By Theresa Ritzer
Sharare is 15 years old. Two years ago, she and her family arrived in Germany from Afghanistan, from a region where girls and women are denied access to education. After six months in Germany, she and her younger sister (both pictured above; Sharare at left) joined a “Welcome” class in Erding, a district 43 kilometers northeast of Munich. ADIA Erding, an initiative focused on fostering integration through education, provided the students with Google Chromebooks received through NetHope’s Project Reconnect. Both girls learned with great enthusiasm. It was the first time that they were permitted to go to school and study.
Anna Maria Blau is the founder of ADIA Erding, and she is passionate about providing all refugees access to education. Erding’s population is nearly 134,000, and includes nearly 1,400 recent refugees. There are many community groups in Erding working to support refugees as they learn German, look for work, or complete vocational training. ADIA Erding works with volunteers from those groups to implement training programs and other activities for refugees.
Many of the volunteers are themselves from other countries. Every third helper has escaped from war and persecution, and understands the challenges new arrivals are facing. For Anna Maria, each of these volunteers is an individual success, and she is always trying to motivate refugees to volunteer time. “Volunteering helps develop habits that will be useful in a future job,” says Anna Maria, and the connections made through networking might just help someone find that job.
In the first half of 2016, ADIA Erding equipped all homes with unaccompanied minors with Chromebooks. Over the summer break, 120 young refugees received intensive training to get ready for school. ADIA Erding volunteers taught language classes and coached the young people on how to use online resources to continue their studies on their own.
Most of the participants in the summer course were excited about going back to school and eager to learn. Some students were quickly able to follow a lesson in German. And some of the advanced students are now coaching peers who are less experienced in the use of technology and language.
Sharare, the 15-year-old refugee from Afghanistan, did so well in her “Welcome” class that she went directly to junior high school, despite never having attended school before. She credits her ability to learn German quickly to the many language classes she took online. Sharare continues to study with a Chromebook at school, and uses one after school to do homework.
Sharare happily shares her knowledge of the German language and expertise in using the Chromebooks with other refugees. As a volunteer, she shows newly arrived refugees how the Chromebooks work and how everyone can use the ADIA Erding portal to access online language course. "I want to make it so far that I can help other girls get free access to education,” she says.