Kiron would not exist in the way it does today if it were not for hard-working and committed volunteers like Gui. Having lived in more than five different countries, Gui knows how difficult it can be to settle in a foreign country and, especially, to find one’s way in an unknown educational system. With a postgraduate degree in social sciences and as a current student of agricultural sciences, Gui strongly believes in his responsibility to protect and help our society and environment, which is also rooted in his Buddhist belief and the way he learned a social and caring behavior at home. It was in Germany during his second study track when he discovered his passion for working for, and more importantly, with refugees. His tireless dedication and his cheerful spirit make him indispensable – for Kiron, for his co-workers and for the students with whom he loves to be in contact with as much as possible.
Tell us about your journey…
I am from Brazil and grew up in different regions. I spent most of my childhood years in Curitiba, later moved to Campo Grande and Sao Paulo. My father worked as a professor at a federal university and traveled between different campuses. After I finished school, I started studying History and International Relations in Curitiba. Taking a gap year from university I had the opportunity to learn English and live in Boston and Phoenix. I loved living abroad and decided to continue my studies in New Zealand, Canada, and Chile – where I concluded my postgraduate degree, my diplomado. Next to my studies, I always enjoyed working in agriculture with my stepmother being a farmer. I was eager to come back to Brazil to work in cattle farming, fishery and with crops and plants. Here, I managed the fields, fed the animals and oversaw their overall health and development. It was then that I decided that I would like to study Agriculture, moved to Germany and started studying Agricultural Business in Kleve in North Rhine-Westphalia. When the discussion about refugees had reached Kleve, I learned about Kiron for the first time and was very motivated to become active. Being a Buddhist and a member of a Buddhist organization that works towards world peace, social engagement is very important to me. Moreover, having made my own experiences, not as a refugee, but as someone who has been frequently moving to new places, I know how difficult this can be, hence I was determined to help! I believe that Kiron students have a lot in common with the students I have met before in Germany and Chile that had come from Egypt or Syria. They did not come as refugees but they faced similar difficulties with bureaucracy, a new educational system, and a foreign culture. Working for Kiron as a volunteer I am able to help!
What is your role at Kiron?
I am working on two projects. The first one is Direct Academics, where I manage the online tutorials. I organize all the tutorials on our platform, create all the student lists, enroll students, insert the courses and tutorials in the backend, and manage important software tools that we use for communications and for holding the tutorials. We also organize events like the Study Weekend, which is very exciting because the students come here to meet their tutors face to face and to prepare for exams. There are also many other smaller tasks but my overall role is to oversee the tutorials, including attendances, surveys, and reviews. Also, I try to solve problems for any student that contacts us through different channels.
The second project is a joint project with the German Telekom, which is testing a German language app for refugees. So we go to camps and other organizations that work with refugees, sometimes to cafés or other places where they meet and let them test the application. Afterwards, we give feedback to the people that are managing the app, both here in Germany and in the United States, where most of the engineers are situated and work towards making the program user-friendly and efficient.
What is your mission for Kiron?
Everyone has been doing a great job so far. I believe that the goal is to produce own MOOCs and to become like a university on its own. I hope that Kiron will maintain the partnerships that it has successfully established with other universities in Germany and abroad. I also hope that we will keep developing, and grow in the number of students and people that support Student Services and Academics. Whatever Kiron aims to evolve into, I would be happy to see it. I think it would be desirable to make university, in general, less complicated for everyone, especially for refugees. However, in the future, Kiron could maybe also evolve into an online university for everyone, which offers a real alternative to traditional universities, as it stands for a new way of educating people. Bearing in mind my own experience with, for example, transferring credits, I think it would be great if we could simplify education internationally and remove bureaucratic barriers. People could be actually validated for the things they have learned and not be graded based on an exam or a presentation that they once held.
Kiron means to me…
…an amazing environment and an organization that is giving a great contribution to the development of our planet through education.
What are the challenges you are facing?
As many things we do are experimental, very often we have to try things to see if they can be realistic and this process takes time. This can be difficult. However, so far, it has been very positive and we have learned from our experiences. At Direct Academics, for example, we have been improving ever since the first tutorial. The way that we enroll students, the way the instructors interact with the students, all of this is very important as the time resources for the tutorials are very limited for both tutors and students.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
For Direct Academics, I enjoy most to see that the tutorials are improving. For example, we have seen a larger number of students attending tutorials and staying for the whole of the course, which has not always been like that. It makes me very happy to notice that the students are very committed and satisfied with what we are providing, especially also for the volunteer tutors who put so much work into the sessions. I hope that we can keep this standard.
During the Telekom project, it was the first time that I got to spend a good amount of time with refugees and this was great. You exchange so many experiences with them, you find out about their stories. Some have been living in Germany longer, some of them just arrived, and it is impressive to see how committed they are to learn German. I really appreciate such personal encounter and exchange.
What was your favorite moment at Kiron so far?
What I enjoy most, is to see how committed and hard-working the people are at the office, and of course we also had many events and celebrations. I like to spend time with other people from Kiron and getting to know them better. I cannot choose one specific moment, but being in touch with fellow Kironistas, making friends and seeing their great work, that is my favorite part of working at Kiron.
Describe yourself in one sentence.
I am a very easy-going person and I would like to give a contribution to society and the planet during the difficult times that we live in.
What is your favorite spot in Berlin?
I really love the different neighborhoods, especially Neukölln. My favorite place in Berlin would probably be a park or any green area. I usually go there with friends for a picnic. I love food and I also have a small addiction to Haribo gummy bears.
Some last words for Kiron…
Keep doing the amazing work you are doing! I hope that I will always be in touch with and that I can support the very special people I met even if I am no longer in Berlin.
Become a Volunteer as well. Find out more here