Meghan Geist flew all the way from America for an internship with PTC. She has been an invaluable help to us over the past three weeks, bringing her academic expertise, an openness to learn, and a wonderfully positive energy to the team. This is a piece she wrote for her University about her experience working with us:
Although my time with Pass the Crayon (PTC) was brief, I enjoyed every minute of it. Pass the Crayon is not the first refugee non- profit that I have had the opportunity to work with. The other was back home in Akron, Ohio, where I was fortunate enough to meet and help obtain visas for people from Bhutan/Myanmar, Nepal, and Mexico. However, with PTC I was introduced to a different side of the process, the view a refugee child has to a new country, language, and culture.
I had many surprises throughout my time here to prove expectations are not reality. Since I have worked with refugees before, I went in with an understanding of how hard it would be for them to adjust to a new way of life. I expected these children to be very quiet, shy, and even stand-offish to new people, like the adults I had worked with, only truly opening up through artwork. I was pleasantly surprised to learn how wrong I was. These children are some of the most outgoing, courageous, and even silly kids I have ever met. It was as if I walked into a day-care in Ohio with children who have not experienced the horrors these refugee children have. While I know they act care free, there has been tragedies in their lives. I learned along the way that many of them were here with older siblings rather than parents. It helped me further realize and place faces on the extent of devastation this war has in the Middle East.
Next, I was told before coming to Germany that I would not need to learn German. I learned quickly that was a lie. These children only spoke German to the volunteers in an attempt to learn the language and become fluent. Not speaking German gave me a huge disadvantage! I wasn’t able to grow close to any of them, tell them about myself, or even have a simple conversation. One of the girls at a workshop tried to communicate with me, but was failing to get her message across, so she began drawing pictures to try and communicate with me. German is a difficult language to learn and these children are doing something impossible to many people not native to Germany. I wish I would’ve learned at least basic German so I didn’t feel disrespectful to other volunteers and the children.
Finally, I was thrown for a loop when I realized how relaxed the office time and hours were. I went into this internship with the idea that I would work every other day for about six to eight hours. That was not the case. PTC was very relaxed with the time and where you worked. The office space itself is a “Migration Hub” where multiple different non-profits come together to work and network. I expected more of an office, like the one I’d worked in before. At first, I was a little intimidated by how much freedom I was given. However, over the course of the three weeks, I grew more and more comfortable and relaxed with the structure. I was given enough freedom to work on articles and administrative work anywhere with WiFi, I was given deadlines for submitting ideas and filling out workshop forms, and was able to spend my remaining time writing articles and helping other members of PTC with their work.
My overall experience with PTC was a life-changing one. Working with children affected by a war, that has been a prevalent part of my life, was eye-opening. Growing up Post- September 11, 2001 (09/11/2001), the Middle East has always been a common topic in the news. It’s become easy to just brush those stories aside, say I’ll get back to it tomorrow, or even forget about them. However, these kids helped me see the human side of those news stories, and for that I’m forever grateful. When I was ten, my brother joined the US Army. He was stationed and ultimately fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. For the years he was there, and as much as I missed and worried about him, I believed he would ultimately come home. These children had to grow up quickly, and learned quicker than I did, that death is a part of life. The children I worked with are stronger than I’ll ever be and I believe that these refugee children can, and will, change the way people see the world around them.
** A big thank you to Meghan for writing this article, and for her help over the past few week. We wish her the best of luck in her future endeavours and we will be keeping in touch! If you liked this article, don't forget to 'like' and post on social media. **