Tuesday 18 October – Excursion to Humanity House in Den Haag

On 18th of October we traveled to Den Hague for visiting the “Humanity House” (https://www.humanityhouse.org/en/).



Inside the “Humanity House”

A short introduction made clear, that it contains more than a museum: It includes temporary exhibitions, an experience and spaces for readings, movie screenings, projects and debates. It is an educational platform for people of all ages and experiences, as well as for organizations.

The first of the recent exhibitions is called “The Asylum Search Engine” and shows the system of asylum in the Netherlands through the eyes of 41 artists and wants to show the faces and stories behind the “numbers”.

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The second is the photo exhibition “Collateral, the human cost of explosive violence in Ukraine” about Ukrainians who faced harm and loss from explosive weapons.


The experience

The experience begins with your registration: You get a registration form with your name and photo. If you choose to go alone, you wait for your number and step down the stairs to a massive door. You don’t know what to expect. You find yourself alone in dim a room that could be somewhere in Den Hague, the Netherlands or the place where you live now. There you get an identity card without explanation. From now on you follow a route through different rooms.

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One of the first rooms looks like a cozy living-room. But you can imagine that people left it a few minutes ago in haste: Chairs lay on the floor, a glass of wine fell over and the wine dropped down, toys lay widespread and on the computer, you can see Facebook messages about an unknown catastrophe. At once you can hear a radio announcement that you must leave your house. But you don’t know why and where to go. There is just one way upstairs.


Now you follow corridor after corridor which are built from old doors. You hear different voices in Arabic, sobbing and different puzzling sounds. Through tiny holes you see different scenes: The destroyed living-room you stand a minute ago, empty corridors, nailed up doors, wastelands, empty rooms, the sale in an electronic shop, containers, walls and fences.

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Right in the middle, you enter a room, nice and cozy with a chimney. You see a mirror … and nothing else. You can’t see your reflection. I looked for an explanation. I saw a little sign: “You don’t exist.” I looked again in the mirror … but I saw nothing. I felt distressed. Something so usual didn’t work, something that belongs to me was taken away from me … and I didn’t understand what happened. Yes, I realized then how it works, but my confusion remained.

After a while you arrive in a room with cupboards full of files up to the ceiling. This room promises you that you could reunite with your family or friends if you find the right file with your letter of your last name. There is a voice trying to quieten you, but you are in a maze of files.

As I found the file of our group (last name: Solar) I was happy but at the same time I felt sad, because finding a file doesn’t mean you find the persons behind …









You go further and arrive in front of three massive doors, looking like prison cells. Inside you sit in front of a glass and hear a voice in Dutch that speaks loudly to you. As non-Dutch-speaking you don’t understand anything. Behind the glass you see a desk with papers. You are in an authority, in an interview room and have to do something you don’t understand. You’re waiting for a hint, a nice word but nothing clarifies. After I while I decided to go, but I wasn’t sure if I did it “right”.

The next part begins with a gun in front of a target. A text requests you to push the trigger. If you do so, you see the faces of the persons who enter before and after you in the target – your friends.

The following parts are more like an exhibition with video interviews, sound recordings, pictures and installations. You hear the things people went through talking directly to you. One of the sound installations was built as a container that brings someone to the Netherlands. The story told by Sattar was detailed and personal. He is a musician and speaks about his need to play music as a part of his life.

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What did we learn? “It could be you!” Yes, that was a clear message. And what else?

We discussed in the end about the experience. For most of us the mirror-room was powerful. It shows you how to feel if something puts you out of your normal ways of thinking and feeling – outside of the system. It’s like someone decides without a reason that you don’t exist anymore.

For others, the “sniper room” was very impressive. You realize that you are a part of the system – whether you want to or not. You do what somebody wants you to do and you find yourself in the position to shoot your friends.

We also expound the problems of the artificiality in some parts, for example the Arabic spoken stories in the beginning. Or the abstract installations in the first parts, which could generate misunderstandings and stereotypes if visitors aren’t familiar with the backgrounds of the topic – for example children.

For me the sound installation of Sattar who wants to have a flute was important. People need more than a roof (especially if you have to stay in a gym) and food. They want to be respected and acknowledged with their needs and personalities. They want to have the choice.

The experience shows in a light version how it is to be forced to go forward just one way, through a system that wants to take your individuality. But it also tries to show the strength of individuals and relationships, their personality and capacities.

The “Volkskeuken The Hague”

Afterwards we walked to a place called “Volkskeuken The Hague” which is based in an old gym. There we had a great lunch of organic and local food. It is related to an initiative with the name “Timebank.cc”. This is a “Community Currency, accessible to everyone, to share skills and knowledge. Trade services with other Timebankers in exchange for time instead of conventional money. One Timebank Hour equals exactly one hour of work.” (http://timebank.cc/). After a great meal, interesting discussions and petting the cat we left for our free time in Den Hague, Rotterdam or Amsterdam – but this is another story.

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Thursday 20 October – Political Theatre in the city

With the help of Myrte Amons, a theatre director and teacher, we created a very interesting piece to perform in the city. In the first part we got the excersize to use the characters that we had played with the day before, dressing up like them and acting like them in the Vondelpark, in order to see how people reacted and to feel what it is like to be judged on your looks, habits or behaviour. It was a very funny experience, some of the participants really got into their role and we observed that a lot of passersby got really confused by them.

The second session took place at the Museumplein, a very busy area with a lot of tourists. We had practiced a piece on invisible theatre with the use of masks. The goal was to do a sort of flashmob in public space where nobody would expect us. The piece was about an invicible border, with two border guards checking all the people that wanted to pass. All of us took on a mask as soon as the play started, so it was visible for the audience that something was happening. It was quite a powerful piece and quite some passersby stopped to look at us and made pictures of us. At the end we all held a poster with a statement:

“People who are born with good passports will never know how sharp the teeth of this world are and how strong when they bite. The teeth of this world: police officers, the alien police, borderguards, receptionists of cheap hotels. The worm and the bird move freely around this world, but the people without passports…” – Rodaan al Galidi

Sunday 16 October – Colonialism and Racism in Amsterdam

On Sunday morning we had the first part of the project presentations of the participants. Julia, Sisilia and Oana showed the results of their very nice project “A suitcase full of memories – A suitcase full of dreams” which they did in Wedding, a neighbourhood in Berlin, together with minor refugee youth. They organised a week long workshop on art and theatre, tried out different methods and managed to make an exhibition and short movies with the youth. They showed the movies during their presentation, which were really funny, and everyone was impressed by what they had reached in such a short time. It was really inspiring to see the impact they had made with their project, how they had connected different stakeholders, artists and the neighbourhood and how they created a safe space for those youngsters while remaining critical on their own position and the way of labeling the youth.

Poster – A Suitcase Full Of Memories

Other presentations were done by Lea on her participation at the Welcome Festival for migrants and Berliners in the summer at Tempelhofer Feld in Berlin (https://www.facebook.com/events/265462833809923/).

 Source: Ekvidi Photography

Sameha and Marie showed a short movie of their training at the University of Applied Science in Amsterdam, where they tried out different methods they learned in the first training in Berlin with a group of students that followed the Minor “Promoting human rights in urban areas”. They will continue the training in the new semester, where the methods will be again multiplied.

Astrid showed a presentation of the fourth edition of a multicultural festival she organised in Brasov, Romania. She explained how they created a day with different activities, like cultural exhibitions, traditional music, costumes, dance and poetry.

Furthermore there were presentations of the interviews that some of the new participants did with migrants in their neighbourhood or work as a preparation to the training.

In the afternoon we went into the city on a Postcolonial tour in which we passed several landmarks in Amsterdam that remember to the colonial past and how Amsterdam has actually flourished and became very rich during the Golden Century because of colonialism. The wealth of the city is still coming from that past and is visible in different buildings, like for example the “Tropenmuseum” which was originally established as a colonial museum to show Dutch overseas “possessions” in the 19th century.

After the tour we ended up at the Vereniging Ons Suriname where we had a very impressive workshop on racism by Mitchell Esajas and Jessy de Abreu. For many participants this was a mind-opening workshop in which topics as racism, white privilege, social inequality, racial profiling and micro aggression became very vivid. Here you can find the presentation in PDF:




Wednesday 19 October – Theatre day

This day was a really interesting day for us. We learn a lot of methods about impro theatre, and we act… a lot!

First of all, Kyriakos, our participant from Greece, organized a workshop in the Open Space about Impro Theatre.

He teached us many methods and games about this topic, very useful to work with refugees, migrants, children…

This day, was a sunny sunny day!


In the afternoon, we had the visit of Myrthe, expert in theatre. Her workshops was really inspiring!

We started to prepare a performance for the next day in Museumplain and Vondelpark. This one, using Invisible Theatre Method.

A really motivating day!!!

Saturday 22 October – Networking and future projects

The last day of the workshop was dedicated to activities concentrating around networking between the participants.  This included time for discussions around the potentialities for further collaboration and future projects. The day started with a warm-up game by Paschalis where participants were called to grab each other’s hands in a circle and “electrocute” each other, in this way making a closed circuit.


After this game we divided in five working groups. Each table worked under a theme.

The themes were:

  1. Empowering migrants
  2. Working with state and civil actors
  3. Challenge the formal educational system
  4. Youth-work in non-formal organisations
  5. Methods

Every participant had a minute to present to the table what his/her current project is. Then after everyone had finished with this short presentation they could write on three coloured papers the names of others that:

  1. Blue: Help you develop your project
  2. Yellow: Develop personally and professionally
  3. Orange: Shape your future goals

After that, each group visualised their work on a sheet and presented to the others.

After that Oana and Julie showed us a video about the problems that can arise between youth workers and refugees due to unequal power relations.

Afterwards we spent some time making personalised cards for one of the participants of the workshop as well as writing small notes to each other.

After spending some time for making beautiful cards and writing notes to each other we were called to reflect on the contents of the workshop and put a note under each of the three categories:

  1. Content on methods and pedagogical approach
  2. Content on migration and inclusion
  3. Open question


At the closure of the day we all sat in a circle and in the middle were a trash bin and a suitcase. Everyone was given two papers, one to write the most significant thing that he/she will take from the workshop and put in the suitcase, the other what he/she left behind. Both papers were read out loud to the rest of the group.


After a delicious dinner cooked by Mareike and the rest of the kitchen group we had a social gathering or what some called a party in the main room of the school. We drank lots of beers and were stunned by Antonino’s dancing skills and Nuria’s infinite energy!

Friday 21 October – The reverse of wealth and a new concept for citizenship

During the morning of October 21st we started the day with a session called “The reverse of Wealth – or what’s our responsibility for the migration of others?”. We had to form small groups and got a usb with a movie and information on a certain topic, all related to causes of migration, such as climate change, exploitation of resources in non-western countries, unfair labour conditions, child slavery etc. With the provided information we had to think of a campaign in order to fight these problems or raise awareness on these topics and, if possible, provide solutions or alternatives to take responsibility over these issues as privileged citizens or consumers. It brought an interesting focus to a deeper reflection on how we as individuals are involved in and responsible for what is happening in the world and how we can be part of change. After the research phase all groups presented their work, with very interesting ideas and campaigns. For example one of the groups made a poster with a picture of a coat with the title: “Real human skin coat, $0,99! Do you know the real price? Someone is working to death for your coat!”

In the afternoon the training consisted of two type of exercises, connected however by a red line, that of defining, expanding and questioning the term and concept of citizenship.

We initially started taking apart the notion through role playing and debating as part of a fishbowl discussion. This works by forming several groups of three people, in our case, five, and assigning each group a role (a journalist siding with the freedom of movement, the president of the European Commission, two extremist, right wing and xenophobic people and a mother, who came as a refugee but is now fighting for the right of her son, born in The Netherlands, in order for him to obtain Dutch citizenship).

The topic – European citizenship – who is entitled to have/obtain it?

After half an hour for preparing the discourse and arguments, the discussion  started with one representative of each group sitting in a chair, in a circle, simulating a talk-show. As the debate progressed others could intervene and step in for their group by replacing the one sitting in the chair already, with one tap on the shoulder. This added great value to the discussion as all participants had a chance to present their arguments without interference and as part of a team. One the one hand, the exercise contributed to stepping in someone else’s shoes and understanding strategies, if not even discourse and arguments.

We then moved on to watch a video – Don’t Ask Where I’m From, Ask Where I’m a Local | Taiye Selasi | TED Talks

This occasioned us to question and take apart the question of citizenship, of identity and where identity lies and where it forms and how it can be represented and presented to others.

We formed groups and tried to come up with a new concept for identity and belonging – a more evolved, inclusive, emancipated one and this is what came out of the exercise (the most popular was the second one):

Monday 17 October – Project presentations, studio Yalla and Lampedusa boat tour

On Monday we started with the second part of the presentation of the projects from the participants. David did a project to introduce non formal education methodologies into his organization (Doctors of the World). Pascalis, Diana, Simina and Andonis did a cooking project in different countries called “Cooking without borders”, the interviewed the cooks and posted it in the blog (https://cookingwithoutborderssite.wordpress.com/). Federica and Stefania interviewed migrants on the topic of migration and inclusion in Bologna (Italy). Alex did in her organisation in Valencia a project called “Feel, think and act” on teaching non formal methods with youngsters on the topic of participation and additionally she did a training course on how to work with migrant people. Jens and Bela did a migrant course with migrants on social movement.

Afterwards we did a conclusion trying to connect issues and capabilities of the projects.


In the afternoon in two groups we visited an art organization for migrants and did a tour in a Lampedusa boat.

In Studio Yalla (www.studioyalla.nl) we visited Yara, a syrian artist who has a studio there to create art. It’s a special place for people with refugee background giving them the possibility to make art and share space with other artist and have exhibitions together.




The Lampedusa Tour company is called Rederij Lampedusa (http://www.rederijlampedusa.nl/). There “Moe”, a syrian refugee, took us in a former refugee boat trough the canals and he explained us about the history of migration in Amsterdam and his own story how he travelled from Syria to Amsterdam. The boat we were on has been used before by a group of refugees to travel from the coast of North Africa (probably Libya or Egypt) to the island of Sicily, Italy in 2014. This idea already was quite impressive.



Saturday 15 October – Introduction and sensitive terms and concepts

During the first morning of the second training in Amsterdam we had a session on organizational issues and getting to know the new participants. We did some warmup games and got to know the schedule of the week, revised our group rules and wishes and expectations of this second training. It was nice to see everyone again and getting to know some new participants.

Critical reflection on the use of everyday concepts relating to migration & inclusion

In the afternoon we explored sensitive terms related to the concept of migration and inclusion. In small groups we all had to look for sensitive terms in: news papers, cartoons, music, children books, talk shows, Facebook, Twitter and advertising and come up with a contrasting term. It was not very difficult to find sensitive political terms relating to those topics, the term “refugee” for example already embodies a lot of stereotypes and generalizations in itself. It also depends on the context how those words are used and related to negative images or not. The challenge lay in finding contrasting terms, or terms that sounded more neutral. In the Netherlands for example, the term “newcomer” is now often used instead of “refugee”, as a means to exchange the political sensitive term of refugee for a more neutral and apolitical one. But the question is whether this is really changing something, because newcomer still bears a meaning of being an outsider or the “other”.

The small groups came up with very interesting and sometimes shocking newspaper articles, advertisements or children’s books. For example an English advertisement of Paddy Power, on a truck in Calais stating: “Immigrants, jump in the back! (But only if you’re good at sport)”

It was an inspiring session and everyone came up with new things for everyone to learn.