NOTE: In view of the protective measures taken by the Austrian federal government to contain the spread of COVID-19, the Lerncafés had to close its locations temporarily. Especially at a time when children have to do their schoolwork on their own and parents cannot help for various reasons, our Caritas Lerncafés are enormously challenged and in high demand. The colleagues are on duty and try to support the children digitally and by telephone, to motivate them and to overcome learning hurdles together. Whether fixed learning appointments by telephone, video conferences or e-mail exchange - the PIER Lerncafé teams look after the pupils with a lot of commitment and still support them, though not physically close to them. Together we can overcome this!
Study Support and Afternoon Care
In the „Lerncafés”, children and youth between six and 15 years from refugee, asylum seeking or migrant families as well as from vulnerable families of host communities get individual support for doing their homework as well as for preparing for tests. The common objectives are positive school-leaving qualifications so the children can reach the next school level.
Study support ranges from individual support to all-around support including concrete instructions regarding time management, breakdown of study matter, formulation of goals and self-testing the own progress. Learning support is covered either by employees or voluntary staff of the “Lerncafés” or older children who can form teaching-tandems, a kind of buddy system. Thanks to trained self-management the children and youth also gain more self-responsibility. The learning motivation also increases because of the specific learning materials and methods (easily understandable statements instead of learning by heart), pedagogical games and most of all praise, respect and recognition for the children’s achievements. The overall objective is to bring the joy of learning back to the children. Furthermore and in order to encourage the children´s self-esteem there are a lot of practical exercises and games (e.g. welcoming-circle, community games), reflection rounds as well as possibilities for exchange.
An additional “summer program” is focusing on language teaching - especially for children from refugee families – to facilitate their successful start into a new school year.
Improving German language skills
Children and youth who have just arrived in Austria have the highest needs in improving their German language skills in a fast and practical way. Therefore, all communication within the Caritas “Lerncafés” is conducted in German. The children learn German through various methods. In the daily language usage, mistakes are corrected quickly by the professional staff and the correct expressions are provided. In this way, progress in improving the German language skills can be noted very fast. In order to expand the vocabulary of the children, unknown words are being paraphrased, so the children get used to expressing themselves and to learn new words. The children are also motivated to talk about school experiences, holidays, everyday experiences or what they wanted to change at the “Lerncafé” in discussion groups. Games, like “Memory” or “Domino”, are also helping younger children with a small vocabulary to increase their vocabulary. Further specific speech practices as well as language games are used to increase the expressiveness of the children.
Workshops and Activities
The spectrum of workshops and activities at the “Lerncafés” is widely spread, ranging from visits to the playground, walks in the park, competitive ball games, hiking, handicraft activities (e.g. Easter, Mother’s day), topic related workshops (first aid course, information on radicalization of youth), specific language courses (English) to concert visits as well as Olympic games for children including awards ceremonies. During the workshops and other activities children have the chance to gain new knowledge, discover new talents and skills and therefore broaden their horizon.
Support by volunteers and civil society
The „Lerncafés” are well recognized in the local communities and work together with neighbors, teachers and school directors, staff of social education associations, parishes and local authorities as well as private persons. The art of contribution ranges from distributing learning materials, providing a location, food or in-kind donations as well as monetary donations. Furthermore, other Caritas facilities and branches (e.g. refugee accommodations) supported the “Lerncafés” by providing translators.
Volunteers are a vital part of the strong foundation leading to the “Lerncafés’” lasting success. The commitment of the volunteers ranges from supporting with homework and studying to reading, leisure time activities, excursions and many more. Furthermore, volunteers participate in the organization of activities, trips, workshops and other events. Some volunteers even manage to put a smile on the children’s’ faces by bringing fresh bread and/or sweet marmalade for the healthy snacks. The most valuable assets, however, are the time and passion that volunteers dedicate to their work. Additional expertise, educational knowledge (retired teachers), patience as well as respectful handling of children and youth from different cultural backgrounds also honor the many volunteers – who also work as role models – engaged at the “Lerncafés”