Stories of Change

Class time at Info Park.

Since July 2016, nearly 170 women and girls have attended German classes at Info Park. Of those, 140 successfully graduated and received a language certificate.

When German is more than a language for a young migrant

Z’s* first day in Serbia was also her first day of a two-month long German language course, and she sensed that it was the first day of a new life.

Twelve-year-old Z’s family was passing through Serbia, bound for Germany. Her family was originally from Ghazni province in southeastern Afghanistan. Like in many Afghan provinces, life in Ghazni was precarious; Taliban insurgents operated in rural areas and attacked schools and government infrastructure.

The family fled to Iran, where Z was born in exile. She was never accepted by her peers in Iran because of her Afghan roots. Z’s father was a stonecutter, and her mother was a housewife. Her mother always wanted to study, but the family couldn’t afford her education. This made Z want to study even more. Unfortunately, her education was put on hold when her family began the long journey to Europe in 2015.

They arrived in Belgrade in the midst of summer in 2016. Staff from Info Park, CWS’s local partner in assisting refugees and migrants, spotted a family roaming through a central refugee park, trying to find someone to help them. They were taken to Info Park’s safe space, where they could rest. Z recalls the taste of the noodles that she was given at Info Park as, “the sweetest food she had tasted in years.”

While her family lived in a camp for asylum seekers in Belgrade, Z took a bus every day to Info Park to attend German and English language courses. It was more than learning a language; each new lesson brought her one step closer to her dream of living in Germany and becoming a gynecologist to help other women. She was one of the most devoted students in the class.

Z eventually left Serbia to go to Hungary and then Germany. Before she left, she told the Info Park team that she was worried she would remain uneducated. But then she smiled as she said how grateful she was for the support she had received and for the opportunity to learn again.

Info Park’s center was often the only safe haven for her and for her friends. It was a place to learn and a safe place to relax, away from the threats of the camp. She explored German and English books in peace at the center, often staying all day. During the final language test for German, Z scored the second highest score ever recorded at Info Park, a 96.5 out of 100.

Earlier this month, we heard great news from Germany, where Z now lives. She won the Hamburg regional competition for best writing skills among newcomers to Germany. Twenty months ago, she didn’t know a word of the language. She only joined a German school in Hamburg a month ago. And yet, here she was with her prize.

We congratulate Z and her whole family, who are starting to make a new life for themselves in Germany, and we wish them every success in the years to come. With determination like Z’s, she has the potential to achieve great things.

Since July 2016, nearly 170 women and girls have attended German classes at Info Park. Of those, 140 successfully graduated and received a language certificate. Teachers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland inspire students to gain confidence, knowing that if they work hard they will have more opportunities. Funding from CWS is helping to ensure that the class continues to be offered at Info Park.

*We are only using her first initial to protect her identity.