Life In Berlin: "Auntie" Teams for Pregnant Refugee Women, Part 3

May 11, 2017

"So I haven't seen her since the hospital, because I was away. So now I am back and I am very excited to see the baby today."

Elisabeth Waller volunteers with the Auntie Teams for Pregnant Refugee Women; an American initiative in cooperation with the Malteser Hilfsdienst. We are on our way to visit Maryam, her husband Javad and their newborn baby Elena.

Maryam Hosseini, expecting baby Elena. She is partipant of the "Auntie Teams" refugee program.
Credit Elisabeth Waller for NPR Berlin

"And the delivery went well, so it was great," says Waller.

"Is it her first child?" I ask her.

"Yes, yes," she tells me.

Elisabeth and two other "aunties" supported Maryam through her pregnancy.

"I think there was a lot of stress during the pregnancy when it was a question whether or not they were able to stay. There was the idea hovering that they might be deported a few months ago. So, to get the news that they are able to stay now and they can really focus on being here and focus on building their family, I am so pleased they can stay."

The young family from Afghanistan has been in Berlin for 18 months. They just recently moved from the emergency shelter at the ICC to a container village in Karow, a quiet suburb in the North-East of Berlin.

“I just can't express how lovely and delightful they are - they're so kind. I'm learning about them and their friends, their culture, and then to deepen my relationship with the auntie teams and Khatol is amazing,” Waller expresses.

Apart from "auntie" Elisabeth, Molly Brown, who initiated the auntie teams and Khatol Sediq from the Malteser Hilfsdienst, have also come along on this baby visit.

Baby Elena is rather quiet, but doesn't mind us being excited.

Maryam, Javad Hosseini with their daughter Elena.
Credit Elisabeth Waller for NPR Berlin

Khatol is translating Maryam. She says it's been great, despite the language barrier; she doesn't speak English. The aunties were always there for her.

Maryam's husband Javad is serving us tea and pastries. Their new housing is modest, but at least they have some privacy, and a place to cook.

Javad says they have come to Germany with the hope to stay. They are very happy that their baby has arrived and that they were granted asylum; they can build something new now.

Molly asks if they need anything for the baby - towels, or bedding

"Khatol says that's the sign of a very proud woman. She is making due with what she has, and she's happy with what she has. She doesn't need anything extra," Brown explains.

After an hour we say goodbye to Maryam, Javad and little Elena. Elisabeth tells me:

"A lot of women want to support other women; especially if they are mothers and they have been through pregnancy and you have the certain knowledge what's it like and what it takes. It's been a real honor to support her and witness all of this."

The "aunties" and Khatol will be back soon, Maryam invited them for dinner.