It’s a common mistake that we as a society tend to forget about certain events once they are out of our media radar and close environment. We are passionate about specific things, fight for or against them, invest time and money, discuss and interact for a specific moment in time before moving on. At least, that’s quite often the case with all the horror in the news surrounding us every day.
Je Suis Paris? European Refugee Crisis? Brexit? Trump election? 2016 was packed with way too many horrible things and as I’m writing these lines a genocide is technically happening in Aleppo. But – in quite a cynical way – it’ll be over sometime soon and we’ll move on. The ironic twist here is: these things barely go away over night just because we changed our profile pictures back to the old ones, the media reports about different things and it appears all is fine. Paris is still in a state of emergency, Trump isn’t even active yet, Europe’s society’s are still heavily divided with the old and saturated reactionary forces deciding over a disillusioned youth that often doesn’t stand a chance. And yes, there’s still way too many refugees drowning in the Mediterranean Sea every year, even if it appears that there are less people searching shelter due to that infamous deal the EU made with Turkey.
Nothing seems to be alright and the sheer amount of irrational injustice tends to numb us. But is your influence useless? No, it isn’t and you can make a difference – from the smallest level with the people close to you to the big political level. Just take Jugend Rettet as an example. ‘We managed to save 6.529 lives in only five months,’ tells us Isa, one of the countless voluntary helpers that keep the non-profit association running since 2015. Jugend Rettet is German for ‘Youth safes’ and that’s exactly what they do. They are a young network of over 200 people who are spread all over the EU and who want to become active in protesting against the current EU politics. To put it in simple words: These young people are doing the basic job, our politicians are currently unable to do: saving people in an extreme emergency situation from drowning. That shouldn’t be discussable, right?
‘We think that every human being deserves to be rescued from maritime emergency. As there exists no governmental rescue program we take the responsibility for those rescue missions. All of us, on the ship as well as on land, work on a voluntary basis.’
Activating the potential of a new generation
Jugend Rettet exists for only a little more than a year, born out of an intrinsic motivation to make a difference. It proves that young people aren’t only the ignorant and indifferent generation the media always claims them to be. ‘People support what we’re doing in different ways and got involved in our work one way or another,’ explains Isa. She continues: ‘Some people donated, many of them joined our virtual network via Facebook or Twitter and some, especially young folks, decided to join our network as ambassadors or crew members.’ There is a great sense for injustice and activist potential within this new generation but it’s hard to activate it maybe because it’s too tough to focus in the haze of an ongoing global crisis. ‘As soon as it gets concrete there are a lot of young people who are willing to make a difference,’ confirms Isa. Jugend Rettet shows that these people can have ‘huge political impact through concrete action on the Mediterranean or e.g. in their home cities.’
The technological progress of our society is a helpful ally in the daily work of the non-profit organisation, especially on the direct practical level. ‘Technology is one of the most important things for our rescue missions,’ explains Isa to me. ‘Thanks to radar and radio systems we can find boats in maritime emergency and communicate with other ships and authorities in the field.’ And the other benefits are sensible in the everyday communication.
‘For our political network and the communication with ambassadors we absolutely depend on communication-systems and social media to stay in contact and exchange ideas and information.’
One of the key aspects that young people who’d like to get involved in active political work and activism is the fact that you don’t need to be an expert on all fields. Not everybody is capable of pulling people out of the water on the rescue boats but all your skills are helpful in some form. The core team of Jugend Rettet in Berlin consists of nine young adults. Each of them possesses some distinct competences and prior experience, whether it’s in the fields of PR, IT, or fundraising. Even if you are just a dedicated Snapchat user you will find a place here and help these young folks to spread the message. All team members do their work voluntarily next to their academic studies, their is no financial benefit in it. Maybe that’s another aspect that changed over the years and with a younger generation. The fact that they keep moving the idea forward is the even more respectable then.
When the goal is redundancy …
But this non-profit dedication comes with a lot if unpleasant troubles and daily sacrifices as Isa also explains: ‘As we depend on private donations, getting money for the next mission on the Mediterranean is always a big deal.’ For an organization like Jugend Rettet it’s not just about trying to only save lives but also take political and educational action.
‘The current developments in the EU (right-wing parties are getting stronger all over Europe) and also the role of media are problems we’re facing and fighting at the moment.
And on a private level, we’re all very busy and are sometimes struggling with the responsibility and stress we have. All of us are studying and working while volunteering for Jugend Rettet, so that can get quite stressful sometimes.’
Somehow a case like this showcases everything that goes wrong with our society currently. Interested young people who’d like to make their environment a better place, organize themselves and create new structures are fighting against a giant reactionary system that isn’t that interested in supporting new beliefs. It might sound too dramatic to label it – again – as the big clash of generations but … well, you do the maths. In a better Europe an organisation like Jugend Rettet would be pointless. ‘We don’t want our project to be indispensable but to be redundant,’ explains Isa which goes back to the core of the problem. They saved over 6.500 lives over the past year, this is way more than a lot of politicians did.
‘What keeps all of us going is idealism and a very strong political opinion,’ explains Isa. All the good things that happened keeps them moving but – as she is also willing to confess – ‘especially negative feedback strengthens the wish to proceed.’ Yes, there have been hostile shitstorms but they just show that the work Jugend Rettet does is absolutely necessary. It’s also a fact that the willingness to give money, free time and your personal resources to a non-profit adventure like this isn’t the most hip thing to do right now, especially following the overload back in 2015. But it’s like I said at the beginning: it’s not over and it won’t go away unless we fundamentally change the way we run our system. Today’s victims of Aleppo are likely to become tomorrow’s group of refugees heading to Europe; the deal with Erdogan is as fragile as his understanding of democracy seems to be. And the numbness of the political elite who’s more scared by the populist right-wing movement right now, urges us to get active on a smaller level. But once we all join forces and are willing to help a bit here and there all those small voices become a big one. And that’s when change is possible.
Join the implicitness
Ideas like Jugend Rettet are a starting point for all of this. You can support them by joining the organization as an ambassador which means that you would promote Jugend Rettet locally, inform people about what we do and also collect donations. Aside from that you can also
- Donate directly
- Buy their sweet beautiful shirts and zippers
- See how you can contribute in other form
There are countless other way to make a change. This year’s #HelpDontHate fundraiser of NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASISON office-space in Berlin, the Blogfabrik, raises money for a few other organizations aside of Jugend Rettet. Feel happily invited to invest a bit of your time and Christmas money directly here and spread the word as well, obviously. Yes, 2016 was a hard year, not just for BOWIE and PRINCE fans. And there’s a high chance that 2017 will also be a tough one but it’s not like we just have to sit and wait until our world gets a better place by magic. We all make our own luck and by personally asking yourself how to achieve that we might actually make 2017 a better year.