Chicago is one of the most fantastic, biggest cities I’ve ever seen,” exclaims Pascal Kraft, who came to The Selfhelp Home from the small southwestern German city of Rastatt to begin his internship as part of the longstanding relationship Selfhelp enjoys with the Berlin-based Action Service Reconciliation for Peace (ASRP). Rastatt, population 47,000, sits on the outskirts of the Black Forest. People in Rastatt are “a lot more formal,” says Pascal. “They would never ask a stranger or near stranger ‘How are you doing?’ “Here in Chicago people are a lot friendlier. I like the familiarity.”
Pascal is the first in his family to go to college. His mother is a housewife and his father a facility manager. Part French, his great-grandfather fought against Germany for France. His name, Pascal, literally translates into “Easter” and “Passover,” because the same Latin word Paschalis was used for both.
As is customary in Germany, Pascal is using his gap year between completing high school and beginning college to work in the United States. “I worked in a rehab clinic in Germany as part of my required social internship and wanted to work with older adults. One of the most important classes in gymnasium is Holocaust studies. “We visited Dachau and when the opportunity came up to intern at Selfhelp, I knew I wanted to work at a place that helped the survivors.” Pascal plans to study criminal law when he returns to Germany to begin college.
“Ever since I was six years old I wanted to go to the USA,” says Pascal, who will be touring the West Coast down Highway 1 after visiting the Grand Canyon on his break. Next year after completing his internship at Selfhelp, he plans to visit Israel.
Pascal has his own apartment at The Selfhelp Home, which he describes as “wonderful.” He pitches in wherever he is needed, but is particularly adept at computer work and preparing the Kindles for the residents. “Pascal has a great sense of humor and is very easygoing, says Fern Shaffer, Director of Programs, who supervises Pascal. “The residents love him.”
For the past 18 years The Selfhelp Home has maintained a partnership with ASRP. Action Reconciliation for Peace is a German based volunteer organization that supports opportunities for international encounters and intercultural understanding. Each year The Selfhelp Home houses a young German intern who is fully integrated into its community.