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Elderly care education for African refugees and migrants in Aachen, create a bridge to their mother countries

Activate people of the African diaspora for a professional training, get independent of social welfare benefits, stimulate mother countries.

Photo of Wolfgang Rassek

Written by

We address people of the African diaspora, refugees and immigrants, who are, qualitatively and quantitatively, in a diverse exchange of knowledge and experience with their countries of origin in Africa. In order to achieve more and better social opportunities, we want to enable them to make a three-year training in care of the elderly. Although most of them have completed a good education in their mother country - some of them have also received vocational training - they was for many years not been given the opportunity to learn and pursue a qualified profession which would correspond to their abilities and potentials.

This people and their families in the District of Aachen are living in a community of 8,000 persons. More than 4,000 of them have already lived in Germany for 15 to more than 20 years since fleeing from their home countries. Formerly they had arrived as high school graduates, but instead of this despite many measures of advice, testing and retraining by the official German employment agencies (“Arbeitsagentur” or “Jobcenter”) they remain unemployed or are employed in low-skill jobs with sub-breadline minimum wages that demand supplementary social welfare (“Sozialhilfe/Hartz IV”) in order to survive.

In this fact we recognize an example of a severe exclusion from social participation, since appropriate vocational training and access to employment of a higher standard is thus denied. Academically we had taken various scientific approaches into consideration demonstrates the social implications of escape and immigration. Practically we bring our years of experience using the example of Elderly Education Program we can propose to offer a viable and notable solution to the increasing demographic demand for qualified Elderly Care Staff.

Through the proposed Program many of the above immigrants, currently completely excluded from suitable or efficient vocational training, could thus gain access to an appropriately higher and more suitable level of vocational training with long-term employment perspectives. However, this requires the identification of this situation as an ensemble of specific barriers, such, per example, the current non-suitability diagnoses, made by the official public German employment agencies. With our project-idea we think we can prove that the actual barriers of education and disabilities of professional development are easily overcome if appropriate measures of social inclusion and anti-bias are implemented in a socially oriented training program.

With this approach we even can give important impulses to change good ideas and best practice experiences for initiatives in the different African countries, from which are coming the activists and trainees in our diaspora community: Kenya, Cameroun, Congo Kinshasa, Morocco, Gambia, Congo Brazzaville, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Burkina Faso. As well as in Germany there are, although under very different conditions, emergency situations for people who are in need of care, which require a cooperation in the adaptation of new didactic approaches to inclusive, multilingual, heterogeneous and diachronic learning groups and the Family Group Conference as a method for Vocational training of socially disadvantaged persons, we want to take up new approaches to social pedagogy and didactics. We also want to make use of strategies of empowerment and diversity. So we want to realize social inclusion in the sense of the declaration of the UNESCO World Conference on Special Need Education: Access and Quality in Salamanca, Spain, 7-10 June 1994.

The project idea of implementing a social inclusive training program of elderly care education for structural disadvantaged refugees and migrants in combination of professionalism and social networks and family groups touches upon not only the situation in Germany, but also the problems of people in need of care who are living in the large urban quarters of African cities. On the basis of the already functioning communication between Diaspora and countries of origin, a good-practice exchange is able to provide synergies for new training initiatives that are innovative in the African as well as in the German context.

Who Benefits?

The beneficiaries are refugees from Africa who are middle-aged (the trainees and their families are a group of about 200 people) who after their immigration in Germany, had no permit to work for many years because of their application procedures as asylum seekers. Later they were forced to look for an employment without having a professional qualification (per example as cleaners or as helpers in industrial production), where they could not develop their potential and skills - if they were not completely unemployed and depended on the support by the social welfare. Later measures of the employment agencies to further their chances to gain a better professional employment remained unsuccessful: their language skills were considered deficient, their schooling was not accepted and their cognitive abilities were considered insufficient for a better professional training.

How is your idea unique?

None of the established municipal and regional institutions for the counseling, furtherance and support for refugees and migrants without a job, without schooling, professional education and a positive life perspective have hitherto noted that many of the persons concerned have a special need for support, which can only be satisfied if the specific circumstances of their flight and the sustainable effective legal and social disadvantages as asylum seekers are accepted. The social network of the African community can open up resources for learning and motivation. Resources which are not covered by the current suitability analyzes and competence-diagnostic procedures of the employment administration. In the case of care for the elderly, the community is also able to create a society-wide added value through innovation impulses for the development of cultural-sensitive care for the elderly. A unique approach is also bilingual language learning on the job and not in school.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Full-scale roll-out: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the users I am trying to reach with my idea. I am ready to expand the pilot significantly.

Tell us more about you

We are just going to get a registered association and are searching for cooperation partners in the so called Euregio, communities in the Netherlands and Belgium near Aachen. In the last two years we organized together with the 'Volkshochschule Aaachen' and the Malteser Hilfsdienst (similar to Red Cross) some professional trainig containing only elements of our concepts. By massive volonteering almost all of the participants had success. A total of nearly 50 people (5 men and 43 women) have completed six-month preparatory courses with a secondary school diploma with state recognition. Three of our group - migrants themself - served as teachers for the others. Four members started meanwhile - introduced and encouraged by us - social education studies.

Expertise in sector

  • 5-7 years

Organization Filing Status

  • No, but we plan to register in the future.
View more

Attachments (2)

AN Artikel 2016-02-06.pdf

some succuess in education for elderly care (in German)


Join the conversation:

Photo of eldy wullur

Now I know very well that your struggle is beyond what you get expressed through words. There is a sincere intention in your ministry. I know that there are many good things that can not be expressed by a sentence.
Congratulations again. God will bless your efforts beyond what you just hope for.

Photo of eldy wullur

The lure to live in another country is very tempting. But faced with the fact that many also experience failure. Living in your own country and building your own country is really fun. But for immigrants who fled for political reasons, it does not have much choice.
Salute for you who have sensitivity to help them gain a good life, by empowering them in sectors not favored by indigenous peoples.

Photo of Joachim

Thanks for your salute. Thank you for your understanding that immigrants who fled for political reasons (people who had to experience how their sisters and brothers were persecuted and killed) do not have much choice where to go. But I would like to clarify:
1. We must note that the current "welcome culture" has very narrow limits concernng the problems of immigrants in our European countries (Germany is only a concrete example):
- We have the human right to asylum.
- We have the United Nations Convention on Refugees.
- We have a great system of social welfare.
- We have a well developed education system and we have a strong public employment agency.
- We have many democratic laws.
And yet we have many migrants who have fled from their African countries traumatized from mourning for the loss of the people they loved, for fear for their lives and the lives of their families, because they have losted their political rights. They fled because they have been socially discriminated against and therefore also have lost their education and work. Therefore they have come to Europe where many of them now have not had a chance to do a qualified job with their own hands. Many of them for more than 20 years.
We want to change that and for this we have developed our new ideas.
2. And what is to say about the sectors not favored by indigenous people: There is a dramatic shortage of well-qualified professionals in the sector of the care of the elderly and in the health care, while at the same time the number of elderly people is growing who must live without a family who can take care of them. This is a very relevant problem of our society as a whole. In view of this our people, who have come to thousands as immigrants (and they come still today), can give us something of their civilization and cultural values which can help us improve our social and humanitarian standards. They take part not only with their arms and legs. They also participate with their minds and their hearts, with their intelligence, their sensitivity and their creativity, with their hope and their initiative to go new ways. Ways also to build new and better bridges between our Western countries and their respective countries.
This is much more important than just the fact that migrants in certain sectors do the jobs that are not attractive to locals and indigenous people. This is much more than the interest to gain a better live.
Our Intention is to realize more of the social inclusion that UNESCO's Salamanca Declaration has formulated more than 20 years ago, an inclusion that changes not only the migrants, but also the indigenous people.
3. In addition, many of the people involved are continuously in exchange with the communities of their respective African countries. In future, however, they want not only exchange information with their brothers and sisters, send them money and organize import and export of goods. With their new professional know-how and better social position they want to create new bridges for joint initiatives to improve the social work and the care of the elderly and the needy.
It is an empowering for people who themselves have the potential to empower others.

Photo of Eunice Mainah

It really a very good idea and it come at the write time I have been thinking of going to another country to study since I think in other countries we immigrants have more chances, I have done many interviews so that I can join a school here and do something for my future but I keep getting different reasons as to why I can't join the school and this makes me feel very bad sometimes it can read to a very depressive situation since you end up going to a job where you have no fun doing that job.That would very good

Photo of Christian

I consider this initiative of training African migrants for elderly care in Aachen a very positive development. I the first place, the educational systems from which must of these migrants originate from are not properly synched with the German culturL and social meliu
The best way in my view to properly integrete into the German system is to have a good understanding of what is expected and that is what this vocational training seeks to do.
A popular quote says that"if a system is growing and you refuse to grow with it, tthat system would outgrow you and eventually flash you out." That is why this training and retraining is a vital tool to empower them and curb down the social exclusion syndrome.
This would surely empower them eeconomically and improve the total family income.

Photo of Melody Rose

I think that this project has a lot of potential. At first it might seem that it would not bee big to promote such an idea because of seemingly existing "measures" to promote refugee, but this project is something special and stands out. It respects quite different aspects, which all converge as from different heavenly directions and all these aspects are united so that something great whole can arise. Unified in a great idea are opportunities for the future and, above all, the possibility of a training group with personal references of a close individual consulting and a resulting cohesion of the whole group. I wish you all he best!!!

Photo of Pathy Kanku

Ich finde die Idee, eine hochqualifizierte Ausbildung für Leute aus unserer Afrikanischen Community zu machen, wo wir uns gegenseitig unterstützen können, absolut gut! Wir haben hier viele Nachteile. Und mit unseren Gemeinden sind wir bis heute nicht in der Lage, das zu kompensieren. Seit ich vor 15 Jahren von Kongo nach Deutschland geflüchtet bin, muss ich von Sozialhilfe leben. Oder ich finde mal für kurze Zeit einen Job als Putzfrau. Ich war in Kinshasa auf dem Gymnasium und habe Abitur. Aber wegen meiner Flucht habe ich alle meine Papiere verloren. Schon lange wollte ich eine qualifizierte Berufsausbildung machen. Aber ich erhielt viele Jahre keine Arbeitserlaubnis. Und wenn ich heute zum Jobcenter gehe, dann sagen sie mir, dass mein Schulabschluss nicht genug ist und dass meine deutsche Sprache nicht gut genug ist, um eine Ausbildung zu machen. So kann ich nur Jobs ohne Qualifikation finden. 

Photo of OA

A marvellous idea that needs our and your support. It will give people the chance to be proud of their work. Immigrants are a great ressource of knowledge and this project helps them to live a better life.I hope you will suceed.

Photo of Wolfgang Rassek

As non refugee I'm proud, too. I can tell my colleagues stories from marginalized people who win back their self confidence. It brings cohesion to society.

Photo of Magi Kanoni

I have lived 10 years from social welfare aid and today I have the chance to get an education in care of the elderly! I think it is a great thing that helps me and the others. That we also have opportunity for a future!
We need support but we need our own knowledge and professionality because no one else will give it to us. If we have qualified jobs and earn our own money,we also will be able to engage for others!

Family Djunga

Photo of Wolfgang Rassek

In Germany the Job-Center as responsible part of the administration often classify refugees as people with low educational level ignoring the education of their origin country. If someone accepts a low level job in order to get money quickly his further career is determined. It needs a lot of explanation from our association to make the Job-Center pay an education. We really have to change this!

Photo of Joachim

The extent to which intercultural sensitivity, cultural intelligence, has an importance for the case managers of the agencies for employment in consultative contact with their clients, migrants from other cultural contexts, is decisive to overcome their own prejudices. What, on the one hand, think the case managers of the agencies in their communicative relation with respect to the clients? And what, on the other hand, the clients understand and accept by them? This relation determines to a considerable extent the jointly created, associative-intuitive perception of the situational context of the involved partners. A great importance has the consensus, which is integrated in the concreteness of here and now. In contrast to the terminology used in Western culture, and its endeavors to define 'based on facts', every dialogue situation has for many of the refugees always a reference to life in a concrete story in which it is discussed as a narrative "unfolding in the world" (Ngugi wa Thiong'o).

Photo of Cathrine Heinrichs

It is so sad that the Germany authorities does not take time to identify the potential and resources that the Immigrant have so that they can invest on what they have rather than trying to Import labour from neighbouring countries to do the same Jobs what the Immigrant could do and do it very well becouse the resources used to Import could be very well utilised to equip the People living here so that they can be of benefit to Germany and as well as their children and entire communities in their Country of origin.  The Project will really cater for this Problem of Inclusion and social inequality which truly the German authority has not found a way or a sollution on how to deal with the Problem as stated by our friend Josefa. good luck

Photo of Gladys Gebhart

This is a very brilliant idea training Afrikan refugees in Europe,, they will be part of contributing to growing of the economy,,and develop their own lives hence beiying not dependent on social help,,, many of these refugees are highly talented some have good training back ground from the country of origin,, some are university graduates this program platform to help build up the society here and also back at Germany language as been a big challenge but many are willing to learn and intergrate... in the area of elderly care in Germany manpower is truelly needed ,giving good training orpotunity will help a lot to have qualified man power.... keep this candle burning! ������������

Photo of Agatha

I think the idea of this project is a brilliant one and it will be an eye-opener and offer a lot of opportunites and open-doors for the African community in Germany.Many African refugees had ever wished to get a wholesome job to be paid a handsome salary,but all these have been hindered one way or the other due to the prejudices of not being able to express and communicate freely in the German language and have been relegated to the low ladder in society. It will interest you to know that most of these African refugees are well-educated who have graduated from their countries of origin and are capable of engaging themselves in a lot of endevours when they are given the opportunity. I am of the opinion that neither language, nor colour, nor race should be used as a yards-stick to deprive these Africans of getting good jobs. I think this project should be supported in order to enhance self-esteem,self dependence and a sense of security and a backbone in a foreign land.

Photo of Josefa

If people are encouraged, to live their dream and if they finaly succeed in it, not only these people themselves, get proud and lucky, but also their children, their wifes, husbands and friends and this will produce a snowball effect from which a lot of people will benefit beneath all those, who directly take part in the training program. Children, who experience their parents to make progress in their fully social participation will feel more accepted in their peergroups and be motivated, to work on their own social and professional success. In the light of this insight, especially the family group conference, which is installed in this program, seems to be a very intelligent and supporting means, to make the participants and their families getting into extensive progress in their capability, to take part in German society.
All obstacles, the personal as well as the social, that make it difficult for african refugees and immigrants to live their live in full participation could be overcome successfully, if the community with their families stay and work together. This project has identified the great ressource which lies in family-groups when we talk about sozial participation and inclusion. These people, who take part in the presented project are successfull, because their origin, their experience of life, their personal situation, their hopes and their worries, and, above all, the fact, that they are already part of a vivid community, is seen as a source of developemen and NOT, as normaly, as weakness.
I am sure, that this exceptional sight of the personal situation of the African refugees and immigrants is the key for them, to leave the "frozen status as social-loosers". As it´s described in the progam, it will work even better, if the official German employment agencies will accept the expertism of the participants.

In this way, I think, this program has the potential, to change Geman society, that has not yet found the best way, how to correspond to th sense of the declaration of the UNESCO World Conference on Special Need Education: Access and Quality in Salamanca, Spain, 7-10 June 1994.

Good luck!

Photo of Wolfgang Rassek

thank you for this! Just an addition: three of us coming from another country have a diploma as nurse or midwife. They made their first steps as teachers in this initiative and were able to transfer their knowledge and experience with German education system and curriculum.

Photo of Tracy

a very good idea. its important to give people a perspective!

Photo of Joachim

This Idea is very good. That is about people who have come to Germany as refugees more than 20 years ago, and to date do not have a fair chance to achieve a better professional qualification. Not a few of them are thinking that they want to get involved in a project in their countries of origin after completing a public accepted professional qualification.

Not on behalf of a large "development aid" organization. But as a real bridge building initiative. With a project that aims to sustainably strengthen a diaspora community. In order to share their information, ideas, knowledge and skills, criticism, solidarity and support, better with their different countries of origin in Africa.

The employment agencies in Germany primarily support "labor market integration". But they "promote" those affected by classifying them as "helper". There are so-called "combi-courses". These provide a limited vademecum for subalterns. But integration, better: social inclusion, should make it easier to obtain admission to a recognized professional training.

According to experts, there are too many "unskilled" in Germany. The work agencies also know this. Why do they make it so hard for our people to do a real professional training?

The project idea presented here for training in care for the elderly is a very good alternative. The training guarantees them a better paid and socially recognized work. Our people get a new sense of self-awareness. They want to realize a self-determined activity. A work with decision-making autonomy. A work with more knowledge and skills. With a knowledge that they want to change and improve something in their countries of origin in Ghana, Kenya, Congo, Cote d'Ivoir and Cameroon.

Many of the official "integration-courses" on Germany are ineffective. Language courses for which the German authorities spent half a billion euros in recent years have not changed the fact that refugees and immigrants live on the margins of society.

That's why we need something more than language courses. We need an encouragement that we can design and change the things ourselves.

Photo of Wolfgang Rassek

Two examples for this comment: Last year already the newspaper DIE ZEIT stated that the euphoria for refugees vanished in Germany. Only few enterprises offered traineeships, and public financed language training didn't reach migrants for different reasons. As our job training is self-organized we had already great success and we continue to identify both new learning methods and conditions. Thus, there is a critical point for this project leaving volonteer commitment on the way to be recognized and financed on a larger scale. See

Photo of Joachim

I would like to refer: None of the established municipal and regional institutions for the counseling, furtherance and support for refugees and migrants without a job, without schooling, professional education and a positive life perspective have hitherto noted that many of the persons concerned have a special need for support, which can only be satisfied if the specific circumstances of their flight and the sustainable effective legal and social disadvantages as asylum seekers are accepted. We have experienced that many of the people who were looking for advice from the employment agencies did not have success after several, sometimes monthly consultations, training measures and tests. Therefore they need other aids that allow them to incorporate more of their socio-cultural values into training and work. Values of solidarity and mutual unconditional aid. Values which are defined by an empirical social practice, practiced also in the diaspora. A practice which also has PAULIN HOUNTONDJI as a prominent critic of "Africanism as a mythological construction" lets to say: "We should now give this concept (sc. of culture) a dimension of real experience."

Here, the social network of the African community can open up resources for learning and motivation. Resources which are not covered by the current suitability analyzes and competence-diagnostic procedures of the employment administration. In the case of care for the elderly, the community is also able to create a society-wide added value through innovation impulses for the development of cultural-sensitive care for the elderly.

Many refugees from Africa are faced with a number of specific handicaps as job-seekers. They have spent a large part of their many years of life in Germany as asylum seekers and "permitted persons". In a legally, economically and socially unstable status, which made it impossible for them to participate on social and cultural life. This experience determined their "second socialization" (Shmuel N. Eisenstadt). Contrary to the political expectation that immigrants should be able to assimilate themselves individually in the host society as quickly as possible, we can conclude that groups of migrants do not dissolve, but rather develop their own 'ethnically' accustomed lifestyle in a community and integrate themselves primarily on this path. On the other hand, the institutionalized employment administration was not able to provide vocational training to the persons concerned even after they had acquired a more stable legal status.

Now in the advanced age of life, the handicaps are no longer their status as asylum seekers, but their insufficient knowledge of German as well as the lack of school certificates which deny them the access to and the participation in a more highly respected vocational training.

Photo of Maureen

This vocational concept is highly commendable and deserves due recognition, respect and immense support, in particular financially.

*-It is a courageous programme which enables people who, were neglected and for many, many years, have had no access to the recognition of their acquired foreign education or access to the acquisition of local qualifications which enable competence and adequate employment conditions.
*-Highly creditable and equally courageous is the principle that allows the participants access to intensified and successful learning through the use of their mother tongue or the language in which they obtained their education, similar to the basis of German schools abroad. The significance, in this respect, is reflected the extremely high success rate.
*-Encouraging is the fact that the participants are highly motivated and the joy of being successful is immediately transferred to all areas of life. They are people being helped and it becomes their joy to help one another and help their own back home to enjoy this principle with as little bureaucracy as possible.
*-Exceedingly noteworthy, is the age of the participants which confirms the idea of life-long learning.
*-Congratulations to the non-institutionalised initiators for targeting and carrying out the impossible!

The number of foreigners in Germany who still suffer from a lack of recognition of their qualifications obtained in their home countries is extremely high. Throughout the academic, industrial, commercial and political worlds very few foreigners - as well as women - have held posts of any significance up until fairly recently, due to the lack of recognition coupled with the firm belief in the superiority of German institutions. This misbelief, unfortunately, is presently on the rise and introduces almost irreversible hurdles to those struggling to have access to fair participation. Even those foreigners and former refugees, who have studied in Germany and in some cases even obtained two academic qualifications or doctorates, are denied access to adequate positions in any of the work sectors. We are hoping here for the breakthrough!

The educational, occupational as well as social opportunities, this vocational concept offers to foreigners meets not only the demands of the institutionalised German educational and vocational statutes and hurdles, which German employers bow down to, but also meets the extremely admirable demands of a vastly neglected population group. On arrival in Germany, the participants in this vocational course were not offered any of the current “privileges” or “frills” which are handed out to the recent newcomer foreigners and refugees, in the name of a rather obscurely titled and newly invented “Welcome Culture”. For decades they have been, as the Germans would say, “tucked away under the carpet” and left to their own devices and extremely devastating neglect. If they did “stick their necks out”, it wasn’t for long, as the contracts were limited, savagely exploiting or the next institutional hurdle loomed ahead. The greatest hurdle to overcome is the funding!! The redtape and institutionalised barriers to obtaining funds are almost unsurmountable.

May these neglected people now have the fairest chance of the long awaited future participating and contributing in the country that is now their home and in their home countries. It is my task to encourage and support these people of African backgrounds.

Photo of Cathrine Heinrichs

For  along time African refugees in Germany have never gotten to a Chance to get to normal well paid Jobs becouse of many hinderance one of them being German language which the Job agency here in Germany use as weighing scale to measure  someones  capability which I find very unfare becouse many of African people  have come with alot of resources one of them being they can speak more than one language, they also have different Levels of education,  some attended even universities in their respective countries othes went to Colleges and others even have specific fields where they majored in but becouse of the language barrier they have ended up in low paying Jobs which make them like slaves of social welfare System here in Germany.  But we thank God for this Programme that  has come to help African refugees regardles of which Country or Religion one come from.

This is a Highlight and upportunity to help the refugees and especially African who has been denied this Chance for a Long time that the coming Generation will not suffer social inequality in the Society what their parents went through since they left their countries becouse of war etc.  I see a future out of this idear as it become realised becouse families will become selfsufficent and self indipendent and this will help to remove Stigma of social classes that is created when a Group of People does not have a sense of belonging in the Society.  At the same time when I look at the diversity of this great idea when the African refugees get equiped they can also develop the communities into which they come from in their respective countries and this will help the poor healthy Systems in Africa to improve.  May this great dream come to pass. 

Photo of Dagmar

In my opinion this is a useful and  sucessful project in the aim of helping people joining the society by education and earn their own money. This project is such a good idea and I hope many people will support it. Good luck.

Photo of Krysto Kimia

This is very important for the refugees.such of programme have not start in Germany. And the New generation will have opportunities to do something else als cleaning. We have to stay together and help this program to be realised. May God give the direction

Photo of eldy wullur

Hello Wolfgang,
As migrants really should take a less desirable job by locals. As such there is no gap in countries where migrants settle.
But if the right people in developed countries do not really like taking care of the elderly?

Photo of Wolfgang Rassek

In our experience misunderstanding and prejudice disappear when we explain face to face our project here in Aachen and when we talk about our success. But public administration and the educational system is quite rusty and clumsy. So we develop new learning methods, and fight for more flexibility without losing quality. The elderly themselves seem to learn quicker and like so far the migrants.

Photo of eldy wullur

The struggle like this is not easy, you have to pass a variety of things that are difficult.
But courage and a strong spirit will give you victory.
Wish you a good luck.