“Home is where the heart is, no matter where you live.” Surafel Mengistu has returned, despite or because of the truth of the proverb, to his country of birth, Ethiopia. He was driven by his desire to help people. For the past six months, the trained nurse has worked at a care facility for the homeless, elderly and disabled in Addis Abeba. The CIM supports his volunteer work by covering his travel expenses and insurances and paying him an allowance.
An interview with Surafel Mengistu:
What is your professional background and why did you decide to volunteer in your birth country, Ethiopia?
I completed my nursing training at the University Hospital in Mainz, but I also wanted to gain experiences in my native country. Eventually, I found this project: a nursing home for homeless, old and disabled people in Ethiopia. A friend of mine told me about the CIM where I learned that a partner organization was looking for a trained nurse. So I decided to leave my job in Germany and go volunteer in Addis Abeba for six months. The CIM covers my travel expenses and insurances and pays me a small allowance. That helps a lot.
Where do you find the motivation to do this volunteer work?
I think I got the desire to help others from my grandmother. She was so incredibly helpful and treated everybody so well that had always impressed me. Helping to set up the new nursing home of the Macedonias Humanitarian Association is a fantastic challenge, and it also allows me to spend some time in my home country and to be closer to my family.
What are the challenges and the benefits of doing this work?
In the beginning, I had to get used to things not necessarily running so smoothly here. I began to assume responsibility very quickly: in organization matters, in the distribution of food and medication, in giving hygiene instructions. I pass on my knowledge and also learn a lot myself, for instance about fundraising. All these experiences give me a chance to grow personally. We are currently moving to a new and bigger building, so it is good that I am here right now to help with the move. Simply knowing that all this contributes to giving the residents a better future is absolutely worth the effort. There’s always a lot of improvisation going on, but working in this team here is a lot of fun.
How would you summarize your experience of the past six months?
Even though it’s been quite a challenge, I know that my boss can fully count on me, and I get a lot of recognition. It’s great to experience how appreciative everybody is, especially the old people. And it is wonderful for me to meet up with friends from my childhood again. I am very happy that this project has worked out for me, and I would recommend to anybody in Germany to do something like this. I can even imagine to continue working in Ethiopia.
The Centre for International Migration and Development (CIM) is jointly run by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and the International Placement Services (ZAV) of the Federal Employment Agency (BA). Together, they have been providing development and labour market policy expertise for over 35 years. CIM places experts from Europe and those who have settled in Germany in developing countries and emerging economies. It offers a network for those who have migrated to Germany and who wish to support development in their country of origin, and it advises individuals and decision-makers on migration issues. Our main commissioning party is the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).