A train journey to a fairer world

Young people from Serbia, Moldova and the Bavarian Youth Council, who are taking part in one of the Pestalozzi Children’s Foundation’s international exchange projects, take us on their train journey to a fairer world. We will stop off at various children’s rights along the way.


This morning, the groups from Serbia, Moldova and the Bavarian Youth Council will participate in a three-part workshop on children’s rights as part of their international exchange project. It is one of several inputs that the 13- to 15-year-olds receive during the two weeks they spend in the Pestalozzi Children’s Village in Trogen. The main themes so far have been identity and intercultural interaction, in other words getting to know each other, but the calm atmosphere in the classroom of educator Julian Friedrich and trainee Marina Hug also shows that, even after two days, the children may still seem a little foreign to each other. Or is the silence due to the early hour of the day? In any case, when Marina asks what the young people already know about children’s rights, she gets only a few vague answers. However, this will soon change, as the pupils then take their seats in the next-door room. They are seated in four-person compartments, like you would find on a train, and next to youngsters of other nationalities.

A children’s right for every obstacle

Now they are encouraged by Marina to arrange twelve of the 41 children’s rights in front of them in a pyramid in order of importance – the rest are put aside for the time being. And while the young people slowly thaw out, their playful mental journey also begins: “You are unhappy. Your country has decided to implement children’s rights, but now it doesn’t even care if they are respected or not. So you go to see the president yourself – with the twelve children’s rights that are most important to you in your luggage.” The goal of this journey? To reach the destination and present the president with as many children’s rights as possible.


Marina and Julian put obstacles in the way of the young people on their journey. They might get lost and have to ask for directions, or jump the queue at the ticket counter to catch the next train, or set about converting a station to make it accessible for the disabled. Every obstacle represents a children’s right. Every time they seek support to cope, they pay for it with a “ticket”, which also depicts a children’s right – unless it’s part of the pyramid they created at the beginning. In that case, they get to keep hold of their children’s right.

Discrimination, identity and health

The groups of four arrive at their destination with more or less tickets depending on how they chose their children’s rights. However, they all learned a lot during this short train ride about the rights that they themselves are entitled to. This becomes clear in the closing discussion when Marina asks the same question as at the beginning of the workshop and receives many hopeful, exciting and thoughtful, but sometimes also despondent answers. The youngsters particularly feel that the right not to be discriminated against (Art. 2 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child), the right to identity (Art. 8) and the right to health care (Art. 24) are very important children’s rights, and at the same time see these as most frequently violated in their home countries of Serbia, Moldova and Germany.


Afterwards, the participants hand their children’s rights tickets back to Marina and Julian so that the next group can also embark on the impressive journey, but they take a lot of knowledge with them to the next two workshops. The interns Azra Al-Holw and Aida Brülisauer are already waiting for them.

Turning bright ideas into practical plans

Children’s rights are also at the heart of the two other parts of the workshop. Azra starts with a crisp warm-up round in which the youngsters have to choose one option or the other: pizza or hamburger? Cat or dog? Money or happiness?

The game helps them to get to know themselves and the others better. On a deeper level, however, it mainly serves to focus on expressing one’s own opinion. Or put another way, on the right to be listened to (Art. 12). This becomes an important topic in the main part, when the participants, who are divided into smaller groups, consider the question of where and by whom they are heard - and how they can make their voices heard.

Aida continues in a similar vein, but lets the learners get very creative in her workshop: they are asked to write down everything they dislike about their school on a cardboard school building – there are quite a few terms that are written with coloured pens and criss-crossed on the walls and roof. Afterwards, however, the youngsters use almost the same number of terms to explain what they value about their school too. And lastly, they embark on a journey here too: into the future. Solutions, along with hopes and ambitions for improving the situation in their own school, are noted down on coloured balloons.


Finally, the balloons are attached to the roof – but the school building does not take off. After all, the participants’ ideas are not supposed to evaporate, but to be taken home at the end of the exchange project and implemented there by means of practical action plans.

«Our education programmes are aimed at today’s multicultural society in Switzerland.»

Damian Zimmermann

Director of Programme Switzerland
Member of the Management Board