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Giaccolo, Table Tennis and Football - Expanding Youth Horizons

Project Overview

Young refugees and German high school students meet regularly over the course of one year to learn about the “other” and themselves.

Identifying the Problem

Leon was outraged by the cultural racism prevailing in Germany, especially the racism directed at those seeking asylum from the Balkans. Young people seeking asylum in Germany face very difficult conditions; not only must they deal with their (and their parents’) traumatic pasts, they are also largely marginalized by the German society in terms of socio-economic opportunities. Leon believes that Germans should protect and care for people in need rather than project their problems and fears onto already-marginalized populations. Young adolescents in the formation of their identites are especially in need of this support, since they are more likely to form their world views through relevant personal experiences.

Creating A Solution

Leon sought to develop a long-term encounter between German youth and those seeking asylum in Germany. He began by contacting the Cologne Refugee Council and asking not only for their support for his project, but to share their experiences with similar projects. Together with a representative of the Council, Leon met with a City Hall representative, a social worker who was responsible for asylum seekers in Cologne. The social worker recommended that Leon come to a home for refugee families in the city. With the help of the Cologne Refugee Council and the Cologne City Hall, Leon organized a meeting with the refugee families in that location, and presented his proposed project. The youth were very interested in participating in the project. 

Next, Leon paid a visit to his two former high schools in Cologne, where he presented his project proposal to several classrooms. The students who were interested in participating in the project shared their contact information with Leon. Once Leon had a list of German youth and refugee youth who were interested in participating in his “encounter,” he organized the first meeting. The meeting was held at the same home in Cologne for asylum seekers. All subsequent meetings were also held in that home, and the participants met once a month for the next year.

Wanting to enable an exchange among both groups, Leon decided that his project would include games, like table tennis and football, with mixed teams to unite both groups in a common goal. He also tasked the group to write a rap song together, which was one of the participants’ favorite activities. Through these kinds of playful activities, mistrust and prejudices were replaced by empathy, concern and support by both sides. The project gave both groups an opportunity to become better informed about the “other.” In challenging their own prejudices, the youth also learned a great deal about themselves.

Lessons Learned

One of the most challenging aspects of this type of project is convincing city bureaucrats to put their support behind innovative ideas, but Leon learned that this challenge becomes far less problematic when you are able to come up with the necessary resources on a regular basis. As someone who does not have a background in social work, Leon sometimes found it slightly difficult to mediate minor tensions between the groups in the beginning, and suggests that anyone embarking on a similar project involve a leader who has experience working with youth and marginalized groups.


The total cost of this project was around $150, which covered the cost for Leon to travel to the meetings each month, local transportation tickets for all participants for small excursions and drinks and snacks for all meetings. In addition to the money Leon raised for the project, he received some financial support from his parents.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Germany Germany 2009

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Related Media

by Jasmin Hasic, Germany 2009
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