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  • Portrait: Verena Luft.

“Integration is not a one-way street”

Verena Luft is a social worker for asylum seekers and works with young male refugees at the Grünwald air dome near Munich. And as a woman, she has only had positive experiences up to now.

Verena Luft believes that helping people to help themselves means above all: “Enabling refugees to lead independent lives here. This includes ensuring that they can speak the language and understand the structures and rules.”

Social worker for asylum seekers at the Grünwald air dome

Verena Luft, born in 1990, is a qualified ethnologist and has worked as a social worker for asylum seekers for the association “Hilfe von Mensch zu Mensch e. V.” at the Grünwald air dome, south of Munich, since the end of 2015. The Grünwald air dome primarily houses men aged between 18 and 25, with between six and eight young men housed in each sleeping compartment. Most refugees spend many months at the air dome. How is it to work exclusively with men as a woman? No problem at all. “I have never been treated with a lack of respect as a woman.” We get to know and say hello to each other on the streets. It is going well in Grünwald.

Portrait: an interview with Verena Luft.
Verena Luft is a qualified ethnologist. She is a social worker for asylum seekers at the association “Hilfe von Mensch zu Mensch e. V.”, based in Munich.
“Despite all of the legitimate expectations we have of refugees when it comes to integration, I believe it is important to welcome them as people.”
Verena Luft on the way to her office.
Verena Luft on the way to the association’s offices. The social worker for asylum seekers spends most of her working day at the refugee shelter in Grünwald, near Munich.

Help from one human being to another: the name says it all

Verena Luft describes her daily work like this: “We help refugees in their dealings with the authorities, to register for language and integration courses or to find a work placement or apprenticeship”. Dealing with people on an equal footing is very important to her. Providing help from one human being to another is more than just a name, it is a philosophy. “These people have fled from crisis situations. Despite all of the legitimate expectations we have of refugees when it comes to integration, I believe it is important to welcome them as people.” Verena Luft believes that most of them want to integrate well, learn German and find work. “But integration is not a one-way street. It is based on reciprocity.” She believes that good contact between locals and refugees is especially important and reduces any anxiety felt on both sides.

Guarding the maypole with the Young Men’s Association

Many people in Grünwald are making every effort. “The group of volunteers is doing a really great job. And local associations are also doing great work to involve the refugees.” They play football, learn German, sing and cook together – and are introduced to the unfamiliar Bavarian culture. For example, the refugees are helping to guard the maypole together with the Young Men’s Association. The Young Men’s Association in Grünwald has also involved the refugees in the village festivals – from the May Dance through to organising live music in the festival tents. It is going well in Grünwald.

Portrait: an interview with Verena Luft.

Verena Luft, social worker for asylum seekers, emphasises that integration should be based on reciprocity.

Hands made out of mosaic stones forming a circle.

Holding out a helping hand: the name says it all at the association “Hilfe von Mensch zu Mensch e. V.” (Help from one human being to another).

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Addendum:

The air dome is now closed.