Hi, my name is Elisa Mozena, I am Brazilian and have been living in the Netherlands for the past 7 years. My connection with volunteer work goes back to the time I was still living in Brazil and wanted to make a difference in my hometown. Since then I have carried this will of helping other people with me.
The first opportunity I had to support refugees was in the Netherlands, when I collected clothes for the winter and right after that I moved to Berlin, where I was presented to the Social Learning program.
After working at Tempelhofer Ufer and not knowing how to deal with the attention some Arabic men give to women, I was recommended to go to Willemsdorf. I then enrolled myself to help at the Women’s Room (Frauenzimmer).
At first I did not get my function there, since I had the feeling I was not doing anything. However, other volunteers explained to me that, the room needs at least 2 volunteers to be opened, due to insurance reasons. Also, because many times the room is closed, the women living in the center do not show up anymore, thinking the room is closed anyway and it is not worth trying to go there.
I then started to realize that, these women do not have any moment of privacy and the room offers them a bit of tranquility, away from their man and children. I t was heart warming to see that I could be of use in such a fragile situation like theirs. It is a place where they can take their head scarfs out, do their homework, and socialize.
What most caught my attention was the cultural difference between me and the women I met there, concerning the women’s role on society. For example, one of the girls I met there is only 13/14 years old, and she is already married, her husband is still in Afghanistan. She did not know where her country was located in the world map (Afghanistan), she did not know the name of their capital. Her sister, a girl from my age (27 years old), was just now learning the Romanic alphabet, while her older brother is a doctor who speaks fluently English. Throughout my visits to the women’s room I could see that the majority of those girls are faded to an early and arranged marriage, have children and take care of the house, which was a cultural shock for me.
Me and the other volunteers try to talk with them and make them understand that they do to need to depend on their man. They can learn German, and acquire at least some basic knowledge to be able to do the basic things in life.
They are the sweetest people I’ve ever met, and my heart is broken to leave them. It also makes me really sad to think that their future in Germany in unknown, since all the women I met are from Afghanistan and they are not receiving visa’s. I wish I could help them by doing more than I did in the last couple of months, but it is out of my power. All I can do for now is to invite more people to join them at the women’s room, and make sure they can always go to that place and count on us.