ARSP offers the chance to volunteer for a year in Germany, giving young people the opportunity to experience a new culture and explore the legacies of the National Socialist past.
During their voluntary service volunteers meet a diverse range of people, share their experiences and perceptions and experience the advantages and disadvantages of being a foreigner. Each individual brings different perspectives on the importance of history, of peace and political commitment to the group collective, leading to exciting discussion and dialogue. Through participation, reflection and consideration of their work in ARSP projects volunteers overcome barriers of racism, prejudice and discrimination and become connected to an international network of involvement for peace and justice.
Since 1995 around 20 volunteers per year from the UK, USA, Eastern Europe, US, Israel and many other countries can spend a year doing peace service in Germany at the invitation of ARSP’s partner organisations. Volunteers typically work at the memorial centres of former concentration camps, as well as in Jewish communities, with older and disabled people and on stimulating social projects, including anti-racism initiatives.
Why should you volunteer in Germany?
For UK citizens it may not be immediately clear why they should spend a year working as a volunteer in Germany, particularly as themes such as reconciliation and atonement carry little significance in contemporary UK society. Through working with ARSP volunteers obtain a range of unique and often exceptional experiences, almost completely unavailable in the UK. ARSP voluntary service immerses young people in stimulating and exciting projects, giving them an understanding and appreciation of a different culture, language and lifestyle. The combination of intercultural experiences and exchanges and practical work in interesting and challenging environments also aids personal development and potentially future employability.
ARSP volunteers are frequently confronted by and required to respond to the difficult questions posed by human rights abuses, social exclusion, racism and anti-Semitism. Volunteers perceptions and beliefs are constantly challenged by exposure to contentious topics, such as which values contemporary European society should protect and hold dear. ARSP volunteers often have the flexibility to independently develop their own specific interests and play important roles within their own projects, therefore also making a positive contribution to the local community as a whole. Volunteers will often meet very interesting people, through both their work and social lives, who they perhaps normally would not encounter in their daily lives. These include older people, survivors of Nazi persecution and disabled people. Seminars throughout the year bring together all the volunteers from all the ARSP projects across Germany. These provide an opportunity to discuss experiences, problems and questions, whilst also debating and considering critical issues that regularly affect ARSP work, such as the place of history in contemporary society. Socialising is another key aspect of the seminars and volunteers often develop strong friendships, despite often having very different backgrounds and beliefs from the people they meet.
Working as an ARSP volunteer in Germany offers a unique opportunity to gain new, valuable experiences and do something both interesting and important. Through working on rewarding and stimulating projects, encountering a wide range of interesting people and discovering a new country ARSP volunteers develop an understanding of critically important, contemporary issues and demonstrate a commitment to making the world a better place.