Limbo and Language Barriers | #3

In the week after my last post, the refugee classes and I finished our last few days at the vocational college before they began their six weeks of summer break and I moved on to my next placement. Unfortunately, there was not too much for me or for the students to do as far as work in the last few days of class as any true work had been completed in the week before, but it was still nice to be able to use the week to speak further with the students about their past experiences, their new situations in Germany, and their views on the United States.

After finishing my placement at the vocational college, I spent this past week at the St. Bonifatius Children’s Home here in Düren where I helped care for and teach a group of eight boys who recently found their way to Germany from Guinea, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Eritrea. The boys currently live in a temporary clearing group at the children’s home while they await any developments or decisions on their applications for refuge and asylum status, hoping for good results and a new placement in a more permanent group at the home. In my week working with the group, I soon found that life and work in the home was more stressful than I had expected after my time at the college.

One issue proved to be the temporary and transitory nature of the group, with all the boys in a strange sort of limbo, having successfully made it into Germany, but uncertain of whether their futures would be to remain here or be sent back home. Some boys stay with the group for only a few weeks but others might spend several months living with the group. Another source of stress proved to be the boys themselves. After difficult and dangerous travel, they now find themselves in Germany, but largely without friends or family and with grand expectations of an easygoing life and wealth left unfulfilled upon their arrival. As a result, they are understandably upset, angry, and even a little bitter about their current situation. Adding further to the issues is language. The majority of the boys know neither German nor English and instead speak to one another using Fula, French, or Arabic. Unfortunately, the caretakers do not know any Arabic, French, or Fula and although they work to teach German, this palpable language barrier leaves both the children and their caretakers unable to effectively communicate much of anything with each other. There was almost nothing more stressful this past week, than working with the caretakers as they attempted over the course of several days to find out the details of and to resolve an issue between five angry boys who spoke Fula and French and another very stubborn boy from Eritrea who only spoke Tigrinya and a little Arabic.

I will spend this week consulting adult migrants and refugees on issues such as residence permits, naturalization, education, employment, and welfare through a program called Cafe International and through work for the Center for Social and Migration Consultation.

In my weekends off, I have also continued to have my own personal adventures, visiting Cologne one weekend only to discover that it was the weekend of huge city festival and firework show along the Rhine and visiting Aachen this past weekend for the World Equestrian Festival
CHIO Aachen.

The view from inside the massive Cologne Cathedral, which is certainly worth the visit if you are ever near Cologne.

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