Life In Berlin: "Auntie" Teams for Pregnant Refugee Women, Part 2

May 10, 2017

Khatol Sediq from the NGO Malteser Hilfsdienst sees integration as a two-way street.

She believes that people from different cultures can understand each other and also respect their differences. She says it's great to get to know other cultures and to share your own culture and values.

Khatol knows what she is talking about. She fled Afghanistan as a teenager in 1981 and has built a new life in Berlin. This experience helps with her work at the ICC. The makeshift shelter for asylum seekers, mostly 5x5 meter cubicles placed inside Berlin's former congress center, is a temporary housing solution, but some people have been living there for a year.

Asylum seekers are pictured while awaiting for their registration process in a registration unit of the State Office of Health and Social Affairs (LAGeSo) in Berlin.
Credit NurPhoto/Getty Images

Migrants and refugees from all these different countries come together at the ICC. Khatol calls them guests. She organizes German language classes for them, bike rides for children. She translates, helps with paperwork and is always on the look out for new volunteers. Half a year ago, she found solid support for a rather vulnerable group: pregnant women.

Khatol explains that many women at the shelter don't know how it works in Germany - how to register with a hospital, to organize regular check ups, or how to find a midwife.

This is where Molly Brown and her "Auntie Teams for Pregnant Refugee Women" come in.

"You know, being there when they are having their sonogram, and finding out the sex of their baby; their mothers are not there, their sisters aren't there, so we are their surrogate auntie team," Brown says.

Molly is no stranger to volunteer work. She got active in 2015 when thousands of asylum seekers arrived in Berlin.

"I was really nervous about taking on this work because I'm an American, and I know what my country has been responsible for in many cases," expresses Brown. "I wondered if they would except the help from Americans, and I found that they've been very, very open and nonjudgmental."

In these past six months 15 American aunties have formed relations with families from Afghanistan. On a practical level, they've gotten quite inventive in their communication skills.

"Well with hands and feet, and then we also use Google translate which is terrible for languages like Dari and Arabic; sometimes we don't know what we are talking about."

And on a personal level:

"When we're caring for the mother, we're caring for the whole dynamic, and the husband has to be included in that process. They love that they have the choice, for example, to be present at birth and that they can be supportive at home after she's had the baby, so she can begin her German classes.”

The cooperation with the Auntie Teams has been really helpful to Khatol.

Khatol says, it takes time. But she thinks in a few years, she and the volunteers will be superfluous. There will be friendships then.