Change Stories

2020

25 May

"Harder than expected": Feeling at home in Germany with the Learning- Practice Workshop

Tesfaye M. (name changed) fled Eritrea for political reasons. In 2018, he arrives in Weinheim where his wife and daughter are already living. With assistance from the
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25/05/2020

"Harder than expected": Feeling at home in Germany with the Learning- Practice Workshop

Tesfaye M. (name changed) fled Eritrea for political reasons. In 2018, he arrives in Weinheim where his wife and daughter are already living. With assistance from the Learning-Practice Workshop, he improves his German, finds a job in a retirement home - and a second "family".
There are days when life in Germany seems very difficult to Tesfaye. All the red tape. Cramped accommodation. Shift work in the retirement home where he, unskilled as he is, often ends up doing the most tedious work. And his German – meanwhile mixed with a genuine Weinheim accent – is improving far too slowly for his taste.

But the 27-year-old is determined to carve out a future in Germany for himself and his family. Even though the road is harder than he expected. "In Germany the streets are paved with gold!? In your dreams," is how he sums up his experience.

After he’d arrived in Germany, back then in Osnabrück, he was quickly placed in unskilled jobs, including one in a warehouse, with language kept on the backburner.


The Learning-Practice Workshop as a haven

Through the mediation of a charitable organization, Tesfaye is in August 2018 one of the first to participate in the Learning-Practice Workshop. Located in a factory hall of the Naturin company, the Learning-Practice Workshop had been developed as a low-threshold opportunity for introducing refugees to the requirements posed by the training and labour markets. It’s precisely for adult refugees who no longer qualify for compulsory schooling and have low prospects of being allowed to stay that hardly any fit-for-purpose options are offered for furthering their skills.

During the first few counseling interviews, Tesfaye quickly realises that for a viable future in Germany good language skills and appropriate training are essential. He starts a language course at Weinheim’s adult education center, and in the mornings he attends the Learning-Practice-Workshop where he can try out a variety of craft activities, can participate in non-profit-making projects outside the workshop and also get to know other participants and volunteers - and speak German. He calls the Learning-Practice Workshop "my German family". An analysis of potentials conducted there reveals that Tesfaye’s strengths lie primarily in his social skills. He himself had hitherto had hardly any ideas of where his career path could lead him.


Opportunities and compromises

Tesfaye seizes the opportunity with both hands: during a refurbishment project at a retirement home in Weinheim, he contacts the home’s manager without further ado and – supported by the mediation of a volunteer helper – is given an option for a two-week internship in geriatric nursing. This internship goes so well that Tesfaye is offered a vocational training position. Until this training starts, he can work in the retirement home full-time as a nursing assistant.

His work in the retirement home is not exactly Tesfaye’s "dream job". But he is pragmatic and looks on the bright side: "I can’t learn German from cartons," he says with a grin, remembering his first unskilled jobs in Germany. And in the meantime he can likewise summon increasing comprehension for the fact that older people who can no longer look after themselves are accommodated in a home and don’t live with their own family – a concept that initially he found offputting.

The vocational training position offered does not materialize in the end: Tesfaye who only went to primary school in Eritrea cannot satisfy the requisite formal preconditions for being accepted into training. He continues to work as an unskilled carer in the home. For Tesfaye who has meanwhile become a father for the second time, this job is not only important for supporting his family, it can also provide him with what is called employment tolerance, in case his request for asylum is rejected. A decision on this is as yet pending.

His greatest wish is for his children to have a better life than him. On his free days, he frequently drops by his "German family". And he has also meanwhile found a bigger apartment. Participants and volunteers from the Learning-Practice Workshop are helping him with the removal.


The Freudenberg Foundation was one of the initiators of the Learning-Practice Workshop and provides part of its funding, with the rest contributed by the Rhein-Neckar county council, the Weinheim municipality and other foundations. The Naturin and Freudenberg companies support the project with premises and equipment.