The “Austrians of the Year 2016” gala was held in Vienna on Monday. Nominees in the category “Humanitarian commitment” included our colleague Kathrin Limpel, TUI Austria Manager Corporate Communications. Her association “Fremde werden Freunde” (Strangers become Friends) was one of three award winners in this category.
Everything started in the summer of 2015, at the height of the refugee flows into Europe. “I was shocked, sad and upset to see what was happening on our doorstep. And I no longer wanted to sit and watch things happen,” said Kathrin. At a Caritas meeting, she met some like-minded people, and they founded a neighbourhood initiative which quickly developed into something much bigger. “Our fundamental concept is quite simple. We live in this city and want to be involved in shaping life in this place. Jointly. Together. That is the first step towards integration, which is so important for social peace. We focus less on aid than on encounters as equals,” she said.
“Fremde werden Freunde” in an association to promote social inclusion. People already in Austria and newly arrived people spend time together and jointly get involved in various activities. The concept is simple: Anyone is welcome to join and get involved in “Fremde werden Freunde”. Just once or on a regular basis. People are free to join existing activities or start something new. “As access very easy, a totally new form of voluntary commitment arises – an organisation that is constantly moving, shrinking or growing, that makes some noise or is quiet,” said Limpel. The association works like a network organisation. Its current offerings include German language courses, hiking tours, a choir and a football team, table tennis and chess.