By Sybille Fleischmann
Until he left Afghanistan at age 18, Hamid Husaini (left, in picture above) had only been to school three years. Today, he bakes pies at an ice cream shop in southern Germany, and studies German and math with a donated Google Chromebook.
Back in Afghanistan, Husaini’s mother worked as a teacher for UNICEF in Kabul and his father was a bricklayer for an American contractor. By 2015, The Taliban was gaining more and more influence in Kabul, and as employees of Americans, Husaini’s parents were in danger. It was also impossible for Husaini and his four brothers and sisters to attend school, since the Taliban were shutting down any schools that admitted girls, and that didn’t teach a hard-line Islamic curriculum. In January 2016, the family decided to leave Afghanistan, via Iran, Turkey and Greece, eventually arriving in Bad Heilbrunn, a small spa town in the Bad Toelz region of southern Germany.
Husaini, now 22, has spent the past several months using a Google Chromebook to learn German, and gain basic math skills at Asylplus, a nonprofit organization committed to assisting refugees with continuing education. Asylplus equips learning centers throughout Germany with computers, and provides access to internet-based learning opportunities. For its innovative approach to integration, the association received support from Project Reconnect, an initiative of NetHope in collaboration with Google.org. Project Reconnect is providing 25,000 Chromebooks to nonprofit organizations that work with refugees in Germany.
Because he missed so much school in Afghanistan, Husaini first needed some low-tech help. His teacher at Asylplus in Bad Toelz uses an old-fashioned carpenter’s ruler along with learning tutorials to help Husaini learn numbers and units, as well as addition and subtraction. Husaini also uses education software Schlaukopf.de on the Chromebook to do math exercises, says Waltraud Haase, co-founder and board member of Asylplus.
It was through Haase that Husaini first met Francesco Bontempo (right, in picture above), owner of Bad Toelz’s beloved Cristallino cafe and gelateria. Bontempo, whose parents migrated from Italy to Germany in 1994, readily agreed to give Husaini an internship. At the ice cream parlor, Husaini gets his first taste of working in Germany, and also with applying his newly acquired language and math skills while baking pies.
Bontempo says the formula of his family's success was to "learn to accept challenges and make the most of them,” an example that Husaini has certainly followed. He hopes to soon earn an apprenticeship in the confectionary trade, something he has long been interested in doing.
Grateful for the opportunity to learn with a Chromebook, Husaini makes good use of his newfound skills to bake up a special thank-you cake for Google.