Who we are

Connection Koeln e.V. started in 2014 as a student initiative from the TH Koeln and the University of Cologne. Since 2017 Connection e.V. is a registered non-profit association with about 50 voluntary language supporters and 10 volunteers who work in the organisation team.

We are a politically independent, nonreligious association that is based on voluntary work.

We consider volunteering in the field of work with refugees to be a great resource of our society to promote integration and to take a stand against right-wing propaganda.

However, voluntary work can only complement governmental and professional structures and must not structurally replace them. In our work we therefore include political activities that point to the limits of voluntary work and appeal to the responsibility of the government and the municipalities.

Principles of our work:

    • Our service is directed to people who fled their homes, regardless of their social and ethnic origin, their religion, their age, their gender, their sexual orientation and their residence status
    • We stand against sexism, racism and classicism and any other form of discrimination and oppression
    • We facilitate a low-threshold access to our services
    • Participation and self-determination of every individual in a cooperation is very important to us
    • We promote an atmosphere of respect, tolerance and appreciation in dealings with one another
    • We work internally and externally in a transparent and cooperative manner
  • We identify and benefit from the potentials of our multifaceted society

How Connection was founded

Connection Koeln e.V. started in 2014 as a student initiative from the TH Koeln and the University of Cologne. Our aim initially was to improve the situation of refugees in Cologne. First of all we spoke to social workers in residences for refugees in order to find out what kind of demand there is in the field of work with refugees. In these conversations we were repeatedly told that interpreters are urgently needed. Therefore, we set the goal to organise voluntary language support for people who fled their homes.

The way we work

People who are interested in becoming a language supporter register using the button “Be involved!”. We then arrange a first meeting where we get to know each other, exchange information, clarify questions and uncertainties and discuss further collaboration. If both sides agree, the person is affiliated in our pool of language supporters.

Our direct partners (The German Red Cross, The housing office of Cologne) are able to access the pool themselves when a refugee needs a language support ( for example for a visit to the doctor or the authorities or for leisure activities).

All other persons can request a language support using our automated request form.

This procedure is intended to find a language support quickly and easily.

Connection e.V. is always available to answer questions or respond to criticism.

Our feedback- and complaint management allows you to give us written or verbal feedback regarding our work.

Why we exist

Language support is needed when language barriers make it impossible to represent one’s interest; whether it is during a consultation with a social worker, a visit to the doctor or the authorities, at an appointment with a lawyer, a school enrolment or during a leisure activity…

The city of Cologne didn’t and still doesn’t provide enough professional and paid interpreters.

The project of language and cultural mediators launched in April 2016 of the city of Cologne is a first step but it only covers “complex and particularly (culturally) sensitive matters” (Wozlaw 2016 // http://www.stadt-koeln.de/politik-und-verwaltung/presse/projekt-sprachmittlerpool-fuer-die-stadt-koeln-startet) and are only available for municipal queries. Ultimately, this means that a large part of the language support needed can’t be carried out within this project.

That’s why Connection arranges language support whenever there is a language barrier.

Exceptions are (see also general conditions):

–              For legal proceedings

–              For psychotherapeutic treatment

–              For complex written translations

–              When there is a statutory right to a professional interpreter

–              When a language mediator can be provided from the language-pool of the city of Cologne

What we do

Connection sees itself as an intermediary between those people who wish to get involved as a language supporter and those who are in search for a language support. For this reason we built a pool of voluntary language supporter on which we can rely in case of queries. We are constantly working on attracting new language supporters and partners. At the same time it is important for us that refugees who have been living in Germany for a longer period of time get involved as language supporters themselves. Therefore it is also possible for English-speaking volunteers to translate at certain appointments.

It is really important to us that our volunteers feel comfortable and safe in their role as language supporters. That’s why we created an optional accompanying program that the language supporters can make use of depending on their interest. This is intended to provide support when a question or uncertainty arises, give new input in various subjects and reach an exchange among each other.

The following topics are of utmost importance to us here:

  • The role as a language supporter
  • The legal situation of refugees
  • Volunteer work in the field of work with refugees
  • Interculturality and the approach to diversity
  • Critical Whiteness/ Raising awareness on racismWe developed the program with strong support of social work students (TH Koeln); Their seminar “Refugee work within the community” was dedicated to the advancement of our services.
  • Meanwhile we regularly offer supervision. Supervision can be thought of as a meeting aimed at exchange where it is possible to talk about experiences and problems that might have occurred. A professional supervisor will be present here and tries to work out new courses of action with us. In addition, we organise reunions where we cook together, barbecue or watch a film so that the language supporter can get to know each other better.

What comes next

We are constantly looking for new language supporters and networking with other organisations, associations, initiatives and private individuals (especially also with those who offer language support too).

Moreover, we want to step up our commitment to the issue of employment and funding of professional interpreters at psychotherapeutic settings. More and more frequently we get requests for translating a psychotherapeutic session. We cannot arrange a language support in this case, even if there obviously is a high demand, because our language supporters are not trained for it.

The Team

Madleen Stephan
Madleen StephanSocial Work (BA) at TH Cologne
Managing director
Marlene Auer
Marlene AuerSocial Work (MA) at University of Cologne
B.A. Social Work, Managing director
Julia Lingott
Julia LingottPsychology (MA) at University of Cologne
B.Sc. Psychology, Managing director
Theresa Achilles
Theresa AchillesSocial Work (BA) at TH Cologne
Ifeyemi Erdmann
Ifeyemi ErdmannSocial Work (BA) at TH Cologne
Ellen Alshut
Ellen AlshutSocial Work (BA) at TH Cologne
Pam Akua
Pam AkuaEducation and African Studies (BA) at University of Cologne