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An excellent carer

"I thought I was on 'Verstehen Sie Spaß'?" Erika Zeising recalls the moment she found out that she was to be honoured with the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. "When I realised that this was really happening, I was speechless." According to the NRW state government, the Sarepta sister stands for decades of commitment in the social sector. Far beyond her professional work as a deaconess, she had shown great commitment to people in need of help.

Erika Zeising talks vividly and in detail when she looks back on her 50 years in the care sector. In Bethel, the trained paediatric nurse taught as a certified teacher for nursing professions at the Sarepta paediatric nursing school. She managed the Preußisch Oldendorf-Espelkamp deaconry centre for 22 years. In 1997, she took on a very special task. Erika Zeising took a six-month leave of absence from her work and began working in Gusev in Russia to train a group of women there in the field of nursing.

"Old and sick people were usually left to fend for themselves in the region that used to be part of East Prussia," says Erika Zeising. "You can't imagine the filth and misery I saw there." Apart from a company car, she received no support whatsoever. She covered all her expenses for rent, living expenses, doctor's visits and petrol from her savings. "Erika Zeising founded the outpatient care service there literally from nothing, but with a lot of love and faith in God as well as a great deal of improvisation and energy," said Minister President Hendrik Wüst, honouring her commitment at the award ceremony for the Order of Merit in Düsseldorf at the beginning of December.

During her six-month stay in the small Russian town, Erika Zeising managed to train ten women as carers and ensure that the nursing staff were paid. "That was something special and didn't exist there before," emphasises Erika Zeising. She also supported the establishment of a diaconal centre. Her work was sustainable: some of the women she trained have gone on to train other carers, and today there is a functioning care service for the elderly and sick in Gusev. "The women are still working there after 25 years. It has developed really well," says Erika Zeising happily. She also accepted the medal on behalf of all the helping people on site, whom she has visited from time to time and supported with donations.

"I have always seen my work in Russia as a calling."
Erika Zeising

Until her retirement in 2009, Erika Zeising first worked as a nurse at the inpatient hospice "Haus Zuversicht" and then at "Haus Abendfrieden" in Bielefeld-Bethel. She still volunteers at the Sarepta Sisterhood and supports her sisters at the Haus Hannah care centre. "Bethel is my home and the Sarepta Sisterhood is like my family. We help each other, that goes without saying," says the 73-year-old. She is proud of the Order of Merit, but more importantly: "I have always seen my work in Russia as a vocation."


Text: Elena Sandbothe | Photos: Thomas Richter, State of NRW, private

This story simply told

Erika Zeising is a carer. She has been caring for old and sick people for 50 years. In 1997, she took on a special task. Erika Zeising went to Gusev in Russia. There she trained other women in caring. Because she made a big difference there, she was honoured with the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

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Sarepta Sisterhood
Am Zionswald 5
33617 Bielefeld

0521 144 2101

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The Sarepta Sisterhood is a community of women from different generations. They work in various social fields of diaconal and church work on a full-time and voluntary basis, combining faith, life, work and learning.

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