In August 2013 we came to central Australia to volunteer at Yirara College for one year. We are Lorena, Magdalena and Dorothea and are also known as ‘the three German ladies’. Our organization, Mission EineWelt (MEW) is located in the town of Neuendettelsau, Bavaria. Our service project was created by MEW in partnership with the Finke River Mission. The connection between these two Lutheran mission organisations reaches back to the late 1800s, beginning with the first missionary sent to central Australia from Neuendettelsau, Carl Strehlow.
For the last ten months we have worked at Yirara College, as classroom assistants in the morning, and in the afternoon we help with the girls’ boarding program. We help the students by answering any questions they might have about their work, so the teachers can continue the lesson without too many interruptions. Working with Indigenous students is very exciting because you get to know them and learn about their culture in a very real way, rather than by talking to other people or reading books.
We didn’t know what a school with Indigenous students would be like. In Germany we have just finished high school and we thought it might be similar. Well, we now know that it is completely different: The work is sometimes hard and challenging, but when you build a good relationship with the students it is much easier.
It is difficult working with students who are at many different education levels. You need to know that they come from many different places and speak many different languages. We are not used to that because in German schools the students often come from the same small region where there are no different languages and cultures.
Every day after school in Germany, we used to go home to our family. Here at Yirara we are like the students who are also away from their family for a long time. This helps us understand why the motto of Yirara College is ‘One family – God’s family’. Family is so important and it is always great to have family around. It is wonderful to have our family back home in Germany, but also good to have another family here at Yirara.
During the school holidays we also worked at the Finke River Mission store. We made sandwiches, cupcakes, filled the shelves with supplies and worked as cashiers. To walk through the red dust every morning and come back in the afternoon with some chats in between gave us the feeling we were integrated into the Hermannsburg community. From time to time we saw some students from the college roaming around because it was in the holidays and the school was closed. We had a chat with them, saw some of their family members or just smiled at each other. This smile is like saying, ‘Hey, I know who you are but I’m feeling shame to talk to you.’ The time at Ntaria was very exciting because we got to know a lot of people and we learnt more about life in a community.
We are looking to the last months of our voluntary service with a little bit of sadness because soon we will have to go back to our home country. But all in all we are really thankful to MEW and FRM for the wonderful time we have had here in Alice Springs and also at Hermannsburg.