Community Sponsorship via the German NesT programme: A new start

 

In Germany, community sponsorship has been implemented under the "NesT – New Start in a Team" pilot programme since May 2019. Sponsor groups composed of volunteers are responsible for implementing it within the framework established by the Federal Government, whereas Civil Society Contact Points provide information and training to groups interested in applying and to those already selected or matched with refugee families.[1]

 


 

“All my life I have been following the reasoning “there is a chance – get it”, but now I have so many options I feel overwhelmed. It is nice”

Shurook, sponsored refugee

 

Shurook, 28, arrived in Germany with her sister Heba, 23, in November 2019 – the first refugees to arrive via the NeST programme. Despite having been informed about the programme’s setup prior to arrival, they were still surprised at the extremely warm welcome and wrap around support they received from the volunteer sponsor group based in Cologne-Merheim. “We were two young girls alone coming from a war-torn country and looking for adequate medical treatments” Shurook tells us “so when we heard about the sponsorship programme we thought it could be good for us. We expected to have someone to ask questions to and a house to live in”, Shurook adds “what we received instead was guidance, support and a real family – not just a work team”.

 

Unsurprisingly, the Covid-19 pandemic represented a real challenge to the beginning of their new lives, as it prevented them from making as many connections as they would have liked and to explore the city. However, thanks to the dedication and support of the sponsor group, they were able to participate in several activities from which they benefited a lot, such as German language classes, the weekly “Lotsenpunkt” and the German exchange club with students from the University of Cologne

 

“We found a light here” Shurook says, adding that she now wants to make a change in her life and, possibly, in that of her family by continuing to learn and securing a good job. Already proficient in German (she often used German words during the interview) and with previous professional experience as a social worker in Syria and Jordan, she was able to find a temporary job working in the local kindergarten, an opportunity she obtained with the support of the sponsor group and the local Job Center. She is very happy with the job, as it allows her to practice the language and stay in contact with people despite the restrictions. She even started a “Potato group” – a group of 11 children growing potatoes together in the garden of the church – an activity she can continue to bring forward in the fall, when she might also enroll in university.

 

“I like Cologne”, Shurook says “here we found humanity, love and support”.


 

PHOTO: Shurook and Heba. Courtesy of the volunteers and refugees.