At ClubIn people like to celebrate often and in style. In 2023, another special occasion adds to he festivities: the 60th anniversary of ClubIn, which marks a long and eventful history. To delve into the vibrant past and equally exciting present of this unique place, we met up with Ulrike Stempfle, the manager of ClubIn.
Hello Ulrike, thank you for taking the time to talk about this special anniversary with us. “The Club”, as it is known to its fans, was founded in 1963 under the name “Arche” and is now called ClubIn – Internationaler Treff. What was the reason behind this name change?
The name Arche*, signifying a protected place, was chosen to reflect the experiences of Dr. Neuhaus, the institution’s founder, during her time abroad. She was Jewish and had fled to England during National Socialism. There she encountered meeting places for people from diverse backgrounds and learned that it didn’t matter who you were or where you came from at these places. Everyone was welcome. Inspired by this experience, Dr Neuhaus established a meeting place in Germany for young working people, migrants, foreign students and au pairs, naming it “Arche – Club junger Menschen” (Ark – Club of Young People)
After the sponsoring organisation was renamed the Association for International Youth Work (VIJ) in 1970, the Arche became the “International Youth Club” in 1973. The name was changed again in 2010: The name “ClubIn – Internationaler Treff für junge Leute von 17 bis 27” specifically tailored to address the young adult age group. This alteration was also aiming to differentiate it from traditional youth centres primarily focused on children and young people.
You’ve been here for a long time – since 1996 – and have experienced a lot. Looking back, what has changed in your work?
Over the years, the visitor structure has changed, especially in terms of countries of origin. Ultimately, our visitor group always reflects the current immigration and refugee movements, European policy changes, such as the EU’s eastward expansion or the Immigration Act. In the early years of my professional career, I noticed that the number of au pairs from the “old” EU countries, such as Sweden, France and Italy, was decreasing, while many au pairs from Eastern European countries were visiting ClubIn instead.
Au pairs have always constituted a substantial proportion of our visitors. Until 2016, the VIJ was also involved in connecting au pairs with host families.
In recent years, our visitor group has once again become more diverse. Currently, our visitors include au pairs, trainees, volunteers, working people and students, primarily from South America, Asia, Eastern Europe, Afghanistan and Syria.
The guiding principle, also behind the word “ark” has remained the same: ClubIn offers a safe, familiar place where young people can meet, make friends and receive counselling and support. The open meeting point remains the cornerstone of our work and forms the ‘bridge’ to all other ClubIn services.
And the number of visitors underscore the ongoing importance and popularity of this programme. How do young adults find their way to ClubIn?
Yes, that has also changed over the years. In the past, we had direct access to au pairs via the au pair agency, which was located in the same building. However, this had to cease in 2016 due to financial reasons and increased competition from online agencies. Today, we mainly reach young people via our Instagram account. This medium gained even more importance during the pandemic. Nevertheless, the best advertising stems from positive experiences our visitors have at the club, so that they tell others about it or bring their friends along.
For many years, we’ve maintained successful collaborations with various social institutions, including language schools, youth migration services, au pair agencies, student advice centers, and open child and youth work facilities in the district. They refer young people to our programme and direct them to us if necessary. Since this year, as part of the “Mobile neighbourhood meeting point” cooperation project, we have also been on the move in public spaces with a cargo bike, making ourselves even more noticeable.
ClubIn has a very varied programme: open meetings, excursions… How does the team manage this array of offerings?
Our volunteer team serves as a crucial resource for our work. In terms of participation, they help shape the club programme, run activities themselves, lead excursions and are actively involved in the open service alongside the full-time educator. Without their commitment, this variety of programmes would not be possible. This opportunity for participation benefits everyone involved. Through their work, the volunteers develop valuable key skills for their future careers. On the other hand, we can offer full-time staff a varied and attractive programme.
Thank you, Ulrike, for this fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse of the club. Before we conclude, is there anything else on your mind that you would like to share with our readers?
In conclusion, I would like to thank everyone who has helped to make ClubIn a welcoming gathering spot over the years. My thanks go to the staff members, collaborative partners, and sponsors, such as the City of Munich’s Youth Welfare Office, the Schwabing 4 district committee, the Evangelical Church, and the Munich City District Youth Association.
On behalf of the ClubIn editorial team, we would also like to thank everyone who supports, shapes and visits this special place. We look forward to the next 60 years of ClubIn!
*In the biblical story of the Flood, Noah builds an ark, i.e. a large ship, for himself, his family and pairs of animals. Thusly, he can rescue them from the Flood and pave the way for a new beginning.
Translated by Joeline O‘Reilly