of doll-making or adygean dances, to discussions with a young Orthodox priest on current social developments, to formal appointments in various centers (administration, culture) or the second largest vacation camp in Russia, “Orlyonok”, with a view to future project approaches.
Above all, the visit to a center for work with disabled children and young people left a particularly lasting impression. Under the guidance of the staff and volunteers, some of whom have been working there since 1992, we were able to get creative ourselves by painting stones, making pottery and weaving baskets, and to talk to the young people on site. Undiscovered talents are fostered here, people with disabilities are accompanied into their studies, and great skills in painting are developed. Around the world, the supervisors travel with their charges to present their works in large exhibitions and to collect donations for the work with children and young people who are physically or mentally handicapped.
The exchange of professionals has once again proven how important direct contact with people from other countries is for building relationships and maintaining long-standing partnerships – for friendship, for openness and empathy, against prejudice.