How Barclaycard Germany colleagues are helping refugees

“Two years ago, a man literally ran into my arms on the streets of Hamburg. He couldn’t speak any German or English – he was from Afghanistan and lost among the bustle of people in the city. That was the exact moment I knew I had to help him and other people like him.” That chance meeting inspired Ina von Buddenbrock, Senior Risk and Control Partner in Barclaycard Germany, to get involved with Barclaycard’s citizenship work with Joblinge, a non-governmental organisation dedicated to helping refugees in Germany get the much-needed support they need to make ends meet.

Because finding a new job in a new country can be challenging. From tricky application forms to revealing interviews; imagine if you found yourself far from home, with little understanding of the language and a desperate need for work – what would you do? This is the reality for more than a million young people who’ve sought refuge in Germany after fleeing conflict in their home countries.

And with over 25 years’ financial and corporate expertise, Barclaycard Germany colleagues are becoming mentors for people who could do with a leg up in life.

A moral Kompas

Formed in 2008, Joblinge’s mission is to reduce youth unemployment through training programmes and internships. Through Kompass, their refugee employability project, volunteer mentors help mentees prepare for job interviews and improve their German language skills; our Barclaycard Germany colleagues have been a part of the programme since 2016, helping to teach refugees the skills they need to make a new life. “The Kompass programme involves 10 weeks of intense training at a Joblinge location,” says Anja Meyfarth, Location Manager for the NGO. “We get to know people’s strengths, discover what the language barriers are and work out how to get around them. We help people to understand what it’s like to work in Germany – for example, good time keeping is a must!”

Discovering new strengths

Kompass is aimed at young people between 18 and 25 years-old, the largest age-group of refugees arriving in Germany. Joblinge avoids the traditional classroom environment and instead boosts young people’s knowledge and self-esteem through workshops and hands-on projects. This helps them gain social experience in a new country and helps people discover new strengths and skills – getting them one step closer to gaining a job.

Katharina Haase is Chief Operating Officer for Barclaycard Germany and sits on the Joblinge supervisor board. She says: “One incredible thing about Joblinge is the success rate. Thanks to support from mentors, 80% of the programme’s young people and refugees get work. It’s an impressive figure considering the difficulties many face in entering an unfamiliar jobs market.”

Mastering the art of small talk

As mentors, colleagues do lots of different things to help refugees get ready for work. Understanding enough German to get through an interview is one thing, but when it comes to more conversational German, new learners can get stuck. That’s why colleagues got stuck in with a new programme unit launched in May 2018 designed to help refugees master the art of small talk.

“Barclaycard Germany colleagues began helping us with a new program unit especially developed for the refugees program called Conversation Training,” explains Anja. “It’s very important for our mentees to get more fluent in regular conversations in German, as well as the conversational skills they need when attending a job interview. Often their possible new employers start small talk with our mentees and our attendees can struggle and have a lot of difficulties keeping the conversation going. It’s a great support that Barclaycard Germany employees take the time to train them in this conversation style.”

But that’s not all. Colleagues also help refugees write CVs, practice interview skills and get familiar with German working environments thanks to inductions and work experience placements. But sometimes it takes a personal touch and past experiences to create the desire to help others. Barclaycard Germany colleague Ina von Buddenbrock tells us more about her experiences volunteering.

From surviving to thriving

Ina feels like she’s made the most of being a mentor through Joblinge. “Thanks to our partnership, we can nurture individuals for more practical job roles, so you feel like you’re making a positive impact on them and the community,” she says. “Since I volunteered as a mentor, I’ve gained lots of insight into different cultures.”

“My first Joblinge mentee struggled to get asylum in Germany, as many refugees do,” says Ina. “He’d done hospitality work in Syria, but Joblinge gave him a helping hand. Mentoring him helped him come out of survival mode and start to thrive.”

Ina stays in touch with Omar even though her mentoring partnership has ended with him. And what about the man that Ina met in the street? “He’s part of the family now,” smiles Ina. “My husband and I helped him find an apartment and a job, and he joins us for family meals. He’s made me realise just how strong people can be.”

Joblinge in numbers

2008: Joblinge Initiative was founded in Munich

2 1/2 years: Barclaycard have worked with Joblinge in Hamburg since the beginning of 2016

28 locations: Joblinge are based all over Germany

2016: Two years ago, the Kompass programme started to help refugees in the country

125+: Refugees helped by Joblinge through the Kompass programme

25+: People mentored one-to-one by Barclaycard colleagues

1,200+ hours: Volunteers from Barclaycard and Barclays have given their time to help others

Read more about Barclaycard’s citizenship commitments.