Internship Fields: Social Work, Immigration and Women Rights
Majors: American Studies, Feminist Studies
Host: agisra e.V. Köln
Duration: June – September 2010
Agisra e.V. is an information and counseling center for migrant and refugee women in Cologne. Women came to agisra seeking help for a wide range of problems, including threats of forced marriage, domestic abuse, financial troubles, and forced prostitution, and we sought to provide support and empowerment for those seeking assistance. As staff members and interns, we always dealt with our clients in an encouraging, firm, and empowering manner and created a safe space, both physically and emotionally.
The workplace was a dynamic one, and each day differed from the last. On a daily basis, I answered the phone, took messages from women who called and wanted to schedule appointments, answered the door for women who had come for appointments, played with children while their mothers received counseling, and generally helped with office management. A number of times I sat in on Beratungen, counseling appointments, which gave me insight as to how the agisra staff members interacted with the women who came seeking help. In the second half of my internship I scheduled more Begleitungen, accompanying women who spoke little or no German to various government offices, welfare organizations, or doctors appointments and providing translation when necessary. Both experiences pushed me to more deeply appreciate the range of issues women face as migrants in Germany, and the degree to which being a migrant can negatively affect daily life.
An ongoing project was my translation of agisra’s 2009 Tätigkeitsbericht, the annual activities report, into English. This 30+ page document included an academic article on the problems of young women facing the threat of forced marriage, updates on various staff members, lists of events and outreach work agisra had done in the past year, and contact information for many partner organizations. My English skills won me this particular project, which ended up being quite rewarding not only because I learned detailed information about the inner workings of the organization, which I found fascinating, but also because it allowed me to tangibly contribute to the organization during my weeks there. Additionally, I translated the agisra website into both English and Spanish.
Perhaps my favorite part of my time at agisra was the extensive work I did with the Mädchentreff, an after-school program for young women with migrant and/or refugee backgrounds. I helped out with their special summer program, which included a Schifffahrt on the Rhine, a ropes course, a climb to the top of the Kölner Dom (the enormous Cologne cathedral) and a number of other events. It was a great way to meet and befriend these young women from diverse backgrounds and interact with a different subset of the German population.
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