For the last ten years, young people from the Global South have been able to perform their international volunteer service in Germany through weltwärts. Kenneth Tuhairwe helps travellers and people in crisis at the Cologne branch of the Bahnhofsmission. A positive experience for all involved.
Platform 1 at Cologne Central Station, a location right at the heart of a transport hub. A vibrant place, full of life, and where you'll find the Bahnhofsmission – the place of assignment for Ugandan weltwärts volunteer Kenneth Tuhairwe. The 24-year-old is the 4,000th volunteer to have come to Germany from the Global South, both to support a volunteer organisation and develop themselves as a person. "I'm not an introvert by any means. I love speaking to people, making new contacts, learning new things", says Tuhairwe, when asked about his motivation for joining the programme. The Cologne branch of the Bahnhofsmission was therefore an ideal place of assignment for him, giving him the opportunity to help people in all kinds of need. "I've been helping others all my life. I was the firstborn child in my family; I have a lot of younger siblings. I helped to look after the little ones and acted as a role model for them. Later on, I started to work with street children. Helping others has always been a big part of my life."
Curiosity, openness and an interest in people. These are the key qualities social worker Christina Kaiser believes are required to work at the Bahnhofsmission. This is because you see "people from all walks of life" every single day – from travellers to people in crisis. Kaiser works in Cologne as one of four permanent employees in a team of around 70 volunteers. "The Bahnhofsmission relies a lot on volunteer service", she explains. International volunteers have been coming to the mission for the past four years. For Kaiser, the new perspectives they bring to the work, life, and their unique ways of thinking are something very special. "Everyone involved gets something out of it; it really is amazing and enriching for everyone who works here." Like all of the volunteers who come to the Bahnhofsmission, Tuhairwe first had to undergo a lengthy onboarding process as the service is a great responsibility that can also bring with it a lot of stress and pressure. His biggest challenge has been the language, but he is working hard to improve. "At the end of my year's stay, my German will be very good", he says optimistically, albeit still in English.
"Helping people is a great thing"
Tuhairwe has a number of different duties at the Bahnhofsmission: "I go out onto the streets with the team and help people in need – maybe bringing them a coat if they're freezing cold, or getting them a hot coffee. We also look after older people and those with disabilities on the station, for example helping them to change trains. When there's some waiting time, we spend it together at the Bahnhofsmission, chatting, drinking coffee." Since the launch of the programme's South-North component ten years ago, young volunteers have not only been able to head from Germany to the Global South with weltwärts, but like Tuhairwe, also travel in the opposite direction too. Whichever way, he wants to encourage others to undertake international volunteer service. "There are so many people out there who need help. And here you can offer that help while also getting so much out of it yourself and experiencing something truly amazing. Germany's great, weltwärts is great, so come on!"