Volunteer work at the clothing store:
“Freedom means responsibility"
It’s half past ten in the morning. There are already a few men, women and children waiting on two benches outside the diakonia’s clothing store. People in need can come here every three months to stack up on essential items. Many of the people waiting – most of them refugees – are holding their ID or a certificate of eligibility in their hands.
Vanessa Woods helps Viviana, a diakonia-employee, to check the IDs. She translates and explains the procedure, mostly in English, often with signs and gestures, and always with a broad smile: Waiting numbers are handed out. About every fifteen minutes – from ten o’clock onwards – the door opens for the next small group. Every person can take five garments and five sanitary products. Vanessa helps to make decisions and gives advice on clothes sizes.
Only application: Technical University of Munich
The young woman is from Montego Bay in northwest Jamaica. Two of her seven siblings still live there, the others live on the neighboring island of St. Kitts, in New York and Maryland. Her father is from St. Kitts. “In 1981, he visited Jamaica on occasion of Bob Marley’s funeral. There, he got to know my mother and decided to stay.”
Vanessa has a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and Psychology, which she obtained at the University of the West Indies in Kingston. After that, she applied for the English-language Master’s course “Nutrition and Biomedicine” at TUM Weihenstephan. It was the only application she submitted.
TUMsocial as jobfinder
“There was no plan B,” Vanessa laughs. Her main interest is the field of diabetes research, as her own family is affected by the disease. The basic research regarding the development, prevention and treatment of nutrition-related diseases at the WZW is perfect for her future plans: “After completing my Master’s degree, I want to build up an information and advisory center for diabetes in Jamaica.”
Currently, she is in her second semester. Alongside her studies, she works as a student assistant at the “Institute of Diabetes and Regeneration Research” at the Helmholtz Research Centre for Environmental Health – and as volunteer at the clothing store. She found diakonia’s “help needed”-notice on the platform TUMsocial.
Vanessa’s commitment is – from her point of view – a matter of course. She can’t donate money, but she can donate time. “I’m very happy here. The team is very nice, and they all work very hard. Also, I can learn something from everyone who comes here,” says the devout Christian.
Obligation to take over responsibility
Her personal mantra is a reference to Saint Peter’s letter to the Galatians (5:13). She sees the gift of freedom as an obligation to help others and to take over responsibility. “I was able to decide whether I want to come here. There are so many others who didn’t have a choice.”