Integration goes beyond learning

In this edition I would like to present a nice and important feature to you: The Language Café at  Haus der Kulturen. I have interviewed some of the organizers and in addition, I will tell you about my experience and opinion on the matter.

Every Friday almost 15 people meet to talk together in a comfortable room at  Haus der Kulturen. The event is being organized by a group of volunteers from Chemnitz. At the beginning of each meeting, the participants are warmly welcomed by some nice people who work at  Haus der Kulturen. Taking a seat at the table and you find yourself already in a “language round”. While speaking you can have tea or coffee and eat cake. Half of the participants are refugees. They talk to each other and discuss different topics. They exchange news or simply laugh about funny situations of everyday life. Everyone brings along a little bit of the beauty of their cultures.

My personal experiences at the Sprachencafè have been very positive and interesting. I have made many contacts thanks to this group. It all started when I attended a B1 course in May 2019, which ended very soon. If you want to deepen your language skills, a language course is not enough, you also need many contacts in everyday life. Therefore, I was looking for a possibility to find them. Although I am an extroverted person, I could not find a language partner anywhere to practice. I sent an e-mail to almost 25 clubs to do some volunteering. I finally received an invitation from Agiua e.V. for a personal getting to know each other. Through the Agiua e.V. I was informed about the Sprachencafè, so I went there and got to know new people. Since I am a mathematics teacher, I was looking for a school for an internship. In the third meeting I talked about it to a woman called Birgit Mayer. She advised me to contact a private school in Chemnitz. Immediately I sent the school an e-mail and I was accepted to do an internship.

Cosy atmosphere at the house of cultures from AGUIA e.V.

In my opinion in Germany it is important to get involved in many associations and social initiatives in order to find a job. In this way there are more chances to find a good job. Since ten months I am also a regular member of the Sprachencafé and every weak I am waiting impatiently for the next meeting. But who are the people who organize this café? I have asked them to introduce themselves briefly:

Kerstin Hausschild

I was born in Karl-Marx-Stadt and I am living with my husband in Chemnitz. Our two sons study in Leipzig. Professionally, I work as a teacher for mathematics and physics. In the meantime, I have also worked as a labor mediator at the Job Center. Since the end of 2016 I have been volunteering to help refugees.

What are your main goals?

The idea and the wish to give a possibility of exchange and getting to know each other for refugees and people from Chemnitz. In our encounters with refugees it was pointed out that many of them felt isolated and wished for more contact with Germans. They were looking for opportunities to speak German. This was usually only available in the integration course. We ourselves also wished for more intense contacts. We want to be a platform for intercultural exchange, getting to know each other and providing information about offers of help. In doing so, it is important for us to provide a pleasant and friendly atmosphere to reduce fears and create an atmosphere of trust.

How big is your team?

In the beginning there were Birgit and me. During the time of the café in Jägerstraße our friends Vanessa, Detlef, Elke and Michael joined us. We are altogether up to 8 Germans. In addition, we are supported by the staff and helpers from Haus der Kulturen, for example when it comes to catering, or the provision of cake and drinks.

How many participants are there approximately? And what do you offer?

At the moment there are about 20 participants. Every week there are 2 hours on Friday for coffee, tea and cake with interesting conversations for mutual exchange using the German language. Sometimes smaller inquiries can be clarified or information about offers of help can be provided.

Birgit Mayer

My birthplace, a small village, is situated between Chemnitz and Waldheim.  Since 1969 I have been living in Chemnitz. I am married and my children were born here. In 1989 we, my husband, our children and many other like-minded people gathered on the streets to demonstrate against the GDR regime. Together we made it!  I have always considered this time as the most exciting experience of my life, until the year 2015. This year represents a significant cut for me.

Why did you organize this format?

Every day I could see and hear in the news that more and more people had to leave their homes because of distress, persecution and war. The decision to help somehow came spontaneously. After some resistance in authorities and aid organisations we – my husband and I – finally made it. We went to the numerous emergency shelters, handed over clothes for the refugees, collected donations ourselves and tried to help. We saw a lot of need and were able to help a little, which made us happy. During this time, we were able to make many friends who, like us, acted out of a natural willingness to help, empathy and humanity. During this commitment I also met Kerstin, my friend. At the same time, we had to experience that there were people who condemned exactly what we were doing. They were indifferent to the fates of others, rejecting or even hostile. I was very much shocked! Up until today this strong contrast between help and rejection is a deep problem of our society. We, Kerstin and I thought that clothing, food and a place to sleep were important, but not enough. Kerstin started with a colleague to give German lessons to women additionally to the state offers. But how to handle the situation, if the mothers could not leave their children alone at home? This is exactly when I came in, playing with the children while the mothers learned German. So how are the people without work, without contact to neighbours or friends? Dealing with that question it was only a small step to the Sprachencafé. The AGIUA association was very helpful, we could use the room and the equipment, first in Jägerstraße, later in Karl-Liebknecht-Straße.  The meeting in the café slowly but steadily developed into a popular occasion to get to know others, perhaps even make friends and become more confident in using the German language in spoken words.

Vanessa Carl

I am 26 years old and originally from Lower Saxony. In September 2017 I moved to Chemnitz for my Master in Public Health. Since October 2017 I have been a regular participant at the Sprachencafé.

What feedback have you received so far?

The throughout feedback participants are giving is positive. They are grateful for the offer, have fun and recommend the Sprachencafé to others. However, sometimes there is not enough time for a detailed conversation with individual persons.

Do you do something besides the language cafe with participants?

Participants of the Sprachencafé also do private appointments. Together they support further actions (Human Aid Collective), visit events in Chemnitz together, go to lectures about Chemnitz and its history, explore the region by bike, plan an excursion or meet for a meal together.

How do you cover all the costs?

In the beginning Kerstin and Birgit financed cake and coffee themselfes, in the meantime our application for a grant from the city of Chemnitz from the “action plan for democracy, tolerance and a cosmopolitan Chemnitz” has been approved. Costs are mainly used for room rent and coffee, tea and cake. Last year we received the grant from the city of Chemnitz. We applied again this year.

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