Scholarship holder from 17.09.2011 - 31.12.2011
Mr Paul Kuttke (Germany)
High-school graduate, born in 1990, living in Halle, Germany, recommended by his father Mr Peter Kuttke, Hörmann KG Amshausen
Report of experiences:
When I arrived in Tirana, the capital of Albania, on 17.9.2011 I did not experience the promised culture shock right away. Most areas of the capital are much like other large cities: loud, lively and well-developed. But once I set off with my driver for the mountain region of Pukë, where Fushe-Arrez is located, I started to notice vast differences. The further you move away from the capital, the more poverty and destitution you see. Fushe-Arrez was the culmination of my culture shock. The town was planned and built during the communist era, and is home to around 4000 people, most of whom live in miserable and poorly furnished "Pallatets" (English: palaces). Around 70% of the residents are unemployed, which is apparent by the constantly full market square and the crowded bars. The streets here are horrible and it is often impossible to see the road for all the holes. Nevertheless, I had arrived and was warmly greeted at the mission station. The mission has been here for 16 years and has been run from the very beginning by the two Franciscan nuns Sister Bernadette and Sister Gratias. Brother Andreas is both a Capuchin monk and the Catholic priest for the region, which covers around 15 villages within a radius of 60 km. He has been here for 4 years.
I became more familiar with the Albanian culture, which varies greatly from my own in terms of equality between men and women and hospitality, during several home visits with the priest. He does this very often to make sure everyone in his parish is doing alright. It is a very strange feeling to be invited as a stranger by a poor family to share their food. The patriarchal culture is noticeable when it comes to greeting groups of people: men come first according to their age. Their eating customs are also a bit different. When visitors are there, the women eat in another room and only enter to replenish food and drink. Despite the poverty, modest homes and Spartan furnishings, you are always offered whatever food they have and are treated very nicely, which sometimes makes you feel bad as you do not want to take their food away from them.
After settling in, it was time for me to start working. You do not get bored as a volunteer here. There is always something to do, since the mission is involved in many projects and activities. The courtyard and associated logistics mainly require pure strength, since things like heavy windows, doors, sacks, cardboard boxes, etc. found in the courtyard must be moved elsewhere. Every month, up to three lorries from Germany or Austria arrive, bringing further aid that must then be stored somewhere. The storeroom or warehouse that the nuns have set up to hold the large quantities of goods that arrive here is only large enough to hold things that must not get wet, such as food or clothing. The rest of the donated items, such as bed frames, cupboards, tables and the already-mentioned windows and doors, are then carefully set up in the courtyard and weather-proofed in the best-possible manner.
Once a month, a lorry comes from a nearby mill with around 15 tonnes of flour which has to be unloaded by hand. This enormous amount is then divided into 50 kg portions that are distributed to 300 needy families in the region on two fixed dates, along with other foods from the aid trucks. The nuns not only started this project, they continue to work on it carefully and with a lot of love. It order to distribute the aid in the best-possible manner, the nuns randomly check the neediness of the families on their list and include new families, if necessary.
The courtyard renovation is one current project that requires a lot of physical strength. It had been neglected for many years and there are several problems with it. To make it more practical, it was decided to level out the courtyard and pave or tar it. This means that I have to move around barrows of dirt and gravel, bring paving stones to the workers and dig new ducts for the cables and water pipes.
There is also a bit of office work for me to do every now and then. In this respect, my main job was taking care of the nuns' Christmas post. Around 2000 addresses had to be revised and printed on envelopes, a layout created for the greeting cards, and then, after printing, every single one had to be inserted in an envelope. However, most of my work here has to do with the renovation of the courtyard. In addition to my work in the courtyard, the aid transports and food distribution, there is not too much else to do at this time of year. Even though the weather has been comfortably warm and dry up to now, winter can set in suddenly at any time. We have already stopped working on construction projects, such as renovations and new buildings for the needy and the construction of the church, which is financed by the nuns and brothers.
Scholarship holder from 03.10.2011 - 30.09.2012
Ms Fan Shi Shi (China)
Student, born in 1988, living in Hangzhou, China, recommended by Ms Fanny Liu, an employee at the Hörmann regional sales office in Shenzhen.
Download: Report of experiences in Chinese (PDF)
Report of experiences:
I arrived in Bielefeld, Germany on my first flight abroad on 3 October 2011. Ms Weinbrenner from Hörmann picked me up from the Paderborn airport. Over time, my initial fears, uncertainties and worries of living in another country have disappeared. After overcoming some initial difficulties I am now enjoying the quiet and uncomplicated pace of life here, despite my homesickness. I have my language lessons, my work and new friends to keep me busy!
Since I knew relatively little German, Hörmann arranged for me to visit a 2-month language course at the Bibis language school. During this time, I attended language classes in the morning and had additional tutoring from Ms Liu, who I got to know through Hörmann, in the afternoon. Thanks to her help and the assistance from Hörmann, my German has improved a lot. I also found new friends at the language school.
Work at Haus Enon:
I began working with epilepsy patients at Haus Enon on 6 December 2011. The patients are bed- or wheelchair-bound and require a lot of care. Over the past two months, I have not only been impressed by the caring, responsible and loving work of the employees, but also by modern medical facilities I had never seen before. Each patient at Haus Enon receives top-class care and treatment, such as physical therapy or music therapy. The horseback riding courses are also very impressive.
At work I am appreciated by the patients and my colleagues give me a lot of help and support with my skills and German, which makes me feel right at home. In particular, I would like to mention Ms Sabine Hellweg, who trained me with a lot of patience and care. In the meantime, I can participate in the shift change meeting and am responsible for caring for 5 patients on my own. This gives me a lot of courage and the strength to keep going.
My leisure time:
I quickly found new friends at the language school and we spend our free time cooking, swimming and going for walks. We have also had a lot of fun together on excursions to Cologne, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Münster and Berlin. I also celebrated the traditional Chinese New Year with them on 22 January 2012.
Finally, I would like to thank all the people who gave me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and have helped on the way.
Scholarship holder from 01.05.2012 - 31.01.2013
Ms Laura Steinl (Germany)
Student, born in 1988, recommended by her father, Mr Karl Steinl, external sales representative for standard products, Frankfurt regional sales office.
Report of experiences:
¡Viva México! - An experience report
My internship at Kolping México started on 28 March 2012. Here are a few of my impressions and experiences.
Kolping México is represented in different regions of the country. I am completing my internship directly in the capital, Mexico City or the “Distrito Federal”.
Kolping’s activities in different regions are as diverse as Mexico itself. A central concern of the members of Kolping (salaried employees and volunteers, as well as all members of the Kolping family (or families)) is to recognize both internal needs and those of the surrounding community, and to work together to develop good ideas to improve the local living situation and quality of life.
In rural regions, this includes the production and sale of liqueur and marmalade, or opening a small grocery. Individual “regional teams” provide support as on-site contacts. This can include financial support, for example microcredits and assistance in developing and implementing project concepts in the initial phases. Afterwards, Kolping is also available to provide advice and offer training courses geared toward specific needs.
The overarching objective is to “help others to help themselves”. Being a member of the Kolping family is not just about having a good business or project idea. Instead, you are part of a community that strives to work together, act responsibly, and practice solidarity. Faith and a collective will are the glue that hold it all together. The individual projects are therefore an expression of a shared philosophy and ethic.
This is only a brief impression of the association’s work in rural areas; Mexico City and the surrounding regions bring other challenges for Kolping.
Mexico City is a huge, sprawling giant. It takes a while to find one’s bearings. The city is loud, packed, sometimes chaotic, and simply enormous. The city can be stressful. It is not uncommon for residents to embark on a small journey into the overcrowded metro to arrive at their work/school/destination. The metropolis is divided into 16 “delegaciones” (boroughs) which are in turn structured in “colonias”. Living standards vary enormously among the individual delegaciones; each colonia also has its own special character. The Fundación Kolping is located in Martín Carrera, a colonia near the Villa Basílica, an important pilgrimage site. Martín Carrera does not have a good reputation. Or least that’s what I gathered from the concerned reactions when I told people where I worked.
The streets are filled with “tianguis”, small, improvised stands selling all types of used goods and also different foods – sometimes it seems like a permanent street fair. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with a party, but the fact that many cannot (only) earn their living through a “decent job”. The area is also known for pickpocketing and drug traffic/consumption. Evening strolls are best kept in the living room. Luckily I did not have any negative experiences in that regard. On the contrary, I now see some familiar faces, and enjoy a few chats, on my way to work. And most of my time is spent in the Fundación – the Casa Kolping.
As I already mentioned, Kolping’s activities are focussed on the conditions and needs of the local community and the Casa Kolping is a true oasis, a good place that is always full of life. It has a small courtyard that gets greener every day. The courtyard is a meeting point for students and other study groups, a pleasant environment for communication and learning. The courtyard is enclosed by two buildings. One contains the national office and a large, bright room on the ground floor where classes and events are held. It is also let for external festivities. The other building houses the regional office and additional classrooms. The house also has a café, a project that I will described in more detail below. Casa Kolping has a few permanent programmes, including a psychologist, free legal advice and, one of its newest offers, homeopathic consultations. In addition to these components, we offer a wide variety of courses. These include leisure activities, such as karate, capoeira, salsa, guitar classes or drawing. On the other hand, we offer language and math courses, which are suitable for pupils as a supplement to their school classes and adults as well.
There is also a selection of advanced vocational classes. They include computer classes, start-up courses, business planning and bakery/confectionary courses. In addition, we hold training courses for members of the Kolping families, who can multiply their experiences in their own specific areas of activity.
And then there is the work in the national office – a hub of coordination, ideas, communication, management, and phone calls... Since I mainly work at the regional office, I’ll leave it at that and move on to my task profile.
In the morning, I work at the reception desk in the regional office. I am an initial contact point and a representative of the association. I provide information about classes and, of course, make sure to spread good cheer. After my work as a receptionist in the mornings, my weekdays vary.
One of my jobs is to assist with a German class. Because there is already a German teacher, my main task consists of “communication training” and talking about “German culture”. In practical terms, I present different German daily newspapers or the German educational system, or we talk about German cities and German history...
It has been an interesting experience to realize how difficult it is to generalize national stereotypes. Suddenly, you’re in a situation where you need to explain something that you don’t identify with at all. (“Germans are meticulous, punctual and emotionally distant, aren’t they?!” – to which I’ve stutteringly replied: “Err, hmm, some of them, maybe?!”)
I also work in the café, which has the motto: “el café tiene la magia de ser el principio de muchas historias”
The café has a special charm and it’s the birthplace of many stories. For me, too, the café was a huge source of support in the beginning. With the exception of its two managers, the café is run by young people supported by Kolping. The project works to provide young people with additional job skills in a safe environment. They do, of course, learn culinary skills (to prepare a decent meal at home as well) and the basics of gastronomy, but they also receive one of their first job experiences. Some of the young people at the café go on to work for Kolping. The café is also a source of enrichment for the surrounding colonia: it is a meeting point and a place to go for good inexpensive food and different events. Because it is a meeting point in the community, we can easily generate new interest in our classes. The café has several different functions. Its revenues are also used to fund other Kolping projects. Like I already mentioned, I was taken with the café from the very beginning (and not only because I like coffee!). I was immediately welcomed into the café community, where I learned a lot about Mexican cuisine and was able to continue improving my language skills.
But “my” project is teaching theatre classes. I work with an enthusiastic group of young people two times a week. We have presented one piece and are already rehearsing a second one. It’s incredibly fun and amazing how well we work together despite some minor linguistic barriers. There have been some misunderstandings from time to time. Once I wanted the pupils to stand up from their seats, but apparently I told them to “lift” their chairs ... and suddenly they were all walking around holding their chairs over their heads. But they have been very patient with me and simply correct my mistakes without a lot of fuss.
I also work with the church youth group in the colonia that would like to present a theatre piece. I go there once a week and we work on “basic theatre techniques”, since they will keep developing the piece after my departure.
As a “seasonal worker”, I additionally help out with “extracurricular” activities. I was allowed to assist with the “curso de verano” (summer extracurricular activities) and recently accompanied a group of Kolping members from the Diocese of Paderborn as they travelled through Mexico to gather information on the status of different projects. I was in charge of translating – something I never would have thought I’d be doing after just six months!
In sum, the Casa Kolping is an educational centre and also a meeting point for the colonia.
A Casa employee once told me: “In the beginning, I wanted to change the world. Then I thought, I’ll start with Mexico and now I am happy when I can do some good here in the colonia.” Even though it might sound frustrating, it’s a good description of the work that we do. We have a shared vision, the belief that a better and more just world is possible. And I believe that we are making it happen. It is a good, positive place and people don’t have to travel half way through the city to get here. There is a lot of interest in our activities, evidenced by the new building that is currently being built because our classrooms are full and we needed to expand.
Mexico is a very exciting country. There is so much to see; it’s both crazy and fascinating. Mexico has its own rhythm, and its own magic. Because of the country’s development and the sudden imposition of Spanish colonial rule, its history is divided in a pre-hispanic era (with the Maya and Aztecs) and what happened after the Spanish invasion. There are still so many legends, myths, and customs in everyday Mexican culture. Architectural remains also attest to the country’s earliest cultural origins. The Templo Mayor in the historic centre of Mexico City is an impressive example of Aztec architecture; the floating gardens of Xochimilco in the south of the city are also absolutely enchanting.
Especially my time spent accompanying the project mission gave me the opportunity to become better acquainted with Mexico. The nature is extremely beautiful and diverse, and the country’s different cultures are also very impressive.
In addition, Mexico is a newly industrialized nation, where the poor and rich live side by side and social disparities are much more pronounced than where I come from, which holds a certain explosive potential.
All of these impressions and experiences were a lot to take in. I learned to value many modern comforts and conveniences. And above all, how much it means to have family and old friends close by ... It can feel good to come from a safe country where most people have a relatively good standard of living (at least in material terms).
On the other hand, this realization made me question the privileges that I grew up with and how I got them. What we see as normal can be perceived differently by others, with comments such as: “So you’re from a country where you get paid to have babies and all the taxis are Mercedes.” These differences are not necessarily about culture, but available resources, and they serve as an impetus for reflecting on one’s own lifestyle and character. In these situations, you suddenly feel “foreign” and need to find yourself and a new balance. This experience abroad is also a reflection on my own future goals and values.
It sounds like an arduous task, and it often was. Luckily I was able to meet so many interesting and caring people who supported me along the way. All of my work colleagues – from management to the team and even the young people in the café – are wonderful. I also have a great flatmate and other acquaintances whom I met through a variety of fortuitous encounters ... I received so many invitations and my new friends were often very adamant about the local “mi casa es su casa” hospitality that it was almost too much. But only “almost”! Mexican cuisine and the “baile baile” attitude should never be underestimated! Ultimately I learned that there are so many different lifestyles, cultural stereotypes, language barriers, and a lot of other “heavy” things to dwell on. Or you can decide to adopt a lighter attitude and for me, that’s turned out to be a better approach. It is extremely important and meaningful to meet people with similar thoughts, ideals and goals and I would like to express my THANKS to these people.
Thank you to all those who have supported me here in Mexico and become my friends.
Thank you to Kolping Germany/Paderborn for their tremendous support during my project work.
And, in particular, thank you to the Hörmann family and everyone at Hörmann without whom this experience would not have been possible. Thank you for your financial and organizational support and also for your interest in my work. I am convinced that the Hörmann scholarship is an extraordinary institution that provides its own, very adept response to the challenges of our time. ¡Muchas gracias!
I am living in a relatively safe area in the north of the city that is only three metro stops away from the Kolpinghaus. I am sharing the apartment with a very friendly Mexican student and her brother, which is working out very well. All organisational matters have been thoroughly taken care of. The people from Kolping are all very welcoming and interested in my wellbeing. During my first week I was given tours of the city by different people every day. All I can say is that Mexico City (or D.F. as everyone calls it) is very lively, exciting and interesting.
In the last few weeks I also got the opportunity to learn a lot about Kolping's work routine and structure. I like it a lot from what I have seen. The working environment is very nice and productive. Everyone is working on fantastic courses and projects which allow Kolping to create a kind of oasis for the kids. Until now, I have spent most of my time working in the cafeteria, which is run by youth. I have also "assisted" the German teachers here by talking about Germany, bringing in German poems, etc., which will help me to improve my Spanish. In the course of this work I am confronted with stereotypes on a regular basis, which I find really funny. For example, one important German export is "RAMMSTEIN". I am not very familiar with them, but people don't believe me! On the other hand, I have also been compared to Goethe, Mann and Humboldt, because many people think it is typical for Germans to enjoy travelling and discovering new things.
I have also taken part in meetings with the Kolping management and was even allowed to make a few suggestions. For example, I would like to start a self-defence/self-assertion course for girls. I will also start offering theatre classes in two weeks.
Of course I had a few difficulties here in the beginning – I am quite exotic here, everything is new and a bit strange and I have to get used to it. But I feel that I am slowly getting past the beginning phase. Mexican Spanish is also getting easier for me. The language is actually quite different from what you learn in Spanish class in Germany, but I am getting used to it, which is making life easier and more relaxed.