How a German project uses shared interests to bring refugees and locals together

Author: Valerie Krall

This article is part of Changing the Narrative. Articles in this series are written by student or early career journalists who took part in The Local’s training course on solutions-focused migration reporting. Find out more about the project here.

When Wael Kayyali arrived in Wuppertal, Germany, from Syria in 2016, he had no trouble finding friends. However, these friends were all Syrians.

“It might not sound great to say this, but a lot of Syrians came to Germany back then, so I didn’t have to get in touch with Germans to have a life here,” he says.

It was difficult for him to find German friends as he is “from a different culture and a bit older”. Kayyali is 29 years old. It’s not an age that most people would consider old, but he says that most people his age have their friend circle and are not looking for new contacts.

The second big hurdle was the language: “I didn’t dare speak German because I was scared that I would be judged,” he says.

All of this changed when Kayyali found out about Hand in Hand – Contact People for Refugees, a local initiative that aims to bring refugees and locals together.

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