“By experiencing other ways of life and working in an intercultural team, you can develop professionally and personally.”

Marlena is 29 and lives in Cologne. In her work as a social worker, she helps and advises young volunteers. She travelled to Sierra Leone with SES Expert Rosaline M’Bayo for an internship with the Global Empowerment and Development Association (GEDA-SL). Marlena spoke to us about her takeaways from the internship.

Das Interview

Hi Marlena, could you start by telling us what your internship in Sierra Leone involved?

My internship was with GEDA-Sierra Leone. Their main aim is to boost female empowerment through local networks and workshops in the areas of health education, psychosocial counselling and communication. I helped with the preparation, delivery and follow-up for a workshop phase. My chief focus was on working with the young women and girls. The important thing was to provide them with a safe space in which they could talk with peers about what were often sensitive issues and their own experiences.  

Mutual trust and acceptance were given, resulting in a safe space for discussions. Everyone benefited on a very individual level from the experiences shared.

What did you learn during your internship? And what knowledge were you able to pass on yourself?

I learned a lot about the theory and practice of psychosocial counselling. The internship gave me a clearer idea of how many different low-threshold opportunities for education and contact there are, and how effective they are. That showed me how important it is to actively create a “safe space” in these situations. I learned what form empowering relationship-building in an intercultural context can take and was able to build on my own knowledge of culture and gender-sensitive work. I was also able to incorporate into the workshop the experience and expertise I’ve developed in my work with adolescents and young adults in Germany in areas such as communication, peer pressure and coping with stress at school.

The photo shows a group of young people who read as women, talking. They are sitting on chairs on the veranda of a colourful house. One of them is Marlena Agethen.
Marlena talking to young workshop participants.

Why did you decide to do a Team works! internship with the African-German Youth Office?

Being part of a project, a team and day-to-day work processes gives you an insight into the world of work in a different country in a way which a (tourist) trip never could. Experiencing social work in a different environment gives you fresh impetus for your own work in your home country. Learning from each other, finding things you have in common and common work challenges is enriching on both a professional and a personal level.

The photo shows Marlena and a young man. They are holding a pineapple together and smiling at the camera.
Marlena on a trip to Gandorhun for a planned GEDA project for self-employed women in the agriculture sector.

What were the benefits of being in a tandem team with a SES Expert?

Gaining new perspectives and finding out about different work methods, problems and solutions in one’s own field is extremely enriching but it can be really challenging too. So, it’s great to know there’s an experienced expert you can trust and who can help you find your feet. Our meetings were important to reflect on what’s been happening and to get feedback helping you in your work and in thinking about your own role, especially in an intercultural context.

The photo shows a group of six young people who read as women, in front of a building. They are holding participation certificates up to the camera. Some of them have their arms around each other and are smiling. Marlena can be seen in the middle.
Smiles all around – workshop participants with their certificates.

Can you name three things you’re taking away from your internship?

  1. Working with women and girls is a very important area of social work, all over the world. Emancipatory relationship-building is a key component.

  2. Potentially the biggest challenge is to recognise and question yourself and the (thought) structures that you’ve learned and that are deeply rooted within you.

  3. Being part of a community can give you such a lot! Strength, motivation and a sense of security and stability. Both in your work and in your team. Harness that potential.

Be sure to make use of the terrific opportunity this sort of programme offers! You gain a global, more diverse and more reflected perspective of your own field of work.

Take part in Team works!

Would you like to do a Team works! internship like Marlena’s too? Then register now using our form. Simply fill in your details and send it off – that’s all there is to it!

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