The Responsibility of the Eritrean Youth in the Diaspora – Biniam Kiflai

Eritrean news interview:
Biniam Kiflai devotes most of his time trying to improve the life of Eritrean migrant communities in Germany. He believes that our communities need to learn to address unpleasant issues such as drug problems, violence and anti-social behaviour of young Eritreans to prevent existential threats to family values, culture and tradition. Parents as well as their kids require education and individuals who are willing to take on leading role models to motivate and inspire others. Biniam Kfilai is one of the role models helping families to deal with problems of youngsters.
Q: We are glad to see an Eritrean being able to join a high level delegation of politicians on issues of youth violence and education.

A: Thank you!

Q: Tell us about you and who you are?
A: My name is Biniam Kiflai and I was born in Hanover, Germany. I am a state certified paramedic. Currently, I work as an instructor and train people in for first aid, emergency child care first aid & CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), immediate life-saving measures, automatic external defibrillation, surgical emergencies, etc. Soon, I am going to begin my studies to become a doctor in humane medicine at at the Medical University of Hannover.

If time allows, I also work on a voluntary basis in the medical service i.e. ambulance, mobile intensive care unit. I am also engaged as a volunteer in the programme “First aiders of tomorrow”. Additionally, I am a member of Hearthelp.

I am also a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). Furthermore, I am an appointee on integration of the Eritrean youth into German society. In this function I hold presentations on topics as problems of identity, cultural exchange, education, motivation, juvenile delinquency, drugs, diseases, prevention teachings, etc.. I have participated in the international integration summit.

Biniam and German Social Democrats (SPD)

Q: How did you become one of the hosts of the discussion with senior members of the German Parliament?
A: As already mentioned, I am an active member of SPD. I am an advisory/ consulting member of the SPD’s Committee for Migration in the city of Hanover. Among other tasks, I am engaged to represent the interests of young migrants to make their situation known to the public as well as improving their situation. For young Eritreans living abroad it is exceptionally important to be politically involved in the countries they live in. It helps to address our interests and to represent Eritrea positively in the respective host societies.

Out of my position, organisers in our party asked me to participate in this discussion. It is crucial to involve everybody who is part of German society. Germany is an immigration country, approximately seven million migrants live in Germany, therefore it is recommended to discuss with all representatives of this society. I believe it is not right to make decisions without consulting one party. All parties have to be involved in the decision-making process. Therefore, I have represented the interests of young migrants to present posible solution. A successful integration into German society is an important topic in Germany and crucial for a peaceful and respectful life together. I, as an Eritrean, am happy to play my part in it.

Q: What was the exact purpose of the forum?
A: More than 180 interested people from associations, institutes as well as elected representatives on all levels of government came to the Gustav-Radbruch-Forum in Laatzen to discuss with experts how juvenile delinquency evolves and how it can be prevented in advance.

Speakers: Biniam Kiflai /Ulrike Meyer-Timpe (Author) / Dr. Matthias Miersch (Member of the Bundestag; SPD-Chairman of the subdistrict Region Hanover)/ Prof. Dr. Christian Pfeiffer (Director Kriminologischen Forschungsinstituts Niedersachsen – criminological research institute).

Hearthelp Eritrea

Q: What is your profession and how would you describe its relevance regarding your role during the discussion?
A: For me, it was important to change the perspectives, change the angle. Many Germans do not know how migrants live in Germany and to what extent they feel integrated into German society. For many migrants it is true that their process of integration must improve, therefore it is necessary to further support empathy between the cultures. My part was to present alternatives and possible solutions that can improve the dialogue between the different cultures.

Q: Tell us about your social projects for Eritrea and for the Eritrean society in Germany?
A: I am a member of the association Hearthelp Hannover. Hearthelp was founded in 2008 in Hanover by doctors, nurses and other supporters with the goal to provide long-term help and support for Africa.

The Medizinische Hochschule Hannover supports us in our efforts. We provide medical health care through surgeries conducted at regular intervals in Eritrea, as well as establishing long-term, stable structures which eventually leads to an autonomous functioning modern heart surgery practice. These are the goals we wish to accomplish.

Currently, we are conducting such a development project in Asmara. Unfortunately, almost in no African country we can find the possibility to provide heart surgery for adult patients. Only few patients can undergo a surgery, which reasons in disproportional high expenses and efforts. There are a large number of patients, often young mothers or fathers who suffer severe heart diseases because of an infection or other related problems. If these patients remain untreated, they have to die in the prime of their lives and their families remain unprovided.

In addition to volunteer work done by Germans and the long-term interest and efforts by Eritreans it is necessary to attract donators to our project. Without these people our support for Africa would not be feasible. Our goal for the future is an independent, autonomous Eritrean heart surgery. The patients successfully underwent a surgery, and can now live their lives free of symptoms. There we would like to cordially thank all donators, partners and sponsors for their constant support.

Pictures of successful surgeries:

Q: How would you describe the level of education amongst young Eritreans in the Diaspora?
A: It is admirable how many young Eritreans are successful in pursuing their education, may it be as a student or an apprentice. Obtaining a degree abroad has to be valued as it is not easy. The families are very motivated to make their offspring aware of how important education is. At the moment, many adolescents are establishing networks to support each other at the currently difficult labour market.

Seminar in Hannover

Q: Many young Eritreans in the Diaspora can neither read nor write in Tigrinya. Do you think it will impact their cultural ties with Eritrea?
A: Of course, language is the key to society. It is inevitable to at least acquire the basics. Here in the Diaspora there are deficits which have to be worked on. Regarding this, especially the parents are required to share their knowledge and capabilities with the younger generations, helping them to establish a solid basis.

But not only the language has to be imparted, cultural, traditional and religious values have to be considered as well. However, this is not only up to the parents. Every Eritrean if old or young has to play his or her part.

Q: We have been living for many years abroad and still no day passes without Eritrea in our mind. How do you explain this phenomenon?
A: Even though we have all been raised in two different cultures – Eritrean at home, German in the public sphere – we know about our virtues and appreciate values such as solidarity, loyalty und our Eritrean family-oriented culture. Our large families and associations provide us with a warm and cozy feeling that bonds us with our home Eritrea.

Q: Would you say Eritreans are very adaptable people in the Diaspora? What are you doing to support the Eritrean youth?
A: The conservative Eritrean culture is in direct opposition toward the Western and European culture. The conflict of finding oneself or shaping one’s identity is based on the encounter of two opposing cultures, which could not be more different. A crash of two different cultures in the minds of the youth!

Therefore I have started holding seminars regarding these topics since 2007 in various German cities as Gießen, Cologne, Offenbach, Kassel, Frankfurt, Tübingen, Hannover, Stuttgart etc.

(picture gallery : )

In these seminars, I point out that youth work has to be intensified. Imparting language skills, culture, tradition and knowledge about history has to be improved. The adolescents need network more in Germany and internationally, to support each other more effective. Parents and adolescents have to improve their communication and co-operation to keep a stable bond to Eritrea. Furthermore, voluntary internship supporting aid projects of young Eritreans have to be more encouraged.

I started an anti cigarette, alcohol and drug (narcotics) campaign which provides educational work for young people and of course, the danger of consumption is clearly addressed. Since then a new youth movement has started to evolve in Germany. Many eager Eritreans, who have already been active in the past, establish new networks, associations and aid organisations for Eritrea. The dialogue between the generations is getting better at the moment.

Seminar Tuebingen

Q: Do you have any future goals?
A: For me it is important not to combine the easiest but the best and most valuable properties of the German and the Eritrean culture. Eritrea needs a strong face abroad.

The purpose of this forum is to establish a network in which Eritrean and all other interested people:

Establish contacts, exchange, mutual encourage and motivate each other to use our individual talents, characteristics, acquired knowledge efficiently to support Eritrea. The goal is independent goal-oriented development of projects.

Possible areas are:

Medical care, activities for the advancement of training and other educational institutions, financial support / donations, sponsorships, investments in renewable energies / infrastructure / innovative technologies / engineering etc.

Everybody who wants to make a positive contribution to support the Eritrean community is hearty welcomed. Providing a basis to inspire and waken the personal sense of responsibility is the goal of my presentations: Warning against well-known dangers and cultural constraints (drugs, diseases, delinquency, etc.).

Improving the relationship between parents and adolescences through mutual understanding of a different socialization (generational conflict). Cultivating a strong youth, who is able to integrate successfully into German society and into the labour market. Improving the Eritrean self-confidence, which can be identified and which maintains the culture and tradition to be passed on to the next generations.

Establishing a relation to the homeland and a responsible support of Eritrea (investments, promoting educational institutions, innovative technologies, awareness training, etc.) as well. With regard to the war’s victims and their contribution to the independence of Eritrea, the appreciation of these victims is the personal responsibility of parents and youth alike.

I look positively into the future, because I know that we are strong people and a strong nation and we will master all challenges in the Diaspora.

Thank you Biniam,

You are welcome.

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