Rosie runs a kindergarten for migrant children in Austria

Published: 7 December 2015 16:56 CET

John Engedal Nissen / IFRC

 “Eyes. Nose.” Rosie, 58, says the words loud and clear in German, while pointing her forefinger to her eyes, then to her nose. Every word is repeated by Sabahat, a ten year-old girl from Afghanistan who sits opposite her.Several other children are also gathered around Rosie, drawn to her like a magnet.

Rosie, a retired teacher, volunteers for the Red Cross two days every week in a centre for asylum seekers in Vienna, Austria, managed by the Red Cross.

“I find the experience rewarding. And the kids are important, right?” Rosie asks rhetorically.

She is so popular amongst the children that they often wait for her outside the door to the children’s room that is filled with toys. Many of them are eager to go to school, but cannot before they leave the centre for more permanent housing.

Rosie makes the children draw the human body on paper and writes the German names of the different body parts. She pronounces the words in German and has the children repeat them.

“The German language is difficult to explain, but when they leave this place, they know how to say every part of the body in German. It’s important, so they know how to explain if their stomach hurts,” Rosie says.

The children are gracious students as well.

“They learn very fast because they are very motivated and keep repeating until they get it right. They even bring the papers to their parents to teach them. Sometimes the mothers come down afterwards to thank me. Other times they are here to help out by explaining the equivalent word in Arabic and Farsi to help the children understand better.”

Because after all, the German language can be a little difficult, explains eight year-old Nargez from Afghanistan with the help of sign language, pressing her forefinger and thumb close together. She is following the teachings from Rosie closely, writing in a school book with words in English, German and Farsi.

Rosie writes the numbers one to ten on a blank piece of paper. She draws the equivalent amount of dots for each number she writes, while she and the children count aloud together for every dot she makes.

“That’s how you learn this,” she says resolutely and smiles.

The Austrian Red Cross has provided support to 570,000 vulnerable migrants crossing into Austria, including 1.5 million meals, medical care for 70,000 people and the transportation of 3,000 people to hospitals. More than 16,500 volunteers and 1,200 staff are involved in the migration response. The majority of migrants have travelled onwards to Germany, while up to 90,000 migrants have applied for asylum in Austria in 2015.