German Chancellor Angela Merkel awards IsraAID with Integration Prize
The Israeli organization has been recognized for its work with Syrian, Iraqi & Afghan refugees
On Monday, IsraAID will be presented with the German Chancellor’s Integration Award, in recognition of the Israeli humanitarian NGO’s work with Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghan refugees in Germany. The annual prize, being awarded for only the second time, is the German federal government’s highest honor for integration. IsraAID will receive the prize for its Brückenbau (“Bridge Building”) project, which provides psychological support in Arabic for at-risk refugee women and victims of gender-based violence living in shelters and training and counselling for shelter staff. The program empowers women living in refugee shelters to build better self-help structures, improve interactions with shelter staff and strengthen personal and child safety. The Brückenbau program is run in partnership with ZWST, the Welfare Board of Jews in Germany.
IsraAID has been operating in Germany since 2015, when one million asylum seekers and refugees reached the country, most fleeing the brutality of the Syrian civil war and the threat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. In addition to Brückenbau, IsraAID Germany’s programs include refugee youth leadership groups, post-trauma psychosocial support for children using expressive arts therapy, and a special program supporting survivors of the Yazidi genocide. IsraAID’s team in Germany is a multicultural mosaic of Arabic-, Hebrew-, German- and English-speaking psychologists, social workers, art therapists and educators. They utilize their international experience and intercultural approach to promote the sustainable well-being and integration of refugees in Germany.
IsraAID has been at the forefront of the international response to the global refugee and displacement crisis, with teams in Bangladesh, Germany, Greece, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda. Around the world, 68.5 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes. 25.4 million are refugees, and more than half of them are children. This is one of the largest humanitarian disasters of our generation. IsraAID’s global response includes sustainable programs to build resilience, provide education, combat gender-based violence, advance child protection, improve sanitation and offer livelihood opportunities. Since the height of the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015, IsraAID has provided medical, psychosocial and educational support to over 100,000 refugees in Greece and Germany alone.
Many refugees fleeing war and persecution in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria for countries like Germany enter Europe through Greece. In Lesbos, the Greek island where many refugees first arrive after a harrowing sea journey from Turkey, IsraAID provides medical care to new arrivals on the shoreline and operates the School of Peace, the only institution offering mother-tongue education in Arabic, Congolese French, Farsi and Kurdish, with more than 200 students every week. The teachers are refugees themselves, from the same communities as the students. In Thessaloniki, IsraAID provides psychological support and community activities for refugees living in shelters. The Sindos Community Center, just outside Thessaloniki, offers a meeting place for several hundred refugees from a wide variety of national, linguistic and religious communities living in nearby shelters. The center offers English and Greek classes, community events, an open art studio, working internet and a source of information.
The School of Peace is run in partnership with the Israeli Hashomer Hatzair youth movement, and the Sindos Community Center is run in partnership with the grassroots organization Be A Robin.
Yotam Polizer and Navonel Glick, IsraAID Co-CEOs, said: “We are humbled and honored to receive this special recognition from the German Chancellor for IsraAID’s work supporting the needs, rights, and integration of refugees in Germany, and we are particularly proud of the IsraAID Germany team and our strong partnership with ZWST, which makes this program possible.
Through our work with IsraAID, we have seen the power and potential of the refugees we work with as they write a new story for themselves and their communities. It is a story of learning new languages, of adjusting to new surroundings. It is 500 people, Arabic-, Kurdish-, Farsi- and French-speaking Muslims and Christians, celebrating Eid-al-Fitr in a Greek school run by an Israeli humanitarian aid organization. It is a youth football team in a Kenyan refugee camp dreaming of the World Cup. It is a group of young refugee leaders volunteering with Berlin’s homeless population during Easter. Yet, it is also a tale of the serious daily challenges facing refugees, host communities and the people who work with them.
Only through working together with communities experiencing crisis can we build a better future, both for refugees and their hosts. We stand committed to this cause, and IsraAID will continue to support the needs of refugees and their hosts in the countries we work in for as long as we are needed.”