I met most of the team members when I was working in Syria, while I met others here in Germany. We all share the same interest, which is that we do not want to be useless members of the society. We prefer rather to be active and effective.
When we released the first issue of “Abwab”, we were only 16 writers. By the second issue the number increased to 36 and then to 42. We still have no official office, so we do most of the work on Skype or on the phone.
Our team members and team friends are now volunteers; they do not get any money for the articles they write in “Abwab”, because the fund we have covers only the printing of the newspaper for six months, but does not cover the fees of the writers.
Do you have any plans or ideas to get a new fund?
I was told that there is a third sponsor. In general, we are very careful with fund sources. We prefer not to take any money from political parties or governmental sources. I think we still have concerns about these sources because of our experience back in Syria. Perhaps it is different here, but we still carry the trauma.
Have you tried other ways of funding, then? Like crowd funding for example?
I think the publisher is the own who has the legal power to arrange something like that. Besides, I think we need to learn more about the different ways of raising funds. However, there are many parties who are interested in the growing Arabic market in Germany, like the telecommunication company that funds us now. It has special offers for the Arabic clienteles in Syria and Iraq, so it is important for it to advertise in a newspaper addressed to refugees. In addition, we are aiming to attract Arabic communities’ business owners, who may be interested in advertising in our newspaper.
There is also promotional support from some German press outlets, like WDR network. They choose some of our articles to translate and republish them, and they pay the writers for those articles.
Have you tried to survey the audience of the newspaper to get feedback about your work?
We have almost 24 thousand followers of our Facebook page. We receive hundreds of messages every week that carry feedback, questions and/or suggestions. We also receive feedback through our distributors, who are in direct contact with the audience. We received suggestions to add sport and entertainment pages, which we do not have at present.
What are the main information services you provide for the refugees who recently arrived in Germany?
We provide information about education, professional training (Ausbildung), different insurance types and taxes. Also, we provide legal information like translating the constitution chapters and explaining them, but we still need expert staff members who can write about health and medical issues. We also receive lots of questions about the bureaucratic procedures related to the Job Center and we hope to give answers through expert writers or volunteers.