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Stronger through community

Kiruba Venthakon was able to gain a professional foothold in Germany. She owes this to the Strong at Work programme – and to other mothers.

Lauralie Mylène Schweiger, 15.08.2022
One more exam, then she's a bus driver: Kiruba Venthakon
One more exam, then she's a bus driver: Kiruba Venthakon © RE/init e.V.

When Kiruba Venthakon came to Germany from Sri Lanka as a political refugee in 2012, she had only the future of her new-born daughter in mind. The now 40-year-old mother had no idea where it would go from there. But then she came across "PLANET", a project of the association RE/init in Recklinghausen and Gladbeck. It is part of the Strong at Work programme of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs. Here Kiruba met other mothers who wanted to take care of their children and gain a professional foothold in Germany. PLANET offers them job application and language training while their children are looked after. Today Kiruba has a secondary school diploma and is a future bus driver. And PLANET is more than a place of learning for her; she affectionately calls it "mother's school": "I feel about it like a child who can always go to her mother".

Every woman counts

Before, Kiruba would never have dreamed of graduating from school. She beams: "I am so happy here". RE/init department head Daniela Barfuß emphasises that despite all the support, Kiruba has herself achieved a lot. The success of the “project closest to my heart”, says Barfuß, is also owing to the relationship work: "The women feel valued. Kiruba has come so far and yet she still comes to us sometimes." The staff worked to find a solution for every problem.

Kiruba’s radiant smile encourages other mothers.
Kiruba’s radiant smile encourages other mothers. © Kiruba ©RE/init e.V.

Entry through solidarity

Marithres van Bürk-Opale runs RE/init. She says community can often be the means to deal with bad fates: "We believe in closeness and positive experiences. No woman is alone here." But naturally there is no training for the self-confidence that the participants gain over time, says Barfuß: "Of course we strengthen the women through the talks, but the women also encourage each other".

Strong at Work will come to an end at the end of 2022. After that, new programmes like My Turn of the Federal Ministry of Labour will make it easier for women with a migration background to start a career. Because PLANET has shown how valuable long-term support can be for women. Van Bürk-Opahle prizes this: "It was great to witness this development. That stays with you."


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