The unique ARSP Trilateral Programme brings German and Polish volunteers together through their active participation in a variety of UK based projects.
ARSP founded a new trilateral programme in the UK in autumn 2001.This served as a pilot programme for the whole organisation in two distinct ways. Firstly, it marked the first time that ARSP had recruited volunteers from outside Germany to spend a year doing voluntary service in another country. Secondly, it also represented the first time a bilateral ARSP group, in this case comprising young Germans and Poles, had worked alongside each other in any foreign country. Since 2001, members of this group have been working together every year in educational, social and historical-political projects across the UK.
Aims and Structure
Focusing on intercultural learning between Polish and German volunteers, the Trilateral Programme facilitates trilateral encounters with British peers. Volunteers are encouraged to discuss and explore their different cultural and ethnic origins, entering into an important and exciting process of learning, understanding and open dialogue. These provoke lively “tridialogues” as participants often develop a different perception of their own history, of the other’s history, and of the relationship between past and present. Regular discussion of European politics and daily experiences in their projects can also help reduce any potential prejudices and preconceptions that might exist between participants. This is achieved through a varied programme, which includes compulsory seminars, participation in tandems and experiencing the day to day life of British people.
There are currently twelve volunteers from Germany and Poland working in projects across the UK. Due to close cooperation with people who are marginalised in society, volunteers often support asylum seekers and refugees, assist organisations that combat racism and right-wing extremism and work with members of the Jewish community amongst others.
Seminars are an integral part of the experiences of Trilateral Programme participants. Beginning with a preparation seminar in Poland seminars focus on the complex themes of Memory, Identity and Society and how past and contemporary history and culture impact upon them. These seminars provide volunteers with an insight into attitudes in Poland and Germany and the opportunity to compare their own beliefs and opinions, whilst also fostering an individual and collective commitment as citizens of a modern Europe based on integration, discussion and exchange.
Participants in the Trilateral Programme attend 5 seminars throughout the year. Volunteers from Poland, Germany and the Ukraine initially take part in a trilateral preparation seminar in Piekary, near Krakow in Poland. After arrival in the UK Polish and German volunteers participated in a orientation seminar in Kent, followed by a seminar in Wales in December. These are followed by a summer seminar in May and an evaluation seminar in Germany at the end of August with other ARSP volunteers, who have participated in projects across a range of other countries. All these seminars aim to facilitate dialogue, debate and reflection. This is attained using a variety of techniques and methods, including inviting guests to conduct workshops. For example at recent seminars young representatives of the peace building organisation Truce 20/20 delivered a workshop on conflict resolution, facilitating further contact with British peers and prompting discussion on a significant and relevant issue.
Tandems also play a key role in the daily life of UK volunteers. The central concept of tandems is to place one Polish and one German volunteer together in one single project. These bilateral tandems correspond to the purpose of developing mutual learning, understanding and integration, whilst also ensuring participants experience trilateral exchange on a day to day basis. Through tandems volunteers can share and reflect on their experiences, both in their projects and daily lives, whilst also providing support and assistance to one another.