INNOVATING TOGETHER The stories that make us Freudenberg
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1. FC Köln and „Wir zusammen“ welcome Angela Merkel and Freudenberg

When Germany’s Bundesliga football clubs 1. FC Köln and Eintracht Frankfurt played in the RheinEnergieSTADION on April 4, it was no ordinary soccer match. This national league encounter stood as a symbol of refugee integration. The soccer association and the refugee aid initiative of German business We together invited refugees and employees of partner companies from all over Germany to watch the game. German Chancellor and soccer fan Angela Merkel was also in attendance.

Seven of the 200 honorary guests traveled from Weinheim: Assadullah Rassuli, Mohamad Ayham Bargouth, Abdul Rahaman Skaf and Adnan Abdullah were in a football stadium the first time in their lives and were impressed by the atmosphere. “Amazing! This is something quite different from watching a game on TV”, said Bargout, who attends the Dietrich-Bonhoeffer-Schule in Weinheim. The 17-year-old wants to be a policeman and is currently training for his sports badge to this end. He jumps excitedly out of his seat as Cologne player Milos Jojic scores the game?s first goal in the 53rd minute.

Rassuli also celebrates, although he remains seated. He was hit by shrapnel during an attack in his Afghanistan homeland. Since then, the 25-year-old has been carrying injuries to his leg and upper body. A leg splint improves his situation, but he finds walking difficult. ?I want to become an orthopedics mechanic and help other people with physical problems?, Rassuli explained. Ditmar Flothmann nods in agreement. Formerly Managing Director of Freudenberg Service, he is one of three people accompanying the trip.

Flothmann has been helping young people to start their careers since 2000 and has seen an increasing number of trainees with an immigrant background since October 2015. “Our goal is to enable refugees to enter the labor market ? whether as apprentices, skilled or unskilled workers is initially of secondary importance”, he explained. “What is important is that everyone finds a job that suits him, because the path into the labor market promotes integration. What I personally find particularly important is that a fulfilling profession creates self-confidence and allows people to take control of their lives.” He supported Abdullah from Togo in his search for a job. The 33-year-old is now based in Viernheim at Oberflächentechnik Tonko, one of Freudenberg?s suppliers. Abdullah nods and confirms: “I enjoy the work and I earn my own money ? a perfect match.”

Unfortunately, there are no more goals in the game against Frankfurt and the score remains 1:0. Nevertheless, it was a deserved victory for hosts 1. FC Cologne and an exciting evening for the four young refugees.

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