Life In Berlin: Refugee Children Find Excitement At The Musical Instrument Museum

8 minutes ago

It takes some power to operate the bellows of an old pump organ, but these kids manage just fine. They are from Afghanistan, Eritrea, and Syria. On this afternoon, they are visiting Berlin's Musical Instrument Museum.  

"They can't touch everything here, because there are very old instruments, historical instruments, but we have arranged [it so] that they can try out some things by themselves, because I think it's really much more fun," says Mireya Salinas.

Various materials used for the children's craft workshop.
Credit Monika Müller-Kroll

Mireya Salinas organizes special events at the museum. Recently, she has invited kids from different refugee shelters around Berlin,"…to get to know the city more, to get to know the history more and the culture here. I hope they feel welcome here. Maybe this is the most important thing.”

It's a busy day at the museum. One group after another arrives. Berliner Lars Kerger is one of the volunteers who accompanies kids from the emergency refugee shelter at Storkower Strasse. 250 refugees live there. Among them are 50 kids.

He tells me that he belongs to a group of volunteers that take the kids on trips around Berlin. They try to do this once a week. In this case, they accepted an invitation from the Musical Instrument Museum. They keep an eye out for free events.

Kerger says, “Some of the kids’ parents say, ‘No.’”

They offer to the parents to come along, but sometimes they have too much going on, or there is a lack of communication, but they have a core of children who take part in these activities. Most of them are already in school and speak a fair amount of German, but language is secondary this afternoon. After the tour through the museum’s collection, the young visitors get to build their own instruments.

Materials used for the craft workshops.
Credit Monika Müller-Kroll

"My name is June Telletxea. I am a singer. These are lentils, and we have rice. We make rainmakers."

June arranges the materials for the craft workshop at the museum. Plastic tubes, different papers, and rubber bands are transformed into a trumpet or a flute. Within an hour, the kids already play their new musical creations.

Cornelia Peitsch has organized many workshops at the Musical Instrument Museum, but this is the first time she builds instruments with refugee kids.

“The children are really excited,” she says. “It's different from their daily routine at the shelter. It's fun to work with them. They are focused.” She emphasizes her admiration for the volunteers who take such good care of these kids.

The day at the museum is a success, and the next tour and workshop are already planned for later this month.