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“I get by with a little help from my friends”. BuddyForce helps refugees integrate into German society

By August 2, 2017

By: Bayly Bulkeley, Programs Manager,

It’s easy to think that we as individuals can’t make a difference or at least can’t make a difference big enough to warrant the energy. But that’s a terrible way to think – because every societal issue changes with little steps – it’s about committing to change, committing to helping, and committing yourself, even if it’s only in a little way, like becoming someone’s friend.

Last year at Salesforce Munich we launched BuddyForce, an integration program that’s run in partnership with SIR and aims to help refugees, forced to flee their countries, transition into their new life in Germany. How it works is, we partner refugee participants with Salesforce employees who become their buddies and support them on both a personal and administrative level. This might be something as simple as going to dinner with them, helping to fill out a form, job coaching or even just hanging out and sharing experiences.

And these small activities and engagements are making such a difference – boosting participants’ confidence, making them feel at home and accepted, and giving them the reassurance that they have a support system in Germany, and that they’re not alone.

Along with buddy matching, BuddyForce also aims to give participants new skill sets to help them stand out when applying for jobs. Learning to code and learning Salesforce admin skills has been a welcome part of the initiative, and has influenced some of the participants’ future career goals and aspirations.

We’d like to introduce you to three BuddyForce participants…

Meet Osman Ibrahim Bangura

Osman Bangura - BuddyforceThis is Osman Ibrahim Bangura. Osman is 23 years old and comes from Sierra Leone. His hobbies include reading and writing, watching football, internet browsing and socialising with friends. His dream job is to become an IT Specialist.

On arriving in Germany, Osman found cultural barriers one of the greatest obstacles to overcome, along with the language. Even though he’s been here for a while, he still gets a kick out of seeing people kiss in public and wear short pants in summer – something completely new to him.

Osman joined the BuddyForce program in January 2017 and his buddies are Susanne and Elaine.

“BuddyForce is seriously impacting my life in Germany,” said Osman. “For example, since arriving here, I had not been to a restaurant – it was my BuddyForce friends that took me for lunch. Any time their schedule allows, they are there to make me feel good. The good thing about BuddyForce is that the people really show concern for me. They always monitor my progress and always respond to questions I ask them.”

Susanne and Elaine also go to the job centre withOsman to ensure he receives the correct information, and they also assist him with translation of documents.

Osman passed his A1 in German language training and is waiting for the results from his A2. He’s now focussed on studying for his B1 exam and pursuing his Ausbildung (vocational training) in IT.

Stephen Okello

Stephen Okello - BuddyforceMeet Stephen Okello from Uganda. Stephen is 31 years old, speaks 5 languages and likes playing football, travelling, movies, and computer practice. His dream job is to become an IT/Data Administrator. Since arriving in Germany, Stephen has completed his A1 and A2 German language certificates. He likes the friendly atmosphere in Germany and also really enjoys Oktoberfest. Three things he has learned since coming to Germany include – “How to be punctual, self-confidence, and respect for others”.

Stephen Okello - Buddyforce“I remember the first time I met with my buddies Ulrich and Christian, we set a number of objectives and goals to be met in a period of 6 months,” said Stephen. “I am happy to say that I have met quite a number of them including: finding a language school and securing a job. In situations where I have had difficulty in reading or understanding documents written in German I always contacted my buddies for assistance and their response has been good. The advice I’ve received in BuddyForce and the sessions I’ve been to have been very valuable and given me a better understanding of the job market in Germany. Thumbs up to the mentors!”

Stephen still struggles with the German bureaucratic system but he’s pretty sure that everyone else does too… 😉

Solomon Musanah Niclaus

Solomon Musanah Niclaus - buddyforceSolomon Musanah Niclaus is 38 years old and comes from Uganda. Before arriving in Germany in May 2016, Solomon had travelled to India, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and Malawi and has picked up 5 languages along the way, including, a little “Deutsch”. Solomon’s goal is to become a graphic designer, fashion designer and animator and he enjoys travelling, sports, music and making new friends.

“I found out about BuddyForce through SIR and Salesforce,” says Solomon. “It provides me with support, advice, help and counseling. I’ve learned that in order to achieve my goals I need to stay firm and focussed and keep moving forward. We also do trips in BuddyForce – my favourite was our visit to Herzogstand mountains in Kochel, it was amazing and beautiful covered in snow.”

Solomon was also able to showcase some of his personal artwork at our World Refugee Day celebration, and even sold a few pieces so he’s on his way to be self-sufficient.

BuddyForce currently has 84 Salesforce employees mentoring 42 refugees across Germany. Munich is our largest hub with 48 mentors, followed by Berlin with 20, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf with 6, Cologne with 4, and Jena has just been launched. Additionally, a few are undergoing Salesforce training in order to find jobs in the Salesforce ecosystem, while about 20 others are completing an online course so they can find jobs in programming. Germany has seen an influx of talent, but they need support to navigate their new world and overcome some of the personal challenges they face. There’s so much that can be gained from lending your time, knowledge and friendship to support others …. No help is too little!

A personal message to potential employers: “Refugees have many competences. Please give them a chance to make use of their talents and help them start a better life!” — Stephen Okello