Freundeskreis Plieningen-Birkach: Loaner laptops and email mentors help refugees integrate in Germany
October 2017. The volunteer group “Freundeskreis Plieningen-Birkach” has set up a room with laptops for refugees at the educational center Haus Birkach, near Stuttgart in Southern Germany. The computer room is open for a few hours each day to study German and research online. Many of the refugees would like more time on the computers. They asked Pastor Thomas Ebinger, who coordinates the computer project, if they could borrow the laptops to learn German in their accommodation, to do homework or to look for an apartment. In December 2016, Thomas Ebinger and other volunteers of the Freundeskreis were able to fulfill this wish for some refugees: the Freundeskreis received Google Chromebooks from Project Reconnect and was able to provide loaner devices to 80 refugees living in the neighborhood.
Over the next weeks, we are introducing Project Reconnect grantees and their different approaches to support refugees and asylum seekers with laptops and online content.
Refugees can borrow a Chromebook at “Haus Birkach”. This allows them to research and learn online, independent from the opening hours of an internet café.
Once a month, Thomas Ebinger organizes a computer workshop at “Haus Birkach”, the Protestant Education Center of Württemberg. To this meetings he invites all those who have lent a Chromebook from Project Reconnect. They come to discuss questions and problems with the laptops, or simply to talk in-person with their email partners. 13 members of the Freundeskreis have agreed to help the refugees as email partners. Together with the laptop, each refugee receives an email address from one of these 13 email partners who also help the refugees to deal with problems with the Chromebooks, help with questions about asylum procedures or search for housing. Thomas Ebinger has also set up a blog, the blog "birch leaves", on which he regularly posts suggestions for learning German, references to events in the region or information about the German culture.
Once a month, Thomas Ebinger assigns a writing task to the Chromebook users, requiring an answer that includes at least 10 full sentences in German: "Write down a short story that could be told to a child. The following three words must be present: ball, window, apology." The refugees send their text to their email partners and receive individual feedback from them.
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Case Study Freundeskreis Plieningen-Birkach: Loaner laptops and email mentors help refugees integrate in Germany (pdf)