Here at Xyza, we have been following the story of the international refugee crisis. There are over 21 million refugees in the world—people who have fled from their home country because it is no longer safe to live there. When they resettle in another country, what happens and how do the citizens of that country respond?
In 2015, Germany accepted over one million refugees and in 2016, they welcomed hundreds of thousands more. How did the people of Germany respond? Tim, Kathi, and their three children opened up their home to a refugee family and found that a little compassion and kindness goes a long way. Here’s their story …
Xyza: Why did you want to help host a refugee family?
Kathi: Since we moved back to Germany I was following the news about Syria, Afghanistan actually much longer, it always left me scared, clueless and very sad. We are all human beings, mothers, sisters, children and so on—we want the same, love, freedom, a future for our children, enough to eat. After I listened in the radio one day that refugees must camp outside in Berlin because the shelters are completely packed, I was shocked. My husband came home from work (it was Friday) and I told him that I’m going to go to that meeting point where helpers and refugees come together and offer a place for a family to sleep for the weekend (the family stayed until Tuesday). He agreed immediately and made up our bedroom for a family to come. I just wanted to offer a warm place for them to be, a shower, some food, and empathy.
Xyza: What were your hopes when you hosted the family?
Kathi: My hopes? Simply helping to get them off the street. I just wanted to be there for them, a good host, offer a bed, toys for the kids, and food. I wanted to give them a good first impression of the Germany and Germans I love, the open mindedness, the helping without thinking really about it. We had friends helping out with translation. We had neighbors who offered food or clothing for the family. We hope that was a good experience and a warm welcome after such a terrifying journey that they went through.
Xyza: What did you learn when you hosted the family? Were there any anecdotes or stories from that time you still remember?
Kathi: I learned that it’s always important to have tons of tea (chai) at home, eggs, flat bread. I learned that 12 people need lots of food! The kids are always busy, there is always life in the house, and always someone holding my baby. 🙂 I learned that sometimes there is no need to know each other for long to be feel very close and trustful with each other. I remember beautiful moments especially with the two women when we were sitting on my couch or bed and chatting and lounging. I noticed some things about myself—that I like routines! It didn’t really bother me until the third night, but the kids had no bed time at all (sleeping at 1 or 2 in the early morning). I totally understood that this wasn’t the time for routines, but that was challenging for me. 🙂
Xyza: Did hosting the family change any perceptions for the people around you?
Kathi: My perspective didn’t really change. I was just surprised that not so many people I know did the same, because we have the space, the benefits of living in freedom and so on. I do understand that sharing the home is something very intimate which obviously is not that easy for many people. We do know some people who did share their homes though. Many people’s reactions were very nice and kind. But my friends are just like that, open minded and willing to help, that was no surprise. My family supported our decision to host the family. My parents were not in Berlin but I’m sure if they were, they would have brought food and chatted with the family. They are very kind.
Xyza: How did the kids react to hosting the family? Did you talk to them about it before they arrived?
Kathi: We talked carefully about the situation of the family. They knew about the refugees and that I already donated some of their toys and clothes. I didn’t tell them the whole story of the family (the reasons they fled), but I said they are here for a reason and the only things they have are the things they could carry and we are helping out. They did so great in sharing everything (I mean everything including bed, toys, clothes) and I think they learned a big lesson about life and humanity. That is for me the most important point of view when I think of our future—that my kids know what kind of impact they can have on others. They learned when to help out and not to be selfish or scared. I think they learned so much about this.
Xyza: Do you know how the family is doing right now and would you do it again?
Kathi: I would do it again. We are still in contact. They are doing good. They are learning German and can stay in the country. They now have an apartment. We are very happy that they are safe and warm. We keep contact with them.