R3SOLUTE’s story sharing workshop this past Wednesday in Café Freiraum Marzahn was a huge success! At the workshop, 25 participants, refugees and Germans, had the privilege of learning from one another’s stories, many of which related to their individual experiences leaving their home countries. Participants included refugees from all around the world that came to seek refuge in Germany, a large group of East Germans who fled their homes during the GDR regime, and other locals that were interested in refugee related issues. Unlike our conflict competency classes, the story sharing workshop is more oriented towards sharing than teaching, allowing participants to become close to one another while increasing their capacity to discuss sensitive issues.
Story sharing is meant to open a dialogue centered on understanding community members. The mutual trust built in these sessions can position participants to more pragmatically benefit from other more technical R3SOLUTE trainings. Moreover, it strengthens respect for one another and broadens the perspective on topics related to conflict, loss, refugee crisis, globalization, inter-cultural communication, and the challenges of building a new life in Germany.
Through storytelling, R3SOLUTE:
- encourages the community to engage with one another in meaningful dialogue
- sets the stage for future discussion related to understanding and addressing conflict
- and identifies mental health and trauma related issues
Below, you can find a short summary of how the workshop was run so future participants are able to familiarize themselves with our work. The workshop started with Helen Winter, R3SOLUTE’s CEO, and Outreach Ambassador, Saeed Zarghan giving a demonstration by interviewing each other on conflict in their own lives. It is important for our team to share and work side by side with attendees, to create a truly open and productive environment of equality. We believe this minimizes the power dynamics between the trainers and participants, and builds a strong support system. Participants were then asked to pair up and share current conflicts in their lives with one another. Here many participants were able to make new friends and have the experience of listening and truly being listened to.
Once one person got to share their experiences, the interviewer shared their perspective on the issue. Towards the end people were encouraged to communicate what they had previously discussed in the larger group.
Helen stressed the importance of asking open ended questions, and the effects they can have on a difficult conversation. Questions starting with: “Do you…” or “What…” give people fewer opportunities to expand on their opinions and beliefs, whereas questions starting with: “Why” or “How” open up conversation and elicit deeper exchanges. Thinking about these communication strategies gives us the tools necessary to fully understand the many layers that exist within most conflicts.
Although the class was held in German, we had interpreters translating in Arabic, Farsi and English to make sure our workshops had a strong impact.
In the exercise pictured below participants were ask to draw their experiences using paint brushes and five primary colors given to them.
The drawings reflected upon the following questions….
- What did you like doing in your childhood?
- What do you like about Germany? What don’t you like about Germany?
- What was a positive event in your life? What was a difficult event in your life?After the participants presented on their pictures and explained why it was important for them to draw their experiences the way they did:
This type of expression allowed people to access their memories, and tell their stories to each other through symbols and other untraditional forms of communication. Often this type of creativity allows for difficult topics to be communicated more easily. It also allows the person to tell their story in a comfortable setting as the questions give participants a sense of guidance to open up to one another. Towards the end the whole group talked to each other about the questions. This resulted into both empathetic, heartfelt and humorous conversation with topics people could relate to and explore further.
Because one of R3SOLUTE’s main focuses is mental health awareness, we also felt it was important to discuss trauma and the mental and physical effects it can have on a person’s health. Helen gave a concise presentation on trauma and mental health awareness. We discussed what the individual preconceptions have been about mental health and trauma, and allowed willing participants to share their personal experiences related to the topic of reaching out for psychological help. Lastly, the trainers touched on how to appropriately go about seeking help for oneself or others.
If you are interested in the subject of mental health or want to know the available opportunities to seek out help or information, we provide the contact information for several mental health clinics at the bottom of this post.
We would like to thank everyone for participating, your stories inspire us and the constructive feedback makes us want to create and develop more workshops of this nature.
For further contact details on mental health organizations mentioned above:
- XENION Psychosoziale Hilfen für politisch Verfolgte e.V. [Psychosocial Support for the Politically Persecuted]
Paulsenstr. 55/56, 12163 Berlin-Steglitz,
tel. (030) 323 29 33,
social advice, psychotherapies
- Psychiatric institutional outpatient department of the Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy / CharitéCampus Mitte – Acute consultation for refugees Charitéplatz 1, 10117 Berlin (on campus: Bonhoefferweg 3),
tel. (030) 450 517 095
Tuesday 11am – 1pm (Arabic, Farsi, English)
- Centre for Intercultural Psychiatry and Psychotherapy (ZIPP)
Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy Charité Campus Mitte Charitéplatz 1, 10117 Berlin,
tel. (030)450 517 095
Monday – Friday 8.30am – 4.30pm