Konni Muenzer, 23-year-old social work graduate from Aalen in Germany and her 19-year-old country mate Mayte Haelker, have been working in Mangalore’s Prajna Counselling Centre for the last six months.

They are at the Centre as part of a eight-month long project sponsored by jointly by the German Government and the organisation Karl-Kubel-Stiftung (KKS) where they have to spend sometime in developing countries. The Hindu caught up with two young social workers who shared their experience so far.

What brings you both to Prajna Counselling Centre?

Ms. Konni: We both applied for the KKS to be part of the “Weltwarts” programme that is sponsored by Germany’s Ministry of Development and Cooperation. The KKS provides funds for various projects in North and South India. We were given a brief introduction to the activities. For us, the Prajna Centre work appealed the most and we both opted to work here. As many as 15 people from Germany have come down to India under this programme this year.

How has been the experience so far?

Ms. Mayte: It has been fascinating. Unlike tourists, who visit beaches, we are seeing the real India.

We are visiting the private houses and experiencing the ordinary day-to-day life. Every day has been a new experience and we are learning new things.

It has been hard to establish friendship, but we are taken care well here.

We both try to share our experience with each other. We share our experience with our family members and other country mates over phone and internet.

How have you been able to adjust to the climate, food and people here?

Ms. Konni: Adjusting to the humid climate and spicy food was difficult for the first few days.

But we have got used to it now. In fact, we are happy that we are here as it will be snowing in our country now (she laughs).

Our inability to speak the local language, at times, makes it difficult to understand the feelings of people we interact with.

It also makes it difficult for us to express our thoughts. The mimes and gestures used here are also different.

We have actually learnt a few Kannada words such as “Oota Aaita” (Did you have your food) “Heegiddiri” (How are you) used in day-to-day interactions.

Do the problems you hear here different from what you have seen in Germany?

Ms. Mayte: Handling problems here has been a new experience and has been shocking.

At some rescue homes, we find children of beggars indulge in begging. We do not see such as situation in Germany where children have better social security.

There are problems related to alcoholism in Germany too, but they are comparatively small.