As part of my teaching practicum opportunity to experience teaching outside of the typical Canadian classroom, I chose to go to Berlin and was lucky enough to volunteer with Visioneers for the three weeks. Given my background in education, I participated in the homework club workshop every week. I got to work alongside a few different young refugee boys helping with English and French. I was blown away by their initiative and eagerness to learn as well as their level of English and German having only been in the country for 5-8 months. Doing the homework club workshop gave me insight to how the German school system is set up and how they are accommodating refugees. I was blown away by the support and help that Visioneers has set up to make the refugees feel welcome, build a sense of community and get the help they need to properly integrate. Not to mention their kindness and openness to everyone!
I was also able to participate in the sewing club workshop with Julia, which was something new to me! As teachers we are lifelong learners as well, and during the sewing workshop I enjoyed learning from the refugees as they had been doing it for several weeks, they even helped me with my (basic) German! Sewing club was a space and opportunity for the young people to practice their German (no English allowed!!). This was a challenge for me, but in the best way. There is no better way to learn a language than to immerse oneself, and immersed I was! Although, I understood maybe 10% of what was spoken, I learned the most in these few hours every Wednesday at sewing club.
Both of these workshops were held at the Café Connections. On my first day, having only been in Berlin a few days, I was a bit nervous. I found the Café Connections and hesitantly stepped inside not knowing if I was at the right spot or what to expect (or if anyone would speak English!). When I opened the door I immediately felt the positive and welcoming energy. I was greeted by one of the regulars as well as Larry and Teri with a big warm hello! I felt at home! Everyone spoke English which immediately put me at ease. I spent that afternoon getting to know some of the other volunteers, some regulars as well as Larry and Teri who run the café.
All of the people I had a chance to work with at Visioneers were kind, warm, easygoing and open-minded people. Although it was a short 3 weeks, and I would have loved to stay longer, I had such a fulfilling and enlightening experience volunteering with Visioneers. I made some great connections with the refugees and other volunteers, and had a wonderful time teaching and sewing with them. I look forward to coming back to Berlin one day and re-connecting with the Visioneers team and the Café Connections!