Impressions and evaluations of the participants

“It was once again instructive for me that the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) and the municipalities sometimes look at EU-2 immigration with very different lenses.

“This experience is an enrichment both for me as a person and for me as a social worker, in my work for the Romanian immigrants at my school and in my municipality. The multiple perspectives on migratory movements create a broader awareness of the complexity of the processes migrating groups bring with them, both in the country of origin and in the country of arrival.

Where questions, obstacles and challenges are often the focus, there is now also a sense of hope. A lot of “things are already going quite well” and “we’re not doing it so wrong” arise in one’s own thoughts and in exchange with other actors in the exchange. Recognising “opportunities” in what already exists in terms of resources and networking even better, even more closely and honestly is suddenly a new task with priority. Likewise, the feeling for Timisoara and the “Romanians” is different than before the visit. There are good, committed people on the ground whom we have now been able to meet, people who also share the hope that the situation for people at home and abroad (Romanians who migrate and return) can be improved in the long run. The impression is that these people also want their community to be seen and understood, that the diverse needs of immigrants are recognised and served, both in the country of origin and in the country of arrival.
Likewise, visiting the local schools made a personal impact on me. The feeling of connectedness comes out when I see and hear the teachers, experience the students, who are all as eager to participate and follow the educational mission as I know it from my school system. There are positive examples that show me that things can also “work out well”. We are still a long way from changing traditions or influencing people’s thinking in a sustainable way so that access to adequate and long-term education is anchored in everyone’s minds as a natural good. But the efforts are there, are visible and even if there are those students who unfortunately stay away from school from an unspecified grade and for unspecified reasons, something is moving in the thinking of individuals. The programmes and efforts that exist, that reach individuals and prevent drop-out, do exist. And on a small scale, they are spreading. So I see it as my task to start here and to report on these incidents in my sphere of influence, to educate and to take parents and students by the hand together with my multipliers and to brief them. To ask questions about perspectives, about shaping one’s own future, and to repeatedly address them in events and thus bring about a change in thinking.

What do I take with me?

Personal contact with a beautiful, colourful, diverse and charming city. Many new sympathetic as well as helpful and inspiring contacts, both internally/externally (DE/RO
/BULG). Good and detailed conversations about and on one’s own views, experiences, the reality of work and the limits of one’s own effectiveness, but also about the experience of “successes” in the work with immigrants.
working with immigrants // new motivation! Open conversations and a high degree of honesty of the other actors about recognised and existing grievances and their intensive efforts to remedy them. Linguistic impressions that once again strengthen my resolve to learn this beautiful language professionally. A lot of joy and laughter with the local actors and a lot of sympathy for the city of Timisoara The basic feeling that “Romania is not (any longer) foreign to me” and I now see things a bit more clearly as far as assumptions and presumptions but also fears are concerned. The conviction to be “on the right track”, to continue and increasingly pull together and to motivate each other with the commitment that we as actors show to continue to be there and, despite many setbacks or the feeling of inability to act, not to stop wanting to improve the situation for families and children (whether in the education sector, the labour market or in the social field)”.

“The intended inter-communal exchange was very well possible in the further course of the week and was used by us at every opportunity. In addition, your framework setting ensured that contacts could be made that will be very helpful for our future work. The exchange with the communities of origin was particularly interesting, in the case of Hagen especially with the representatives from Bărbulești, who gave a very realistic and unadorned picture of the contextual conditions in their village. The presentation of the empirical research results and the practical workshops were vivid and enlivened the necessary discussion about the migration movements between Romania, Bulgaria and the Ruhr area.

A lot of time had to be given to the translations, here it might be worth considering how to remedy the situation in the future. The visit to the Roma settlement on the final day was interesting, but also caused unease, as it remained unclear whether the people living there had been sufficiently informed about our coming. All in all, we were left with an ambivalent impression. The visit to the schools gave us the opportunity to gain an insight into the educational work on site. Here it was noticeable that challenges such as truancy are current both in the communities of arrival and in the communities of origin and that “simple solutions” are not in sight. We were very pleased that we were able to talk to the mayor of Timişoara at the end.”

“The programme was very varied and showed that migration has many facets. The discussions with the many different partners were very interesting for us. Our work in the local community often has a deficit view of poverty, unemployment, school absolutism, homelessness, etc.” — “The workshop was very interesting for us. During the workshop there was a lot of information about the background. The different partners contributed their own experiences and also made sure that “safe” information could be corrected. The exchange on site had a positive effect and expanded the network. The insight into the Romanian school system was very interesting. The information about the Christian Pentecostal churches was new for us. For our work here in the municipality, we have taken with us that our previous focus on children’s education is correct. The Roma target group is not one target group, but it is imperative to look at it in a differentiated way.”

“The excursion was an impressive highlight for me and a big thank you goes to the entire Zusudo team for the organisation, the choice of topics and also the participants.
The event left me with several new insights (although I have been dealing with the subject area for a very long time), a lot of new very helpful and very sympathetic contacts, many personal impressions to think about. All in all, I am very grateful that it was not a political glossy event where a lot is said but nothing is said. I was glad that – in my opinion – we were allowed to talk honestly and openly, and that the “Romanian inside view” of the situation in the country was also allowed. The latter is often somewhat ironed out by the official EU view. The participation of the many actors from Romania and the openness of the colleagues from the municipalities in the Ruhr area contributed to this. And last but not least, the translating (language and culture) mother tongue colleagues were a great asset. In the following, I list my four strongest moments, because they were either completely new to me, particularly important, impressive or lasting:

Day 1: NGOs could play a good role in transnational networking. What sometimes fails because of official structures could perhaps work in less official ways. This motivates me and us to invest further in cooperation with NGOs in the countries of origin.
Day 2: Presentation by Nikola Venkov about Stolipinovo: Until now, we have always assumed that Stolipinovo is one of the largest Roma neighbourhoods in the area. However, Nikola reported that only 10% of the inhabitants are Roma, the remaining 90% belong to the Turkish minority, but are counted as Roma by many Bulgarians.
Day 3: The visit to the Roma settlement impressed me. I was not afraid there and did not find it too voyeuristic, but rather saw (and was interested in) the people. What I found impressive was the immediate proximity to the “Speckgürtel” of Timisoara – practically just one house away. I also found it remarkable that – as is often the case – it was no problem to get into contact with the children and the women (even without knowing the language), the men were not visible or only further back. Yet we need contact with them in particular. And here comes the next important insight: the Roma Pentecostal communities are absolutely important bridge builders. Here, too, we should continue to invest.”

“The conversation with the mayor also showed me that it will be difficult to find partners in Romanian municipalities to offer assistance to remigrants, since the social budgets – even for an economically well-off city like Timisoara – are obviously very tight and there is not the possibility or, if necessary, the willingness to use resources for this. Therefore, the only
possibility of cooperation with NGOs. I also found the meeting with the mayor of Barbulesti and his experiences as an almost pure Roma municipality very interesting. Unfortunately, language was a barrier here.”

“In summary, it was an incredibly exciting and valuable time, from a professional but also from a very personal point of view. Even though it was announced that way and the other participants were basically known, it was remarkable in the actual experience how highly professional and scientifically shaped the overall framework was. This applies to the qualification of the participants from the different fields, which in our opinion was the right mix of daily counselling practice, management staff but also the important institutions such as the ministry and the embassy. Therefore, not only the contributions during the conference but also the conversations beyond were enriching for us. After getting to know each other a bit, we found the exchange very open and were able to take a lot away from it. Future collaborations for local practice are already emerging and we are sure that a lot will develop from this. We are currently running the South Eastern Europe funding programme again, but it is only limited until 31 December 2023. In the future, we will therefore be even more dependent on cooperation with other actors in this field.

The visit to the Roma village was a bit strange at first and felt a bit like “being in a zoo” from our point of view. It did not feel pleasant to invade other people’s living space without being asked. It got better when we got the impression that the people there felt less harassed or on display as we initially thought…. Afterwards, however, several very open conversations and discussions arose, for which we were very grateful. They broadened our perspective even more.

In the end, we came back with a big suitcase of many impressions, new knowledge and above all more understanding for the immigrants here with us. We are firmly convinced that this will help us considerably in our practical work and in the development of new concepts and approaches to the framework conditions. We are also thinking about planning the next trip to Romania. Preferably right there, where the potential emigrants are advised before their departure. This is also a topic we would like to discuss with the large local employer in our city”.