I write about camps in France, Greece, Turkey and Jordan, but if you’re interested in refugee camps in Germany, this is the account of a friend of mine who recently volunteered in one:
“When I signed up to volunteer, there were lots of different areas to choose from but I knew that working with children would mean the most to me as I am studying to become an elementary school teacher and have always loved being around kids. I wasn’t sure if this would be quite the same experience though, since I expected the kids I would be working with would most likely be anxious, unable to speak my language and traumatised.
However, when I arrived at the refugee camp on our first Monday morning, the situation I was greeted with was completely different than I expected. Every single person we came across welcomed us with a smile and some with a few words in broken German. I immediately felt at ease and the worries I’d had the night before were almost gone.
The children I met that day were the liveliest, happiest and most carefree bunch you could imagine. They had no reservations whatsoever and immediately started playing and laughing with us and came in for lots of cuddles.
They didn’t seem to care that they’d never met us, that we looked different than them or spoke a different language. In that moment, it didn’t matter where either of us came from or what our history was.
What mattered was that we were there for them, we gave them our time and our affection. And they gave it back to us in return, times ten.
They keep reminding me of the magical powers of children, that we seem to lose when we grow up.To live in the here and now, to make the best of any situation and to love unconditionally.
Some of the people I met in the refugee camp have been there for months. They are waiting for their paper work to go through and quietly hoping to be lucky enough to find a nice place to live one day. They hope to work. To feed their children and to sleep through the night without worrying about surviving the next day.
Some of them have parts of their family somewhere in Germany, most of them still have brothers and sisters, friends, parents or even children back at home where they have to fear for their lives every single day. And yet people say they’re taking advantage of our welfare state. People say they just come for the money, that they were never really in danger.
Or the worst thing that people say… that they are terrorists who come to cause trouble and ‘Islamize’ our culture.
I wish these people would come and meet the children I was lucky enough to meet. I wish everyone got to meet those children and learn from them….learn to see only love.
If we were all a little bit more like those children, the world would be a better place.”
By Isa Hannah, Germany