Dennis joins the IPC Family

My name is Dennis Lange, and I am from Berlin – Germany. Gabrielle, another ESC volunteer, and I were volunteering for the Human Rights Café in the Autumn Term of 2020, at the International People’s College in Helsingør – Denmark. Despite a myriad of challenges and restrictions due to the ongoing Corona pandemic, we really feel that we managed to create an amazing space for the students of IPC to experience what the Human Rights Café and our European Solidarity Corps’ project had to offer. With the following words I would like to share my experience with you.

I had various reasons why I wanted to be a part of the IPC community and start my ESC project at the Human Rights Café. I was obviously looking forward to experience Denmark and the Danes, yet furthermore I hoped that by being at an international Folk High School, I would be able to seek out intercultural learning experiences and build strong international friendships with people from around the world. I was searching for a project with practical, hands-on tasks and challenges, but also a place to realise my own projects and ideas. And guess what? – I totally found that at IPC.

My volunteering experience started off fantastically, I had just finished my last exam at my home university in Berlin and on the following day I was already on the train to the beautiful city of Helsingør. I was greeted very warmly and cheerfully at my arrival, so I felt right at home. During the first few weeks I was able to participate in the English Summer Course activities and get to know IPC better. I got to know the previous volunteers and I was introduced to the Human Rights Café.

From then on, time just seemed to fly by, and you know what they say about time and fun. My days were filled with amazing talks and adventures that I shared with both students and colleagues. However my days also embodied that volunteering experience, I wished for, with plenty of practical experience, for example: helping out the kitchen staff by setting up lunch and dinner; regularly working at the reception to answer questions and help the students with their daily life at IPC; being in charge of the light and sound during Cultural Evenings and other events; as well as welcoming the students of our term and guiding them to their rooms while already getting to know them a little bit.

As one of our first activities within the Human Rights Café, Gabrielle and I gathered some beautiful art from previous students and some nice household goods from the nearby second hand store to decorate and design the HRC in a new way. In addition, we saved a pretty Gingko tree from the ongoing construction of the new buildings and replanted it in front of the Café. Hopefully it will survive and flourish for years to come! It was rewarding to put our stamp on the Café both for our time when this would be the place we call home, but hopefully also for the future.

Besides all our projects and activities we regularly opened the HRC with freshly baked goods and some delicious drinks. In order for the students to enjoy their cakes and drinks, one of my tasks was to shop the required groceries and take care of the accounting for the HRC. During our time in the Café we managed to buy all our groceries with the money we earned, meaning that we were subsequently able to donate 5.200 DKK to Friends of IPC. This organisation provides scholarships for future students who would otherwise be unable to afford a semester at IPC. This achievement made me really proud and I am grateful for all the support we got from our students to reach this milestone. Our handwork will contribute to one of the schools core values of diversity, meaning that students from an even greater diversity of economic and geographic background can attend the school and have some of the experience we were blessed to have.

In addition to all these different tasks and activities, I regularly opened up the Human Rights Café to host my weekly Game Nights. On these nights I invited interested students to get to know some new board games, play some favourites and just generally have some fun together. I believe that the students vastly enjoyed the atmosphere and the variety of board games the HRC was able to provide. I would also like to express gratitude for the kind support of Ângelo – the master of board games, who helped provide some inspiration and resources for these evenings. An event, which I really enjoyed hosting, together with my good friend Waka, and with the assistance and energy of a big group of Japanese students, was a Japanese Cherry Blossom Tea Party. We created a real Japanese tea with the cherry blossoms from Waka‘s friends and let the students write their own name in Kanji, this really piqued the interest of the rest of the student body.

Although all of these activities, and many more, were a great opportunity for me to get to know the students better and furthermore train my organisational and executive skills, I am most proud of the planning, implementation and reflection space I created for our visit to Nørrebro Pride in Copenhagen. With the support from Felicity, an amazing teacher at the school, I was able to inform the students about the upcoming Pride Parade; it’s political statements, goals and values, and how this diverged and challenged mainstream pride events. After my presentation at Morning Fellowship some students joined me in a “Creative Sign Workshop”, where they could paint some statements on signs to show their respect and alliance during the parade. Afterwards the students joined the Pride demonstration and supported the queer community in Nørrebro.

For many students it was their first Pride event ever, and they were impressed by it, whilst having questions and feelings that were unusual and perhaps difficult to digest alone. In light of this, Felicity and I organised a reflection space, where we talked about our thoughts and learning experiences during this day. I believe that this visit had a profound and important impact on our self-awareness, and opened many eyes to see the issues that the queer community, and especially BIPOC and TRANS people, have to face.

Inspired by my work with the Nørrebro Pride Parade I joined a Global Queer Volunteer group (LGBT+ Denmark) in Copenhagen to support them in their 16 Days of Activism online. We worked together and published videos emphasising and explaining issues of gender-based violence and other potential queer-related issues. Last but not least, I held a presentation about Human Rights at one of our Wednesday Fellowships. Afterwards the students were tested on their knowledge about Human Rights related topics in a quiz. Finally, I let them choose their favourite Human Rights Posters from the 70th anniversary of the Human Rights in 2018. These are now exhibited in the corridor leading to the Human Rights Café.

After this intense and enriching experience at IPC I would like to thank my amazingly kind and helpful colleagues and students for supporting me along the way. I especially want to thank Bogna and Adriana for letting me join this creative and meaningful project and for giving me this great and enhancing opportunity to volunteer in the Human Rights Café. I am grateful for the chance to have realised my own projects and ideas independently. Thank you for this amazing time and a great learning experience.

IPC, the journey.

 

viaje photo

I still have in my mind the image of the first time I stepped on the IPC, Christmas was over and it was a cold winter afternoon ❄, but without ice, which contrasted with the warmth of family moments lived in the previous dates.

Full of expectations, fears, doubts, questions, illuions, energy … I took the bus from Asturias to Madrid, I took a plane ✈ to Alborg with a stop in Amsterdam, I think it was there, when I ran the fastest 200 meters ⚡ of my life, a delay ⌛ in the connecting flight was responsible for this speed test.

Finally, I was able to board without problems, although with my heart at 200 bpm, it didn’t matter, I was on the road and as the song says “You don’t have to get there first, but you have to know how to get there.” I boarded the first train 🚆 leaving for Aarhus, I had to pick up a suitcase 🧳 to later continue my ro

 

ute to Copenaghe and finish my trip in Elsinor.

In my head, I had all the steps of the road clear, however, as in any trip and despite the Amsterdam sprint, destiny wanted me to live new adventures on this journey.

Once the suitcase is collected, I head to the Aarhus bus station, what a surprise to see that the bus station  was under construction …! The stops were provisionally located in another part of the city, as time was running⏰, I was forced to take a taxi🚖, we had a few minutes to get to thebus on time, luckily for me, I met the most empathetic Turkish taxi driver, fast and adrenaline-loving from all over Denmark. Far from being intimidated, given the short time available to reach the destination, he carry the suicase and stepped on the accelerator, along with a couple of maneuvers of doubful legality and a speed according to the situation, we come forward at the bus stop, literally, because the taxi driver parked the taxi in front of the bus to block the exit, with a smile he said to me, “Don’t worry, you can put your bags down and pay me with calm, the bus will not move. I assure you 😉 ’’

Now yes, I was on my way to Copenaghe, I use the bus trip to make friends, because in five hours, we had time. Upon arrival at the destination, I boarded a train again for Helsingor. There Adriana and Claus were waiting for me who kindly picked me up at the station 🚉 … Soon I will continue telling you about this adventure.

IPC, the decision 🧭

decision

Bogna explained to me that they had a volunteer that a couple of weeks before the project started, they had to cancel for personal reasons and that it was an emergency call, I left there with the feeling of “what a more social person I like the environment”

And at the same time with a great question and if it is not my site?, what if I tell you that I am PAS? And if they judge me and tell me  it is like this. If they put labels on me? What if it is a place where when living in the same workplace, I do not have time to internalize all the emotions that due to my highly developed empathy, I process in depth.

Decide and commit to your decision:

I am going to send to my tutor a video about HSP if it is my site and it is a really open person, she is going to read it and she is going to accept it and if it is a problem and she tell me that I do not fit so  I decide not to accept it is neither the site neither the people with whom I want to work .

I asked to speak to my tutor a person that my intuition told me that I could be open  and after a long phone call, I said yes, I start and I take it as an opportunity to ACCEPT this trait to find tools like going to my room and enjoying my solitude after a day of work surrounded by many people, that is to say self-regulating.

Try, try try and Live, live, live.