With the support of Action For Development in Partnership with Eirene, I was among the volunteers chosen from Uganda to come to Germany on a volunteer programme. The main objective of the volunteer program was to facilitate intercultural exchange, personal and professional growth of young people through personal interaction as well as interaction in a working environment. It was such an awesome pleasure to me because I had never imagined that I would ever travel to Germany. As a volunteer at Acfode, I was given an opportunity to apply for the volunteer program with Eirene as this is Acfode’s partner organization. With the experience and skills, I had gained from Acfode, enabled me to go through and become a volunteer in Germany. I am grateful to Acfode and Eirene for giving me this opportunity.
I was looking forward to arriving in Germany, expectantly waiting to see many new things. I must say that I was not disappointed. Germany is a great country with a lot of technology, and my first observation of this was at the airport. We arrived at Frankfurt airport where we presented our documents and spent some time in a queue. I was impressed by the airport as it is quite large and very busy, but everything is handled skillfully – there are staff at all serving points, attending to people and directing them on what to do at the airport, the four of us from Uganda were picked up by Edrine, a former volunteer with Eirene and taken to Eirene House in Neuwied where we were welcomed by Tshiamo, Anthea and Thomas and all of them are Eirene staff. We received a warm welcome from the Eirene staff. As evening came, I was surprised to see that it was not accompanied by darkness. I had never seen this before – and it was only later that I was told that at this time of the year, that is what happens, this was a new experience to me.
The four volunteers from Uganda out on the town during our first week in Germany. From left to right is Amy, our mentor during the first month in Neuwied, Arafa, Edward, Ahmed and Joan.
When volunteers reach Eirene House, they spend one day there and each is then placed in a host family. This is a German family that has offered to live with each of the volunteers as they settle into the country, introduce them to the German way of life and culture and make them feel at home.
While staying with the host family, the volunteer enrolls for a one-month German course where they learn the German language, communicating with different people in Germany, the different types of food, weather and many more before starting their volunteer service.
After one day at Eirene House, therefore, I was taken to a guest family and my experience with them is, until now, the best thing I have experienced in Germany. From the time I was picked by the family till the time I left them one month later, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Germany to the fullest. The Weber family was awesome – we took tours and attended parties together, getting to know every part of Neuwied and the neighboring towns together and this was a very awesome time spent together with the Weber family.
Me and my guest family during a tour in Neuwied
Every day, I would leave the family for the German course and return in the evening. Most evenings I would find the family waiting for me and they would take me for tours around the city. This enabled me to know more about the German culture, as well as how different things are created, handled and managed in Germany. I got to know what differentiates Germany from Uganda and how lifestyle differs in both countries.
On my Koblenz tour
When it came to food, I enjoyed almost everything that I ate. I like meat and vegetables and I did not find the food in Germany very different from that in Uganda. In Germany meat and vegetables are prepared in many different ways and I tried to taste most of them. Together with the host family, we had barbeques, took walks and engaged in conversations about my family and country. We shared perspectives and impressions about our different countries, something I found enriching.
We toured Koblenz city together, went to the River Rhine and engaged in many relaxing activities. This experience was a great one and I will always live to remember it. I hope that the Weber family also found the experience rewarding.
Our fun moments with my colleagues during the German course
During the German course, we had mentors who used to tell us and also let us know how the Germany policies work, laws and what to do and not to do. As volunteers we were able to spend time together and we moved in the city, had meals and played together, rode bicycles and even tried out skating. These activities and time spent as a group enabled us to get to know each other more, since we were from different countries (Uganda, Bolivia, and Nicaragua), as well as learn more about the countries that each of us came from.
We took lots of photos together, as a memory of our time in Germany, and through these interactions I even got to learn some Spanish, since my colleagues from Bolivia and Nicaragua speak Spanish. I was able to know how people in Nicaragua and Bolivia move on in life as I would be asking them questions to get to know more about them.
At a party to mark the climax of our one month German course
Thank you Acfode, Eirene, the Weber family and my fellow colleagues for the opportunity and great moments I had. I learnt a lot, interacted a lot and enjoyed the time of my volunteer service. I am very grateful that Eirene began this volunteer program and I am happy that I was part of it.