Nora Ellerbrock is a project coordinator for Youth Network Lambda, working with LGBTIQ* youth in Germany. They took part in the professional exchanges as well as in the conference of the project “Living Diversity”. We talked with them about their work, the institution Lambda and their experience with our project “Living Diversity”.
Nora, what was your motivation to participate in this program?
Lambda e.V. has been active in the field of German-Israeli youth exchange for many years. The educational journey for German lesbian, gay, bi, transgender and queer youth to Israeli is an integral part of Lambda’s program. Also, there already exists a well-established cooperation between Lamdba e.V. and Israeli Gay Youth in Tel Aviv as well as a cooperation between Lambda e.V. and Jerusalem Open House of Pride and Tolerance.
I only recently learned about the project “Living Diversity in Germany and Israel” and in my position as project coordinator at Lambda e.V. I wanted to participate in the German-Israeli professional exchange program. Working at an organization that is active in the field of diversity-conscious youth education, I am always eager to engage in a professional discourse that aims at advancing educational strategies. I am also very interested in intensifying cooperation and exchange with similar organizations, especially Israeli organizations. As already mentioned, Lambda e.V. has a history in engaging in German-Israeli youth exchange, however I personally have so far never had the opportunity to facilitate one myself. The professional exchange program provided not only the opportunity to me to learn more about Israel in general but also to gain insight into Israeli diversity-conscious education, both in theory and in practice.
In my opinion Lambda e.V. qualifies to be part of the German-Israeli network of organizations who wish to increase the awareness of the existing diversity and I would love to see Lambda e.V., with me as a representative, becoming an active and contributing part of the project “Living Diversity in Germany and Israel”.
What are the key aspects and focus points of the activities in your institution?
Lambda e.V. is a network organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth. Lambda e.V. advocates a society without discrimination, demands equality in opportunities for everyone and actively works on achieving those goals. Main activities of Lambda e.V. can be located in the fields of counselling, community building, (diversity) education, international youth exchange programs and representation of the interests of LGBTQ youth in society and politics. Lambda e.V. reaches out to (young) individuals who are marginalized and works on empowering those who have been rendered powerless by stigma and other strategies of social exclusion.
One prioritized activity of Lambda e.V. is the German-Israeli youth exchange. The educational journey for German LGBTQ Youth provides the opportunity to the participants to get to know Israel, learn about past and current German-Israeli relations, commemorating the Holocaust and also to learn about the LGBTQ community in Israel. The bi-directional exchange perspective is a key aspect of that project: German LGBTQ youth – and (young) Israeli LGBTQ people get the chance to meet, get to know each other and hence experience similarities as well as differences.
Are there specific youth cultures that are represented in the work of your institution?
LGBTQ youth, being a specifically vulnerable group in society, are the main target group of Lambda e.V.
We are aware that every young person growing up anything else than cisgender and/or heterosexual will experience some kind of social and/or emotional stress (such as rejection, exclusion, isolation, violence) at least at one point in their life as society is centred around the needs and values of heterosexual cisgender people. Therefore, Lambda aims to encompass and address the whole variety of sexual orientations and gender identities.
For more than 25 years Lambda e.V. has been providing safe spaces for LGBTQ youth to support them in the process of identity formation and to help them raising their self-confidence and overall well-being. We try to provide an environment that is discrimination-free to our participants in order to enable them to make positive experiences that will help them develop a positive image of oneself and also skills to cope in a society that often neglects their needs.
Lambda e.V. encourages LGBTQ youth to advocate for their own needs in their personal social surrounding as well as in society in general and assists LGBTQ youth in working on making society a better place, where diversity is appreciated and not antagonized. Lambda e.V. encourages young people to participate in the possibilities a democratic society provides to make an impact – as an individual, group or community.
Which role does diversity play in your institution or field of work (among others: cultural; religious; ethnic; social; sexual; physical and mental diversity)?
Having LGBTQ youth as the main target group, Lambda e.V. still aims at being as diversity-conscious and inclusive as possible. Lambda e.V. employs an intersectional perspective on any activity and takes into account different cultural, religious, ethnic and social backgrounds as well as physical and mental abilities of possible participants when planning and carrying out a project. We take into account that people might face multiple discrimination, e.g. because of sexual identity and religion. One focus of our activities is to create opportunities of interpersonal exchange so people learn about different experiences and perspectives regarding diversity and discrimination.
When designing, planning and advertising projects we put an extra focus on physical and mental ability because often LGBTQ community, places, activities and groups are not accessible for LGBTQ people who also happen to be handicapped. We are working on making that change.
What do you consider as possible challenges for the implementation of diversity education in Germany and/or Israel?
Norms can be understood as social (invisible) rules. If you are part of the norm, you usually don’t reflect upon it. Also the stronger a social norm is, the harder it is to notice. Diversity education and anti-discrimination works aims at challenging some of the strongest norms in society, such as the gender-binary for example. Whenever something is challenged, there is resistance as well because people tend to feel personally affected when something they believed to be normal, natural and the way “things have to be” is about to change. This phenomenon occurs in every society, not only but also in Germany and Israel, as society consists of shared norms and values. Implementing and carrying out diversity education therefore always has to be extremely context-sensitive and respectful of the participant’s experiences, values and needs in order to be effective.
More about Youth Network Lambda e.V. on www.lambda-online.de