The German and Turkish Youth Bridge intends to intensify youth exchange between Germany and Turkey while improving the possibilities of this bilateral exchange with specific projects under the same roof by acting as a central application point for student exchanges between the two countries. The initiative provides funding to third parties in line with transparency criteria. By pursuing an innovative approach to create opportunities for new target groups, the Youth Bridge finances exchange programs and other related activities to foster a better understanding between the two countries. The official website provides detailed information about the exchange programs in German and Turkish. Interested institutions can find the website to either advertise their projects or apply for funds. Young people and students can also search for suitable exchange programs. Daily Sabah conducted an interview with Catharina Dufft, Managing Director of German-Turkish Youth Bridge, the German private foundation that partners with TOG (Community Volunteers Foundation) on this project.
Daily Sabah: What is the link between the two cultures?
Catharina Dufft: There is a traditional deep friendship between the two countries, in addition to strong bonds, especially with regard to economy and culture. Turkey and Germany have been growing increasingly closer in these terms. In the wake of these developments, it is becoming more and more important to bring Turkey's and Germany's youth together. That is why we are pooling already existing initiatives in this field and will improve the basis for the German-Turkish student and youth exchange with additional targeted measures. Our objective is to allow young people to get to know the other country and understand each other. We will expand mutual understanding between Turkey and Germany. I would like to outline that the German-Turkish Youth Bridge stands for the understanding and friendship between both countries. These friendships and closeness offer a high potential in many areas to allow for a more intensive student and youth exchange, which is associated with the strengthening of the relationship between Turkey and Germany. The Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoğlu has said in his greeting message on the occasion of the official opening of the Youth Bridge that he is convinced that thanks to the German-Turkish Youth Bridge, intense relations and friendships between the young generations will arise and that these will bring versatile and bilateral relations between Turkish and German people forward."
DS: How do you think young people will benefit from this initiative?
CD: "Scientific research shows that international youth exchanges have positive effects on young people. For example, it enables getting to know each other and the other country in a better way, learning from each other, developing emphasis, learning a new language, developing one's own personality, overcoming prejudices, improving sensitivity to diversity and also on taking part in volunteer services. Hence, there are a lot of individual benefits, but also benefits for both societies in terms of a more tolerant youth, helping to create a common future in Europe together."
DS: What are the actual opportunities you will be offering?
CD: "The German-Turkish Youth Bridge is acting as a central contact point with regards to the student and youth exchange between Turkey and Germany for all actors in this field. Moreover, for all those who are interested in bilateral exchange - for example, students and young people, trainees, university students, teachers, international youth work professionals and parents. We are promoting, informing, advising, networking and qualifying all interested parties and all actors of the German-Turkish student and youth exchange. The Youth Bridge provides lowthreshold funding for third party projects and finances its own exchange and encounters measures. We have two program offices in Turkey and Germany. Our Program Office Turkey is based in Istanbul, on the premises of our host, Toplum Gönüllüleri Vakfı, and our bilingual website offers relevant information about the student and youth exchange. Institutions may network via our online database and apply for projects and funding. Young people and those who are interested can find exchange programs on this site, too. The Youth Bridge also enables a targeted advocacy and improves the visibility of the German-Turkish exchange."
DS: How will the project help to introduce the two different cultures to each other?
CD: "By intensifying the student and youth exchange between Turkey and Germany, more young people will have the chance to meet students and young people from the other country. They will have the opportunity to get to know each other, the other country and its culture in a better way. They will take part in exchange projects where they can work together on different issues and topics and will also share everyday life together.
Additionally, they will find insights into a new type of family life or school. This means that they can form their very own and authentic experiences, which allow them to learn from each other and have deeper insights regarding the countries' culture they are visiting, which will develop mutual understanding."
DS: Will there be any cultural or arts projects funded or will it remain mostly around education?
CD: "We will fund all fields. Hence, there will also be projects concerning culture and the arts. Last year we implemented a best practice hip-hop exchange format, called "Youth Cultures Exchange between Germany and Turkey" in the cities Istanbul and Cologne. It was very impressive to see the results of this two-week encounter, where 23 young artists got together - most of them participated in an international youth exchange program for the first time - and worked on a dance performance with a concert, which was then performed in front of a big audience in Cologne. There are so many opportunities and such high potential to bring young people from Turkey and Germany together. It is our goal to strengthen them."