Our current team consists of three highly dedicated people from Berlin, Bebra and Paderborn respectively, as well as many other dear people who want to support and help us in our work.
Get to know our managing director Saliba Gabriel – The interview
Saliba, would you like to introduce yourself to our readers and interested parents briefly?
Certainly. I am married, I have three children, I am a certified merchant (Diplomkaufmann) by profession and have lived in Paderborn for a good five years.
I see. You were appointed managing director of the non-profit organization Senfkorn Kindertagesstätte at its founding. What did you do previously?
After studying business administration, I spent many years working for an IT company in Fulda. In addition to setting up a new business unit, I managed their marketing and sales departments. I then moved to a service provider in the field of energy efficiency. This included nationwide projects for high savings in lighting of large industrial and warehouse facilities. My last job as a key account manager for a provider of e-mobility solutions from the Paderborn region also had me traveling a lot. My customers were mainly energy suppliers, municipal utilities and large companies.
Well, that doesn’t have much to do with day-care center schools and education. How did you come to switch there?
That’s right. Well, I have always been committed to our culture in addition to my full-time work. This started in the youth group of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Bebra, Hesse, where I grew up. Another project I pursued was the “Aramaic cooking” cookbook. We published the English version of the cookbook as “Mesopotamian cooking” in 2017. Apart from this, I have volunteered for the parish of St. Aho in Paderborn since 2016.
To return to the question: The motivation for this change came from various discussions I had with my cousin David Gabriel. I could not really imagine it at first since I was also well positioned in my job. E-mobility is currently seeing very high demand. The market dynamics are immense. I had already assumed a high level of responsibility with my employer. Switching to sales management at a municipal utility company was also a very tempting offer that would have been highly remunerated.
But in the end, I was looking less for material security and more for a meaningful activity. I have always wanted to be involved in education.
We need all the help and expertise we can get for the vision and the development of an educational institution, for our challenges as Aramaic-speaking Christians. My cousin and I are business economists and have a wide range of experience from many different areas. This will help us create the structures and establish efficient processes so that we do not lose sight of our goals.
The educational work, however, will be done by others. Everyone must take over the area where they are best.
What challenges are we talking about?
It’s very simple. We want to pass on our Christian values and also our precious Aramaic language. In the end, both these things together make up our cultural identity!
You talk about the vision and the development of an educational institution. What do you mean, exactly?
Initially, as a non-profit organization, we want to set up and successfully operate a bilingual day-care center on our own. Once we have mastered this step, the second one will be coaching. In coaching, we will support other church communities in Germany on their way to establishing bilingual day-care centers by sharing our know-how, our entire knowledge, and, first and foremost, our experience, to help them help themselves.
We want to help at least 30-50% of the parishes to set up their own bilingual day-care centers for German and Aramaic. This is to take place in the course of about three years. On this occasion we are already looking for “parish sponsors”. “Parish sponsors” will be committed key persons who want to implement this project in their own communities together with others.
The third step will follow with establishment of a bilingual school or even academy. This goal is still a long way off, however.
This sounds very promising and ambitious. What are the challenges you see in this?
On the one hand, we must convince Aramaic-speaking educators of this project. Then, we need the support of the local authorities such as the youth welfare office, local authorities, and other institutions. And, of course, our people must also understand the signs of the times and show even more dedication than before.
What do the Aramaic-speaking parents think?
Most of the parents I have talked to like this project a lot. After all, it is first and foremost an “ordinary day-care center” like any other: It has an experienced pedagogical management and educators to do the main work. Most parents find it a huge challenge to teach both languages confidently and to find the time for it in the first place. As more and more both parents are working, it is becoming increasingly difficult to teach both languages.
We therefore provide immense relief to the parents. The two languages are taught by fixed reference persons; one educator per group will speak only German and the other one only Aramaic. This concept has been successfully applied in almost all of the 1300 bilingual day-care centers in Germany.
Getting to know our partner and consultant Aydin Izgin – A brief interview
Aydin, you are a partner in this project and one of our consultants. We would like to introduce you a bit more closely to our readers. You are married, father of two, and live in Bebra, Hesse. Professionally, you work as a technician for a large automotive supplier. You have also been volunteering in your Syrian Orthodox church community in Bebra for many years. Can you describe your role there a bit more closely?
First of all, I’m an altar server.
I have been active in the community since I was 17 years old.
I was one of the founders of the youth board in the early 1990s and I am still active as a youth worker today.
I also represent our congregation in the ecumenical and intercultural working group in Bebra.
With the support of our youth, I have been working on the “Making worship comprehensible to the youth” project for three years. All the contents sung by the altar servers and the priest are projected onto the screen during the usual service (anaphora) on Sundays.
Everyone present can follow the liturgy in three languages (German, Aramaic and Arabic).
So you are already an experienced volunteer. Is it true that you were offered to build a day-care center in Bebra a few years ago? How did this project develop?
That’s right. I was very surprised, in the best way. Years ago, the town of Bebra asked me whether I/we would like to start a pre-school daycare. I gave the matter some serious thought and collected some information back then.
Unfortunately, it was a bad time. We were facing a great challenge with finding a successor for our parish priest right then. We also had other issues to solve. So we focused on the search for a priest instead.
The pre-school daycare was put on hold for the moment.
Now I am a partner of a pre-school daycare in Paderborn.
I seem to have been destined for it.
Can you imagine reviving the project? Provided that the foundation and operation of the Senfkorn Kindertagesstätte here in Paderborn is successful:
Absolutely. Bebra is also an option.
Our goal of “founding day a care center” is to serve as an example for other churches.
I can imagine that “day-care center Senfkorn” (as a sponsor) can be repeated in other towns.
The experience of Saliba Gabriel in particular should also be shared with other interested parties.
You have two daughters. How would you describe the value of a bilingual day-care center (German-Aramaic) for our Aramaic-speaking Suryoye people?
Positively! Every parent wants to pass on their mother tongue and culture/traditions to their children.
Of course the local language is very important.
I personally think that it is just as important that my child knows who we are and what our mother tongue is.
The large family, with grandparents helping to raise the children and thus conveying the language and culture as well as customs and traditions, is limited here.
I want to pass on Christian values to my children.
But everyday life, stress and work can keep us from doing so. It varies from case to case.
Therefore, we must find other ways to close this gap.
A bilingual day-care center (German-Aramaic) is just the thing for it.