Classmates from Syria are full of surprises
Juan and Momo, both 16 years old, are classmates from Damascus. Juan’s two older brothers travelled first to Germany and stay in a nearby centre for refugees, where Sabine and her daughters have been actively involved in volunteering. Juan and Mohammed moved in with Sabine when they arrived in Germany in October 2015.
It’s amazing how confident they have become since they’ve been here.
Sabine’s daughter Charlotte has been very active in local initiatives to help refugees, especially with housing, integration and entertainment activities involving refugees and locals. She finished school last summer and wants to study medicine. Like the rest of her family, she is positive about all the changes that have come into her life since the summer.
“It’s amazing how confident they have become since they’ve been here. They were so shy at the beginning,” she says, about the boys who are young teenagers.
Miriam, a budding photographer, says: “When they don’t clearly say what they want or need, because they don’t like to cause any inconvenience, it can be difficult. But it’s getting better as they are starting to accept that we see them as part of the family.”
Charlotte says, “they are so full of surprises. We learn so much from each other and we enjoy ourselves. The other day, I taught Momo to ride a bicycle!”
In early 2016, some months after the photograph was taken, Charlotte went travelling and Miriam moved out to live with friends in a flatshare in Berlin. As their rooms became free, Juan’s two older brothers, Mzkin (21) and Alan (19), moved in in their place, which Sabine says has been wonderful. Alan is soon to take an entrance exam for a preparatory course for refugees who wish to study at the Technical University in Berlin. He wants to study maths. And Mzkin has found work as an apprentice chef. He also actively participates in community events that bring locals and refugees together through the sharing of food.
Juan and Mohammed have both started studying at the local secondary school. In August 2016 they joined a school trip to Kiel on the Baltic Sea coast, their first trip out of Berlin since arriving. And next year they will work towards their school exams.
Portrait by Aubrey Wade
Assisted by Stjepan Sedlar
Text by Sarah Böttcher
This story is part of the No Stranger Place series, which tells stories of refugees and locals living together in Europe. The project was initiated by Aubrey Wade, Sarah Böttcher and Stjepan Sedlar, and developed in partnership with UNHCR and Nadine Alfa.