"It makes me happy when the children smile at me in the morning"
What does a typical day for you look like?
Ambika: I work at the Alexander Schorell School in Kassel; school always starts at 8.00 am. I look after a girl I share classes with. I help her in German, which is more like language training where we practise words, sounds and letters. As she finds speaking a little difficult, we’re also learning some sign language and she really enjoys that. Communicating with gestures and facial expressions tends to have much greater importance for people with disabilities, and it is often easier. We also play during break times. School finishes as 12.40 pm, except on two days when there are also classes in the afternoon.
Why did you decide to do a voluntary service with weltwärts?
Ambika: I heard about weltwärts because they also had volunteers from Germany in my hometown. When I made friends with them, they told me about the programme. Apart from that, I have also worked in a nursery school and so I have already been able to get some experience working with children with disabilities. I just wanted to learn more about it and find out what I could do for these children. I thought that it could be a great chance to learn about it at a secondary school in Germany.
What were your expectations about your stay in Germany?
Ambika: I knew I’d learn a lot of new things. But I was also a little bit afraid that I’d have difficulty with life and work in Germany because so much is different here. Having said that, I was also really looking forward to all the new experiences that awaited me, like meeting lots of new people. In the meantime, I maybe put more thought into what I could gain from all these new experiences than I did at the beginning. I hope that a learning experience like this in voluntary service, particularly when lots of young people are gaining such experiences and impressions, can maybe lead to long-term changes, for example for people with disabilities in my home country.
Have you had a special moment or experience in Germany?
Ambika: I can remember the moment I arrived very well. Being in Germany for the first time was a really special feeling. I felt both joy and anxiety at the same time. I felt afraid because I didn’t know what would happen next. But I also felt excited about all the new things I’d discover. Apart from than that, I think every moment at school has been special for me. When I see the children in the morning and say good morning to them and they smile back at me, wishing me a good morning too, that’s something I’ll take back with me when I return to India.
What do you miss from home?
Ambika: I mainly miss my mother. We’re really very close indeed. I also miss my friends and the food back home. I think these are the same things everyone misses when they leave home. That’s normal.
What are people’s perceptions of your home, India, in Germany?
Ambika: People often tell me how vibrant and lively India is. They also often talk about Indian cuisine. I was really surprised at the number of people who, for example, know and like samosas or chai.
What will you take with you from your voluntary service?
Ambika: Sometimes it’s almost stressful to learn so many things, but sometimes it’s also really nice and fun too. I’ve gained an incredible amount of knowledge and I’ve been able to have so many new experiences. I’ll take all that with me and I think it’ll be really important in my future life. If someone were to ask me to write down everything I’ve learnt, I’d have to say that I’d never be able to do it in one day. If I got an opportunity like this again, I would definitely go on another weltwärts programme in another part of the world.