Campaign 2008: Respect, Don’t Reject
Our first impressions of young people rarely reveal who they really are. This is why Caritas launched the campaign 'Respect, Don’t Reject'. It encourages us to ask ourselves, 'Why do young people who are disadvantaged act the way they do?'
We often feel little sympathy; instead, we usually feel provoked or irritated by their need to ‘find out who they are’ and by the way they live their lives. They either try to be too different, or not different enough. They don’t seem to be able to commit themselves to anything and we can’t depend on them. People are often quick to judge them by the way they are behaving at the moment, and very few of us are really interested in their personal stories.
Through our poster campaign ‘Respect, Don’t Reject’ throughout Germany, Caritas hopes to encourage people to look behind the scenes of young people’s lives and give them another chance. People working in our youth centres and youth services know that young people are capable of finding previously unknown strength and potential to overcome the difficult situations they face. But to do this, they need help with their individual problems and they also need to be given recognition for their heroic deeds, both great and small.
Something Commonplace Can Be a Heroic Feat
The posters for this campaign are portraits of four young people. One is of two young women who refuse to stop applying for a job training position although their chances of finding one are 1 to 1,000. Another poster features a young man who chooses not to hit other kids although he grew up fighting. The fourth poster shows a young woman who plans to finish school although she is raising her daughter on her own. To Caritas, these young people are heroes. Despite what they have been through and their social milieus, they refuse to give up. They try to make the best of what they have.
Recognition Empowers Young People
These examples prove that disadvantaged youths are able to take control over their lives if they are only empowered. This is not just a process of personal change, although people who support them in times of crises are also very important for the development of young people; empowerment also means that society has to give young people a chance. More schools are needed which do not practice ‘social selection’ and labelling. More congregations are needed which give young people the space they need to be themselves and which interact with them in a constructive way. More businesses are needed which offer job training to young people whose grade point averages are low. Finally, we need more youth centres and services which can provide young people with advice and allow them to take responsibility, and we need more media coverage which values the heroism of everyday life.
Heroes on the Internet
The campaign webpage www.achten-statt-aechten.de features more young people who should be celebrated as heroes. On this webpage, almost 100 young adults talk about their lives and their goals in texts, pictures, interviews, songs and videos. The site also contains background information about current developments, information on Caritas’ projects and socio-political goals as well as statements from experts and prominent figures. Users can participate in the webpage’s forum. The campaigns Caritas launched in 2007 and 2008 were developed in a social sponsoring partnership with the advertising agency BBDO, based in Düsseldorf. Funding was provided by the GlücksSpirale lottery.