Voluntary service in Jena: 13 young adults from 7 countries as guests

Voluntary service in Jena: 13 young adults from 7 countries as guests

 A European view of Jena: The Eurowerkstatt is currently looking after 13 young adults from 7 countries. They rave about Germany.

Acht der dreizehn europäischen Freiwilligen. Foto: Jördis BachmannAcht der dreizehn europäischen Freiwilligen. Foto: Jördis Bachmann

Jena. She says it is the first time she has experienced a country where she has the impression that the government cares about its citizens. "People work and do something for their country, but Germany also does something for its people," says 29-year-old Özge from Turkey.

"However, the Germans I have talked to about this so far see it differently. They say the government has to do more. I think it's a shame when you don't see what you have." Özge is an assistant director, has worked on films such as "Homicide Istanbul" or the Dan Brown adaptation "Inferno" with Tom Hanks.

"I worked around the clock. There was no time for family or friends. I had completely lost sight of myself in the process. At some point I realised that I needed a break if I wanted to find out what I really wanted to do. The voluntary exchange year was a way for me to take that break. It helps me clear my head again, get my mind off work and get my bearings."

Özge is one of a group of 13 young adults doing voluntary service in Jena. They are all well-educated young adults, like 23-year-old Juan, who studied psychology in Spain, or Angela, a translator and English teacher, also from Spain.

Both agree with their fellow campaigner Özge: "In Spain they demand money for everything. The training takes a long time and they demand money for every test you have to take. In return, you get - if at all - a poorly paid job, three euros an hour, with lousy work contracts and without any social security. It's different here," says Juan.

  Conny Bartlau heads the Jena-based association Eurowerkstatt, which has been sending young people from Jena all over Europe to do voluntary service since 2006. Since 2009, Eurowerkstatt has also coordinated the hosting of volunteers from Europe in Jena.

For this purpose, the association has rented flats where the volunteers are accommodated in shared flats. The volunteers stay in Jena from two months to one year. During this time, they are involved in various social or cultural institutions.

She was really touched when she visited the Klex youth centre for the first time, says Özge. "Such a great offer for children and young people to spend their free time." Angela works in the Montessori kindergarten and is also enthusiastic: "It is really interesting for me to see how the children are supported there. In Spain, there have been many educational reforms, but never good ones. It has nothing to do with 'reform education'

Anastasia is a young designer. "In Russia I drew a lot of commissioned portraits. That worked well, but I plan to reorient myself. I'm now doing a project with children at the Winzerla leisure shop, I really like it."

Conny Bartlau points out that there are still places available for the volunteer year in Vladimir. "Unfortunately, Russia probably doesn't seem very attractive to many young Germans for an exchange year right now."

22-year-old Iakov would like to change that. He is also from Russia and currently works at the Hugo youth centre, where he has already organised a Russian evening. "For me, it's about breaking down the stereotypes about my home country and doing away with prejudices," he says.

On 15 December 2016, an open Russian evening with typical Russian food will therefore be organised at the Eurowerkstatt at Löbdergraben 28. "All interested parties are cordially invited to attend from 1 pm," says Conny Bartlau.

Co-tenant wanted for Löbdergraben 28

She also takes the opportunity to point out that a co-tenant is being sought at Löbdergraben 28. The Eurowerkstatt Jena association used to share the rooms with the Überbetriebliche Ausbildungsgesellschaft, which is now moving.

"In order to be able to continue using these rooms close to the centre, we now need a new co-tenant," says Conny Bartlau.

The Eurowerkstatt also plans, among other things, excursions and a festival together with the 13 European volunteers. At the moment, the young Europeans meet regularly for an additional language course. While speaking German is no longer a big problem for some, others still have to make an effort.

And while they gain many new experiences and learn a new language, they leave their footprints in Jena with their volunteer work.

Jördis Bachmann / 29.11.16
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