By Mariana Gabunia
Lucky stories are all about being prepared to seize an opportunity and go for taking new steps – which is what I did when I participated in the MitOst lottery for a shadow visit to this year’s Theodor-Heuss-Kolleg coordinator’s meeting, announced in the frame of the 20th anniversary of MitOst.
The meeting was held in Oberhausen, 19-23 April 2017 – in an interesting post-industrial building with very friendly hosts from the German NGO kitev.
Around 70 people from different countries attended the meeting. What unites them?Most of them are MitOst members. Besides, they are actively involved in civil society issues and are running cooperation programmes in their countries in close partnership with MitOst and THK.
The meeting’s agenda was dedicated to the strategic development of the programmes: the participants got better insights into the ongoing strategic planning of “THK 2018+.” It was also an opportunity to get recommendations from the cooperation programmes since the main changes and new ideas are being developed by the coordinators themselves.
We need to agree that MitOst is a real “cosmos,” a huge network which makes frequent updates necessary – because of that, there was lots of networking, sharing and exchanging of ideas, challenges and future plans.
A significant challenge for majority of the programmes is funding, as it becomes more and more difficult to find new donors and have sustainable funding opportunities.
Besides the official part of the meeting, I had the great opportunity to visit different places as a part of field visits in Oberhausen: we got introduced to tlocal NGOs that are working on the topics of diversity and refugee integration.
To me, one of the most interesting discoveries from the meeting was that we, people from all over the world, are very similar and have the same fundamental needs. From the organisations I got to know as well as from private talks with participants I understood that we need to point out these similarities and to value them with all our heart: talking about our similarities and connections is as important as talking about our differences. Being with 70 people for these four days I felt that I am part of a strong network who is striving to build a better world and society. I wish all coordinators to find inner and outside peace – which is what they are fighting for through their programmes and activities.