Kandel in Action

What’s special about Kandel is the social cohesion, the huge willingness to help one another.

von Patricia Bonaudo

Bistro International in Kandel. Foto: Patricia Bonaudo
Bistro International in Kandel. Foto: Patricia Bonaudo

Small towns and villages have something that can be annoying but is sometimes very helpful: social cohesion. Anyone who doesn’t want to sit around doing nothing outside of the cities is very welcome in Kandel’s Bistro International.

 

Moabit helps! Kreuzberg helps! Friedrichshain helps! – In Berlin, almost every neighbourhood has its own welcome initiative. People who want to get involved can get information and join in these social networks. That’s a good thing and important, because hundreds of people arrive in Berlin everyday and still have to be provided with basic essentials, unfortunately. But far away from Berlin, there are plenty of people getting active in Germany’s small towns. Instead of being afraid, they want to help too.

Kandel in Rhineland-Palatinate, a tiny town 20 km outside Karlsruhe, is just one example. “What’s special about Kandel is the social cohesion, the huge willingness to help one another,” says Gudrun in the Bistro International, an open meeting place where people from all over the world can come together and talk over coffee and cake every Friday from 4 to 6. It’s a place where questions can be asked, problems discussed – and where people simply help each other.

“We don’t take long to get things done in Kandel,” says Petra from the local women’s and family centre. “Dorle for example, she’s over 70, she just wanted to do something and she came by to bake waffles. When she heard people needed bicycles, she turned up two days later with three bikes.” You can hear a lot of stories like this in Kandel. Stories about the optician who simply does eye tests, for free and with no need for bureaucracy. About Leni, who lets Nabil stay in her spare room and is teaching him German. About Julia, Alex, Paula, Franca, Karo and Lina, who play board games with their new classmates Abdullah and Maan in the Bistro International and always take them along to Erlenbach when the Protestant church holds a dinner and dance. And of course the story about Annette and Anette. “We’re in very close contact to the newcomers, we remind them of appointments, pass on information quickly or just listen to them,” says one of the two. They met via their volunteer work and are now getting a lot done together.

The volunteers battle untiringly against bureaucratic hurdles, reservations and prejudices, making the impossible possible. Even in this tranquil region of Germany, their work is not always an easy task. All those who get involved are making a public statement, becoming a public figure working for a cause that not everyone supports. Hostility and personal abuse are the less pleasant side, as are the repeated arson attacks on an accommodation facility in Herxheim, a nearby village. “I helped out in the clothing store there and there were so many nice clothes. A piece of everyone who donated something literally got burned too,” says Annette.

 

Mohammad wanted to live in a metropolis but now he is very happy in Kandel. Foto: Patricia Bonaudo
Mohammad wanted to live in a metropolis but now he is very happy in Kandel.
Foto: Patricia Bonaudo

Yet it comes as no great surprise that Mohammad, who actually wanted to live in a bigger town, is quite glad to be in Kandel. He has lived there for just under a year now and is happy to have found an apprenticeship nearby. Sulaimann, a pharmacist from Damascus, is looking forward to showing his wife and his one-year-old child around Kandel and introducing them to his new acquaintances. And 24-year-old Amin from Egypt is very glad to be in Kandel too. He had to leave his home because his faith put him in danger. He misses his family a great deal and finds it hard that he’s not allowed to work in Germany. He’s been waiting for an interview appointment for two and a half years and very much wants to build a stable life for himself here. He likes Kandel because he can live in peace in the town and live out his faith openly. A small tattoo on his wrist, a cross, reminds him that he never wants to hide again. In Kandel, his faith is respected and he hopes it will stay that way for the rest of his life.

“It’s all about the next level of integration – people have a right to live here in peace,” says Anette before she throws the next boules ball. The volunteers in Kandel also organize sports activities like boules, boxing and football in the local clubs, provide advice and accompaniment for visits to the authorities, and offer free German lessons. They are planning creative and music courses and much more. Anyone who wants to join in and get involved is very welcome. Feel free to drop in at the Bistro International, every Friday from 4 in Max und Moritz, Rheinstraße 65 in Kandel.