by Michael McGee
One by one we began to arrive at the Hotel 4 Youth on Bernauer Strasse. Some of us, like myself and the other program coordinators, arrived after only a short tram or bike ride across the city, while others like Shahid and Suhani, two of the first participants I met, arrived after long flights from New York and India. No matter our point of origin, the end destination of Berlin, Germany was the same for all of us, and our numbers slowly grew from 2 to 4, to 6, to the day’s eventual total of 11. Regardless of whether we arrived fresh or weary after hours of travel, there was an unmistakable excitement in the air that only the intermingling of cultures can bring. New friends were to be made, ideas were to be exchanged, and I could feel that great things were going to be accomplished.
After checking into our rooms amid the ongoing construction and finishing touches to our accommodations, we sat down for our first meeting together as participants of Recrear.beta. And, as with all program openings, we took turns sharing our backgrounds and what it was that attracted us to participate in the program. I found myself marveling at how international many of us indeed were: an American living in Berlin, an Italian studying in the US and only a few weeks away from beginning her Masters in the UK, a Pakistani studying in Sweden yet interning with the UN in New York City, an Indian studying journalism in Hong Kong, and a Mexican working on her Ph.D. in the England. Yet despite our diverse cultural, social, and personal backgrounds, one thing united all of us: our desire for social change, and the eagerness to enact it ourselves with the hope of realizing our own visions for the future.
However, before we could truly begin to lay the groundwork for our organization, as we were all eager to do, our first speaker directed the conversation in a more immediate and practical direction. Dr. Peter Tinnemann, Coordinator of International Health Sciences at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and a former employee of Doctors Without Borders, spoke to us regarding the basics of non-governmental organizations and what sets them apart from other types of businesses, governments, or even other civil society organizations. His presentation was certainly enlightening and gave us a good sense of which form our organization should take. However, I found that the most important and inspirational part of his presentation came at the end. In Dr. Tinnemann’s parting words, he advised us to do only what we have a passion for: otherwise, we wouldn’t be an inspiration to others. I could feel the slight chill of excitement run down my spine and arms, and I thought I could sense it among the others sitting around me as well. As I sat there contemplating the program to come and my new friends, I realized we were really putting our dreams into praxis!