Recently, the support of unaccompanied refugees has become a common topic of discussion in society. In addition, there is a general concern within the population, which often stems from a lack of understanding about the causes of migration. However, there are many refugees in Berlin who are trying to gain a grasp on the German language and culture.
Since September 2015 Visioneers has held sewing workshops for refugees in Berlin Schöneberg. Although we have worked with men, women and children from a wide variety of countries, we currently serve unaccompanied young people between the ages of 14 and 17, mainly from Afghanistan.
The workshops, which are conducted entirely in German, are designed to give young people the opportunity to get in touch with the German language and culture. Because of their level of enthusiasm, the participants have been developing their language skills at a much faster rate than other young people of a similar age. These students are motivated to learn as much as they can in order to integrate into society. Many of the participants have worked in their home countries as tailors. This means that either after school or instead of school, they would have gone to work in the factories that supply the Northern hemisphere with affordable clothing. Thus, while the creative work is new for them, operating the sewing machine is routine. What they enjoy most about the sewing is the freedom they have to be creative.
Many of the participants express the desire to meet with other young people from Germany in order to exchange ideas and make friends. The youth from Germany usually have no idea what the living conditions in crisis countries are like. Although shopping is a popular activity for them, they typically have no knowledge of who made their clothes and under what circumstances. Nevertheless, these teenagers have shown a willingness to learn and to do creative work.
Despite the initial differences between these two groups, they now both live in Germany and are part of the same society. Because of this, it is necessary to enhance both groups' understanding of one another in order to promote a tolerant social environment and to foster a developmental perspective that takes into account the causes of immigration and the situation that many children from crisis countries find themselves in. This will be done as part of a sewing workshop in which all young people contribute their strengths and learn from each other.