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Arriving on the labour market

Two women are training refugees as carers. Now their social enterprise has won the Special Impact Award.

© Bonner Verein für Pflege- und Gesundheitsberufe - Birgit Schierbaum and Shilan Fendi

Germany. Caring for older people is a task that many refugees and migrants in Germany have never regarded as a profession. In their home countries, parents and grandparents are usually looked after in their families, senior citizens' homes don't exist. This occupation, previously unknown to them, could now represent an opportunity because the demographic development in Germany, with an increasingly ageing population, means that the need for nurses and carers is growing. Many posts cannot be filled.

This is where a project called Welcome to Care! (Willkommen in der Pflege!) comes in. Birgit Schierbaum and Shilan Fendi launched it in 2016. Their aim is to enable initially about 100 people to begin working in some form of care work within three years – e.g. by providing them with language courses and internships. Mainly men and unmarried women from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq have taken up the offer.

KfW Foundation and Social Impact

Birgit Schierbaum had the idea for the project while helping refugees as a volunteer. Her main job is at the Bonn Association of Nursing and Healthcare Professions (Verein für Pflege- und Gesundheitsberufe). As a child, Shilan Fendi herself fled from northern Iraq. She is a trained nurse with a master's degree in carer training. "We are care specialists," says Schierbaum. "We provide basic and advanced training. We want to give refugees an opportunity to advance and develop, so that they are not restricted to menial tasks."

The two women have successfully put their idea into practice with the help of a scholarship programme called 'Arrivers. Prospects in Germany' (Ankommer. Perspektive Deutschland). The programme is funded by the KfW Foundation and implemented in cooperation with the Social Impact agency. It is aimed at social entrepreneurs who help refugees to integrate into society and the labour market. Experts from Social Impact advise the scholarship holders on building their businesses and provide them with networks and premises.

The 'Welcome to Care!' project has now won a special prize – the Special Impact Award. An expert jury chooses the six best projects from all the 'Arriver' scholarship holders for the final. The winners are awarded 20,000 euros for their project. Schierbaum and Fendi already have lots of ideas on how they might spend the money. For example, they would like to offer a child care service to the participants of their programme.