In the summer of 2016, when I read a newspaper article about a refugee camp being set up close to my home with fifty small mobile homes, I organized a neighborhood group to help meet the residents’ needs. We met in a neighborhood cafe regularly to organize and plan.
We set up German classes, craft sessions, community trips, cooking classes, school tutoring, and a small lending library. With help from the refugees, we built lounge furniture for a community tent and set up a bicycle repair shop. We also tried to get to know their culture and expose them to ours.
At Christmas they helped us decorate a Christmas tree, which was entirely new to Syrians and Afghanis. We had an awesome party with lots of food, music, and presents. An elderly Syrian man said, “You know, I want to go back to my home, but I want to collect good memories to take back with me. This is one of the best memories I’ve had so far.”
Most camp residents experienced great trauma before coming to Germany. They need professional help but also support from friends. They need to be able to open up and talk about their sorrows without someone next to them being totally afraid of what they’re hearing. They need a listening ear and compassion; they need someone who can express sorrow for what they have gone through and reassure them they are safe.
My work at the camp had a positive influence on my young son. Seeing that has helped me decide what I want to do with my life. I want to be a good role model for my kids and show them what is most important in the world. It’s about compassion. It’s about helping other people. It’s not about yourself and how much money you earn or what kind of job you have or what kind of car you drive. It’s about who you are. In the end you will be judged by the fullness of your heart. That’s what I’m trying to teach my kids.