Want to help refugees? Here’s a few ideas

Here’s some news about the German classes in Wilmersdorf – a follow-up to my two previous posts, with a few more details on how it works concretely.The structure in the courses running in parallel is still not optimal. It was obvious from the start that it would take a while to get it all working properly considering the inertia induced by the mass of people there is to coordinate. So let me tell you about what is already working very well!

First, the furniture. We have chairs, tables and blackboards in almost every classroom. We even received specific furniture for kids’ classes (lower chairs and tables) from the school where my kids go (Cecilien-Grundschule). My son’s art teacher came by to decorate the door to the kids’ classroom today, I really love it. The first class with 5 kids (age 5, 6, 7, 8 , 9) took place on Thursday. We will offer it every morning on weekdays, at 10, from Monday on.

Today I had a meeting with the teenagers. As opposed to many of the adults, they live in the building not 3 weeks, but 3 months (which means their family do too, I have to look into that to see how many people it concerns). They could tell the exact date when they would have to leave, which felt kind of scary. One in September (my Turkmenian pupil whom you already know), one in October, one in November. I got information about their cousins, brothers, sisters, friends, who were too shy to attend the meeting. I told them when I would be around again. Some had e-mail adresses, some cell phone numbers, but the best way to get to talk to them is to be there when there is class. Together with a few friends, we are working on finding them either highschools or universities where they can attend German classes as well as disciplinary classes (math, IT and history where the disciplines they wanted to attend).

I was very happy to be able to hand the Arabic-speaking teenagers a pocket dictionary as a welcome gift. That was made possible by the bookstore Hacker & Presting. They invited their newsletter readers to contribute to our effort by buying (donating, that is) books we need. We received a whole box of pocket dictionaries yesterday, additionally to children books and some German language manuals.

Another bookstore arranged a “Spendentisch”, a table with books we need for the classes with the refugees or want to give them (like the one at Hacker & Presting’s, I actualize the list I have deposited there according to the evolution of the needs). Clients buy the books at their buying price, the bookstore donates the difference between buying price and selling price and when I come by, there are boxes full of books for me to bring where we keep our material. This one is the bookstore Ferlemann und Schatzer, where I buy my kids’ schoolbooks and always get excellent advice when it comes to purchasing readings suitable to the age and taste of my children.

These two actions have been gaining a crazy momentum in the last couple of days. We are organizing a library now (the furniture team will not be able to rest, even after doing such a great job with chairs and tables…), it is a room located in between the classrooms.

As if this was not enough, a lot of neighbors and friends activated their networks to purchase the workbooks we are working with. We would like to give each pupil his/her copy of the workbook relevant to their level – this way, they can attend classes in the order they choose and each can work through their workbook. Now there is only one (you read me well, one) such workbook conceived for refugees in German. You can order it here. Over the last days, I have been receiving packages containing sometimes 5, sometimes 10, sometimes 60 workbooks donated and sent to me so that I can distribute them (I have given my home address and warned the neighbors about the packages – have not had to run to the post office so far). Every time I fear that we will lack workbooks, we get a delivery. It is like a magic well.

To all of those who are contributing to and coordinating these actions, my words of thanks are too weak. Being able to give the refugees something that will help them on their long way to a new life is one thing when it is immaterial good, but being able to materialize it in books is just the most beautiful thing to welcome someone into a culture.


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