The green café 'Frix', in the grounds of the Hector-Peterson-Schule in the Berlin-Kreuzberg district, has been put up with support of the joint King Baudouin Foundation-Timberland scheme MyPlaygreen. The youth art school FRI-X-BERG has long offered courses and projects geared towards children and young people between the ages of 4 and 25.
The school is in Kreuzberg, an extremely disadvantaged area of Berlin. Over 80% of the district's children and young people come from families reliant on state benefits.
A socially deprived area
In Kreuzberg, people rarely leave their neighbourhood. Socially, children and young people are sealed off within their community. Housed in an annex of the Hector-Peterson-Schule, FRI-X-BERG gives these young people the chance to get away from the bleak everyday life and gain a new zest for life through active art like painting, photography, screen printing, dance, music and other performances. "Our activities are broadly welcomed and get great feedback. We are open to everyone and anyone who is interested in art in all its forms and offer new ways to express the creativity within us all," explains David Reuter, the head of FRI-X-BERG. Aside from fostering creativity and potentially showcasing new perspectives, these workshops are an easy way for social workers to make contact with people and better grasp their problems so that they can find targeted solutions.
With Timberland's help, the green café recently opened its doors and will help bring together various generations, cultures and social classes. The garden was created by and with children and young people. This is a place where there are no barriers or prejudices and where nature can be experienced to the full. "The café has quickly become somewhere where different worlds meet and learn to respect each other," explains David. This new 'nature you can touch' initiative in the centre of a major city is a new experience, indeed a completely new world, for most people and sometimes even whets their appetite for more. In the first phase of the project, the area was filled with humus soil, and berries, hydrangeas and flowers were planted along with a lawn of wild herbs as part of a WAT course revolving around economics, work and technology. In the second phase, grow bags and potato sacks were installed and filled with herbs and fruit to snack on. The children and young people took over responsibility for these plants, which was a fun way to get them used to nature and conservation.
Snacking on your own fruit
"The outdoor grow bags are an open 'snack garden' accessible to everyone. We have achieved our goal, to create something that appeals to all ages. We are extremely proud, as we hope that this will be an effective means of ensuring the sustainability and longevity of our project," continues David. In a third project phase, the school wall will be embellished with plantable ceramic tiles with their own irrigation system. In addition to creating a garden, those behind the project set great store by personal initiative and shared responsibility. "The project will only be a success in the medium and long term, with people pursuing a hobby together without any social inhibitions, if they support this project and get involved. I believe we have already made great strides in this direction and have turned an underused, 400-m² site into a green jewel," says David. The initiative also aims to get people to work together to grow their own vegetables and properly value what are literally the fruits of their labour.
Gaining a new appreciation of nature
"Participants single-handedly put together the beds, raised beds, hanging baskets and everything in between. They are all proud of what they have achieved and created, and this helps ensure a good harvest." This is an exciting autumn, as it marks the initiative's first potato, tomato and fruit harvest. There are also plans to set up a mobile café with a water supply, refrigerator and a small counter to sell coffee and other drinks to the hard-working gardeners.
"We are really happy, as the project has already made great strides and other interested parties have joined in. This involvement and acceptance is absolutely vital for this kind of social project. For example, we work closely with a beekeeper who allows us to use a beehive to ensure that our plants and trees are properly pollinated. The children and young people can then casually immerse themselves in the fascinating world of beekeeping and eat locally produced honey from the comb," continues David.
This growing understanding has also resulted in a marked change in the way the area is treated: "In the past, the site was often misused as a rubbish dump where all manner of things were chucked away and so it was covered in packaging, bottles and other rubbish. Now all of a sudden, visitors are paying more attention to its upkeep. Respect for nature has returned," says the head of FRI-X-BERG. This means that the project is right on track. "We had actually expected it to take five years before we achieved some level of sustainability. The fact that this is happening much sooner is all the better and testifies to the growing interest in this initiative."
The aid received from the King Baudouin Foundation and Timberland to launch the project has already attracted other partners. "Parents, the school's management and the city are fully behind the project, so we are very optimistic about the future. There are also plans for the Charlotte-Salomon-Grundschule to hold lessons in 'green classrooms' in the garden. Our garden is now both a place where children and young people can hang out and a meeting point for the whole neighbourhood," says David.
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