Interview with Katharina Beckmann

Name: Katharina Beckmann

Volunteer: European Voluntary Service

Have you ever been in contact with a voluntary organization(s)? If yes, can you tell which organizations you have worked for? What did your work consist in? And why did you choose to work for that organization?

I have worked for two organizations, which are:

(1) Thuringian Refugee Council: During my time at the University of Erfurt, I volunteered with the Thuringian Refugee Council, a refugee rights NGO. After being an intern for 8 weeks, I worked in their office at least once a week. My main aim was to do advocacy work and to promote refugee rights because in Germany, especially in the eastern (former Democratic Republic) parts, refugees are still treated as a minority with less rights. With my work, I wanted to contribute to an open and multicultural, antiracist society in Germany. My main tasks besides organizing the office were to prepare campaigns and seminars as well as to write small press releases.

(2) World Shop Bornheim: After I moved to Frankfurt, I joined the volunteer team of the Worldshop in Frankfurt/Main where I sell fair-trade products and promote the idea of Fair Trade. I chose to work for the World Shop because I felt that I needed to do something against our existing economic system and the exploitation of the poor. Fair Trade is one solution to global injustice and could really improve the world for us all and I want to help spreading the idea.

Were you ever involved in any activities and/or organisations dealing with Fair Trade before joining KKĠ?

Yes, I volunteer in a World Shop in Frankfurt/Main. The activities around the World Shop are run by a NGO which is well networked with other development cooperation NGOs in the region. Every two months e.g. we organize a theme night with speakers from different organizations. This year the first developmental policy information fair took place in Frankfurt/Main where NGOs could introduce themselves and their work. My future goal after getting a master’s degree in Peace- and Conflict Studies is to work in the field of development cooperation or civil peace consolidation.

To me all of these activities sound interesting and challenging at the same time. I can imagine myself preparing and conducting educational events, for example in school classes or for “multipliers”, as I have already taught other students during my time as a teaching assistant at the chair for International Politics at the University of Erfurt. What appeals to me the most, is the diversity of tasks that the volunteer can fulfill. Being challenged motivates me and I like the idea of preparing educational activities on the one hand and manage and work in il-Hanut l-Arka on the other hand.

I am also used to work with the media as part of my responsibilities at the Refugee Council was to write short press releases. I have lots of ideas on how to promote Fair Trade, e.g. cooperate with schools so that school cafeterias could sell fair trade products. Or maybe organize topic nights or “coffee tastings”. Or maybe on a more political basis, try to establish a Fair-Trade Town in Malta (maybe Valletta). I don’t know whether all of my ideas are realistic but King’s idea was a dream in the beginning, so why not start with a dream?!

Later on I experienced working with children in a dance project called “Grenztänzer” (rough translation: frontier dancers).

Can you describe what work did this entail?

Grenztänzer was a project of the National Theater in Weimar which gave children from 8 different school classes the possibility to perform a dance piece on stage. The schools chosen for the project were mainly in so called “social hotspots”, most of the children coming from difficult backgrounds and never having danced before. My role was to be something like a mediator between the choreographer, the stage director and the children. I was teaching assistant, role model and contact person for the children. We all learned a lot about tolerance, respect and self-confidence. I’m still in contact with some of the children.

What skills do you have that you brought to help Third World Group and/or Koperattiva Kummerċ Ġust in their work?

I brought along experience in intercultural situations practically through my work in the Refugee Council as well as theoretically through my studies of the Social Sciences and Linguistics. I am definitely a team-player and can integrate into new groups easily. I am used to working with the computer (Microsoft Word2010, Excel, Access and Powerpoint) and cooperate with the media. I like being challenged and manage to perform complex situations with an (often) analytic approach. Still, I am a very idealistic person with an open mind. Last but not least, I am very enthusiastic about the projects and highly motivated. Besides, I have some in-depth knowledge on global contexts of poverty, since I focused my studies of the Social Sciences on Peace- and Conflict Studies, International Relations and Development Policy.

To sum up my motivation at the very end: The slogan “Kieku l-Ikel Jitkellem“ of the “Enlarging Fair“ project today is more relevant than ever: Fair Trade and the “fight” against poverty in a time of food-crisis and exploitation can help improve the world for us all and I am eager to be part of the process.