6 Dec, 2017, No comments
I wanted to start off by writing „I can still remember the thought I had when I entered SASA the first time“ ´- but isn‘t that ridiculous? My first day at SASA Western Cape is just 10 weeks ago, anyway, entering now feels so completely different compared to that day.
“The only relieve – i wasn‘t alone.”
So, I can still remember the thought I had when I entered SASA the first time: Ah, um, okay, that‘s kind of smaller than I expected. It wasn‘t love at the first sight. I was new in that country, new in this project, new people all around me. The only relieve – i wasn‘t alone. Bia, a girl from Munich, started at SASA the same day as I. I am glad she was there, otherwise the first days would have been a bit lonely and even more confusing. But together, we both have somehow scrambled through these first days – and had an amazing time after that.
So first of all, let me introduce myself: I am 17 years old, finished school in Germany in July 2017 and went to Cape Town for three month (September to December). I speak English, French, a little bit of Arabic and I learned Latin quite a long time. Since 2015 I have been teaching German to refugees from various African and Middle Eastern countries twice a week. After my exams I started doing lessons every day with a women‘s group.
“I did not only feel lost but also useless.”
So, I walked into this office quite confident, thinking I could be a helpful English teacher. I had experience with teaching, my language knowledge was always sufficient (besides a student that only spoke Tigriniyaa). But here now, I suddenly found myself in a class where everybody spoke Somali (and nothing else but Somali – besides some words of English, but anyway, that was the language I should teach them) and I did not know anything about the teacher‘s concept. That was a moment I did not only feel lost, but also useless. And then time passed by. I got my own group, managed to learn their names and somehow got used to teaching without heaving a third language as a common basis. I invented my own concept: Each week a different topic from own concept: Each week a different topic from shopping to health up to way descriptions. Monday for vocabulary, Tuesday for grammar, Wednesday for dialogues, Thursday for talking. Each morning I prepared my lesson: Printing out memory cards, writing down exercises, creating riddles, building my own town on paper… Then at 2 PM my lesson with 10 to 15 students started – and ended after 120 – sometimes more, sometimes less – exhausting minutes.
“Now it feels like a sign of respect, like an honor.”
We needed some time to learn how to interact with each other. With some students it was quite easy, with some it took me longer to break the wall between us. But now, I know how every single student is processing the things I explain. I know what their facial expression looks like when they don‘t understand what I am saying. And I even got to know a bit of their lives. In return they got to know me. And even after they discovered that I was only 17 they accepted me as their teacher. At the beginning I was disappointed when they called me „teacher“ because I felt like they just could not remember my name (and I am pretty sure that they really have problems with pronouncing “Frederike”). Anyway, now it feels like a sign of respect, like an honor. Yes, I am their teacher – and very proud of it.
The second part of my work was something in between design and social media. Bia and I together developed designs for posters presenting the activities, created student cards, wrote posts for the Facebook page and – we are really proud of it – build up this homepage. I have never done such a project before and would have never expected it to be so much effort.
By now you should have an overview on my daily routine at SASA. But there were other things that changed the good time into an unforgettable.
“Politics, war and peace, religion and theodicy”
There were, for example, the quite Fridays: Believe me, it was difficult the first two weeks. You go to work as usual from 9 AM to 4 PM, but your results are only 25% of your normal outcomes. And then I got used to it and began to look forward to these Fridays. The atmosphere is very relaxed; no English class, no Sewing class, no workshop, no advocacy. Everybody is going to the mosque at 1:30 PM.
“It has shown me that sometimes I am not aware of my own prejudices.”
One important point in my time here was to learn how to deal with women covering their whole faces with a veil. As the political and societal discussion about Niqabs was taking place in Germany my opinion was clear: Everybody should be allowed to wear whatever they want – except when it comes to going into a bank etc. But now I was standing in front of the class and I could not see the face of some of my students. That caused some worries and questions: How should I see if they understand? How should I recognize them the next day? But in fact, I just learned how to deal with it. I recognized their voices, their figure, their eyelashes. Then some day I was taking photos of them for the student cards. I saw their faces for the first time. It was enlightening. One of them was always wearing black or very dark colors. I did not notice that I was not really accepting here as a human being, but rather as a robot until the day I saw her laughing for the first time. So, the next time, I tried to keep this image of her in my mind so I would not forget to smile at her like I am used to do it at other students – even though I would not really know if she smiles back. I have now been seeing here some more times without her veil, we have also been talking about the dis- and advantages of wearing it. This is an experience I will never forget because it has shown me that sometimes I am not aware of my own prejudices.
It is just ten weeks ago that I entered SASA office for the first time. But the hours I spent, the encounters I had, the experiences I made, changed a lot. So the thought, I will have, when I leave the office for the last time, will be a thought of gratefulness and sorrow at the same time. No, it wasn’t love at the first sight, but it developed.
7 May, 2016, No comments
I am writing you this letter to say Thank you so much for letting me be part of your NGO in the month of February 2016. It was a really interesting month, in which I learned many things about the work in a NGO, the work in South Africa, about different people with different cultures and backgrounds.
I really much appreciate that you all showed me so many different things and took me to all these interesting meetings. I found it as well awesome to get to know the Somalian culture a bit better and that you all shared some interesting stories with us. I really see great potential in your work (in the work and the concept of SASA) and I hope so much that in the future it is going to be much more easy for refugees and asylum seekers to get integrated and respected in South Africa.
Again, thank you all so much for everything and I really hope to see you again.
7 May, 2016, No comments
My experience at SASA was very memorable. I enjoyed working and supporting the organization with the knowledge I have gained throughout my years of education, however due to certain issues I wasn’t able to fully support and end the job that was given to me at the beginning of my internship, which was organizing a sports event in collaboration with Africa Unite.
Nevertheless it was very interesting to see how an NGO is organized and works. The fact that I was able to join many official meetings with South African officials, such as the police department meeting, gave me a better insight on what problems SASA is exposed to and how it operates and tries to deal with them. This work experience helped me realize and gave me a better idea of what I might want to do in the future and what I would like to specialize on after I have completed my bachelors.
I have learned a lot about the Somali and South African culture. My volunteering work has showed and given me a better insight on what problems and challenges refugees face when leaving their ‘’natural habitat’’ due to harsh conditions and political unrest and how important it is to support the cause in order for them to be able to live a normal life again.
This work experience made me realize how fortunate we volunteers are, having to be brought up in a country where so far no political unrest or war has threatened our existence which I come to appreciate with highest regards.