A tribute to:
Fanuel, Abdolhassan, Teklit, Arin, Farhad, Filimon, Kamalodin, Faiza, Faiso, Aklilu, Zabi, Feda, Kubrom, Naod, Henok, Ali, Meron, Amanyes, Samir, Mohammad, Mustafa, Pearl, Helal, Fahran, Abdi and Huzaifa
– and to all other unaccompanied minor refugees in Switzerland and beyond
Nearly 90,000 unaccompanied children sought asylum in Europe in 2015, 90% of which are boys. Of this group about 600 children and adolescents refugees arrived in Switzerland without the accompaniment of parents or other guardians and file asylum applications.
The majority of the unaccompanied minors are sent alone on long and dangerous journeys with traffickers and smugglers by parents desperate to deliver their children to safe havens. Before leaving their home country, many of these children have endured trauma, poverty, and lack of education. While in flight, they have suffered hardships and dangers. As a result, they number among the most vulnerable within the asylum community. Europol estimated that at least 10,000 child refugees have gone missing since arriving in Europe. It is feared many have become victims of exploitation by criminal gangs, including human traffickers who force them into prostitution, child labour and the drugs trade.
In the processing period of their asylum requests in Switzerland the unaccompanied minors are taken care of by the Swiss government. Jointly with other unaccompanied minors they receive a safe shelter, food, some money and a professional representative is appointed to represent and support them on a day-to-day basis during their stay in Switzerland. During the day the minors go to a school to learn German and other subjects. Amongst others at the Kolbenacker School in Zurich.
Our Felt Art Project
During the second semester of 2016 Pure Felt, the management and involved teachers of the Kolbenacker School worked on this project involving 26 unaccompanied refugees between 13-18 years of age. We aimed for the children to experience joy, pride and other positive emotions from their personal contribution to the creation of something beautiful and meaningful. A felt art work they have co-designed and co-created with their own hands. Felting is an extremely time-consuming ancient textile art craft, particularly if you work on large surfaces. Various layers of wool fibres are laid out and subsequently rubbed and rolled with water and soap. The resulting shrinking process creates a stable fabric. This project, however, was not only about felting. It was about team work, design, technique, solving issues, patience and perseverance, and foremost about letting go for a moment, and about the love and dreams that are connecting us all.
With this project we tried to create something beautiful and lasting, and invoke a feeling of success. We focused on avoiding the possibility of any sense of failure, the confrontation with language barriers or any pressure of achievement that mandatory school subjects may sometimes result in, particularly for these children.
We wanted to create an experience of cooperation in a fun and peaceful atmosphere resulting into a tangible result, a little temporary hideaway from the worries and stress the kids are suffering from in the completely unknown country they are currently living in.
We have accomplished our goal through the joint creation of two 4.5m long felt banners which will be exhibited at various castles in Switzerland. Our banners tell the story of 26 brave unaccompanied minor refugees who fled from wars and danger into the unknown Switzerland.
We wanted to give a voice to their story, their dreams and give an individual face and a name to them instead of focusing on the numbers our society is driving us into.
We wanted to highlight the human connection, the things we human beings all share and which universally connect us: OUR HUNGER FOR LOVE and OUR SEARCH FOR A PURPOSEFUL FUTURE.
Therefore, one of the banners we have created is called LOVE and also carries the words of the dearest ones and most important goals of the boys and girls who were involved in our project:
MOTHER – FATHER – FAMILY – SCHOOL – JOB – HOME – LOVE – LIFE
The other banner is called FUTURE, which has the names of all the kids of our project as an important imprint of their contribution. Thus the felt banners are giving a face and name to no less than 26 vulnerable brave youngsters, boys and girls in the age of 13-18 from mainly Eritrea, Afghanistan and Syria, who just like any Swiss or other youngster, are eagerly looking for a future in safety and a warm embrace. At the final celebration event the proud children all received a felting certificate and a picture as a souvenir of this amazing shared experience and we intend to meet each other again at an exhibition of the banners.
Why Felt Banners for Castles?
Castles bring history to life, they landmark time, and symbolize a phantasy and nobility that we all share. For many, a castle is a refuge of the soul and spirit, and a common backdrop connecting our lives with those of our ancestors and prodigy as well. In these thick and sometimes musty walls we are safe in one sense, even immortal, where our moments and emotions trigger or create memories and phantasies that may last forever. Passing through time’s vaulted arches of stone is to mark our very existence. We hope the children could feel this also during their visit to Burg Zug in Zug.
These shared moments, phantasy and connection create a mental refuge and reveals the essence of who we are, whether one comes from Switzerland or another European country, from Eritrea, Somalia, Syria or Afghanistan, or from anywhere else in the world: LOVE!
- love is beautiful (Samir)
- love means peace to me (Henok)
- love is important for me (Amanyes)
- I cannot live without love, without love one has no future (Naod)
- to live life every human being needs to have a good heart (Ali)
- the heart looks very nice (Mohammed)
- the colours are beautiful (Huzaifa)
- I hope that you will like them (Henok)
- good idea, who has made these? (Faiza/Farhad)
- very beautiful (Meron/Amanyes/Faiso)
- Thank you (Fanuel)
- wow! (Naod/Kamalodin/Huzaifa)
- well done (Teklit/Helaludin/ Aklilu/Arin/Kubrom)
- big job (Adbiwahab)