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Increasing personal networks and friendships between Americans and Germans

Since the Atlantic Review is dedicated to improving transatlantic relations, we are increasing awareness of small grassroots organisations that promote mutual understanding between Americans and Germans on the people-to-people level. We have already introduced the Oregon Alumni Association.
Now were are presenting the recently established PPP Alumni e.V. of former participants of Bundestag-Congress exchange program. This association's chair Susan Waldow wrote the following introduction:
The Parlamentarisches Patenschafts-Programm (PPP)  already exists since 1983. There are more than 2.000 Germans who had the opportunity to participate in the great adventure of getting to know the USA with the scholarship given by the German Bundestag and the U.S. Congress.
The participants not only get to know Americans but also other scholars of the program from all over Germany. But - the USA being such a large country - the participants usually lose track of their folks once they are abroad. That is probably not a bad thing, since the main goal of the PPP is to be acquainted with American people. However, back in Germany everybody wants to share their experience. Apart from telling friends and family, it is interesting to talk to people who were in the same country but in another state or even in the same place but 10 years ago or a few years later. Isn`t it interesting to learn about other host family stories, different car buying or selling problems and solutions? All those hopefully happy-ending-stories are destined to be shared with other participants!
Since the PPP hadn't had an alumni association yet, it was difficult to get in contact with exactly these other participants. At the beginning of last year a dozen former PPP  participants were motivated by InWEnt to found such an organization. Finally, in October 2005 one hundred former participants were invited to the Kick-off meeting in Cologne. The foundation-meeting was supported by the American Embassy, whose Alumni Coordinator Mrs. Schilling-Mühl held a speech emphasizing the importance of alumni associations and hence ensuring their support.

A main goal of the association is to establish a network of the participants, so that the sustainability of the program can be guaranteed and furthermore the U.S.-German relations can be supported. Already seven regional groups had their first meetings, which were attended by numerous former German and American participants. Another aim is to integrate the Americans of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange, which is the equivalent program on the American side. Therefore, they will receive a free membership during their stay and support for their job-search.
The future website of the association will function as a platform for the nationwide activities, one can soon find information about the association itself, dates of events, names of the contact persons for the regional meetings and a special members section. Besides one big annual reunion there are planned to be workshops and cultural events within the regional groups. The first meetings already showed great approval of the idea and many motivated people are involved to make this new adventure a successful one. After all, the experiences of each individual participant are unforgettable and therefore should be commemorated once in a while in an appropriate surrounding.

Endnote: The TransatlanTicker has more information about the PPP exchange program.


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