Christmas at Tempelhof Airport

Imagine spending Christmas at an airport.

Imagine being there without a passport or anywhere else to go, since the last flights departed almost ten years ago and any other transfers are constantly being delayed or cancelled as soon as you even get close to getting a ticket.

Imagine not being able to leave that airport. For months. A year. Maybe longer.

Imagine that you need to go through a security procedure, having your body scanned every time you want to enter your “home”.

Imagine that “home” is a cardboard box without a roof or any real possibility to close it and have some privacy.

Imagine not being able to cook or eat familiar food from your country The taste of your grandma’s cooking, of your city, of summer holidays from your childhood.

Imagine this being your only “home” – that place where most people are able to withdraw to feel safe when the world outside feels stressful and chaotic.

Imagine that stress and chaos for you has meant the destruction of your real home, like the bombed out Aleppo in Syria, or Mosul in Iraq where IS have been making your life a living hell, or Afghanistan, a country plagued with terrorism and instability after centuries of war.

Imagine you have no idea where you will be next year. The same airport? Another country? Sent back to the chaos and stress where your hard journey began?

Imagine knowing that your being in this place should make you feel “blessed” since you’re out of a warzone, but you live in fear for your loved ones left behind.

Imagine trying to stay sane in this situation, trying to see a way forward, any meaning in all this. Trying to protect your children without losing yourself.This is what 1700 people are doing everyday inside of the walls of the Tempelhof Airport right now. This Christmas (and far beyond) you can help to bring some love, light and strength to the women and children living there.

What it’s like

For a lot of Berliners, the site of the abandoned Tempelhof Airport represents a vast and wild space; a place of horizon, exploration and freedom. But for almost 2000 newcomer Berliners, Tempelhof means “refugee camp”, “schlafplatz” or “hell”. These are they names they use to refer to the former airport’s halls and hangars that have become their temporary home.

The temporary situation has now lasted more than a year, with new residents moving in and vague perspectives on any hope of change. Life in the cold hangars has become the abnormal but accepted reality. No daylight, no privacy, extensive surveillance, food served on plastic plates, impatient social workers, the feeling of disorientation in bureaucratic procedures.

Even having one’s asylum application accepted and receiving residency brings little change. The same small squares metres shared with two other families, the same huge hall full of tiny pseudo-houses – container cubes without roofs. Contact with the outside world is limited by high security, a language barrier and strict meal times. Without very little personal cash, people are invisibly chained to the space in order to avoid hunger but have no possibility to use a kitchen to cook their own food.

What we do

To bring some light, stability and connection to these people, GSBTB organizes a weekly Open Art Shelter for Women and Children. It’s a safe and creative space for the free expression of emotions and thoughts, intercultural dialogue and trauma healing. It’s a broad and dynamic concept filled with:

  • arts, crafts and creativity of all sorts
  • integrated psychotherapy with individual support
  • sewing and handicraft with the possibility for financial empowerment through selling the products
  • city and nature excursions for individuals and families
  • enabling contact with local culture through visits to theaters, museums and cinemas
  • childcare to allow women some time for themselves
  • women-only movie nights, dance parties and pampering hair and make-up events
  • mural projects that serve to send a political message and make the utterly depressing surroundings a little bit brighter
  • letter exchanges between refugee kids, women and volunteers, fostering pen-friendships
  • creative language exchange (we teach each other German, English, Farsi, Arabic and Russian by singing, drawing, laughing and doing calligraphy)

The project and community is developed by a multicultural team of locals, migrants and refugees, from teenagers to senior citizens. Our activities are not a one-way charity giving to refugees, but rather focused on what we can all contribute to the group.

Every week 100-150 women and children take part in this huge operation taking place both inside and outside the shelter. Your donation is a much-needed contribution to this work, making it plannable, scalable and sustainable. We are looking forward to empowering our community members, fostering peace and inclusiveness together with you!

Please visit our Betterplace donation page, where you can make a Christmas donation  to the GSBTB Open Art Shelter for Women and Children and find out more about what your donation will go towards.

Thank you, as always, for your support.