For the past two years, Zachary Gallant ’08 has served as the managing director of a refugee integration program called the Integrationswerkstatt (Integration Workshop) in the small town of Unkel in Germany. The project began when local students and community members reclaimed a decrepit 5.7-acre public space and renovated it into a community space. The park includes a bicycle self-repair workshop, similar to the one that operated under Mills Hall while Gallant was on campus at Antioch, a community garden, a beach, volleyball and basketball courts, a café, a music lessons studio, a children’s play space, and a multilingual library. Currently, there are plans to implement an interreligious prayer space, supported by the Muslim Jewish Conference and the local Catholic church.
Both the US State Department and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) staff have called this project a strong model for refugee integration. An endorsement by the OSCE resulted in an invitation for “the People’s Park” to become a founding member of the first-ever European Institute for Dialogue. Recently, the People’s Park was recently nominated for the German Integration Prize. Gallant and his team are currently fundraising to better run this program and eventually replicate it in other small towns across Europe, and hopefully someday in the United States.