As anyone who has not been living under a rock knows, the Syrian refugee crisis is dire. Germany has been the first country to step up, and has opened its borders to refugees, but they need help. Not just from other countries willing to do the same (Hello, U.S.!) but from people willing to aid their fellow men, women and children by helping these people acclimate to a new life after having been forced from their homes, families, and everything they’ve ever known.
German artist Constanze Von Kitzing, newest member of the CAT family of illustrators, and Anna Karina Birkenstock have found a way to contribute to the cause; using their immense talent to aide children during this difficult transition into a new culture and language. Below she explains their venture and gives us some insight into what WE can do to help in our own countries, and those abroad.
Hello Constanze, what you are doing is amazing. Together with another illustrator you came up with the idea of creating coloring images for refugee children. How did you come up with this idea?
Constanze: You may have heard that there has been a massive refugee movement from Syria and other countries to Europe and especially Germany. One of the many problems we’re facing right now is that 51% of all refugees are kids and while there are many organizations that focus on them, they often lack materials they can use to help these children. A friend of mine working in a refugee camp asked me to draw a couple of coloring images to make her work easier. It so happened that Anna Karina Birkenstock, who is also an illustrator, was planning to do the same thing. We got together and started a national campaign for illustrators, #illustratorenfuerfluechtlinge (#illustratorsforrefugees). Together with some professionals, we created a list with coloring image topics (we have about 100 so far) and began to spread the word. We have had a lot of immediate response already, and are overwhelmed with art submissions from all over the country! It’s great!
How will these coloring images be used?
Constanze: There are different topics, like “school”, “kindergarten”, “forest”, “animals”, “clothes”, and “seasons”. Social workers can hand them out for creative exercises, and can use them to talk about the things that the kids are likely to see here in Germany. We’re also creating little games for the kids. It’s a good way to assist with language barriers and to even learn some vocabulary. They’re designed to teach the refugee children our language, and our culture in a playful way. Of course, this does not replace actually going and helping out, but it’s hopefully a contribution that will make helping a little easier.
Wonderful – that will really make an impact! How will you be providing these images and illustrations to refugee social workers and personnel?
Constanze: Right now we’re planning to create a PDF containing all contributions that can be downloaded and used freely. We are also setting up a distribution list of organizations and individuals who are involved with refugees.
How can other artists from around the world get involved and contribute?!
We are not looking for any contributions from artists outside of Germany, as we are already inundated with wonderful artwork! But I encourage you to start something similar in your community or country!! There are children everywhere who are in need of good (!!!) free images to help them learn a new language and culture.
We set up a Facebook page that everyone is welcome to follow, where we are constantly posting the latest news. It’s in German, but can be translated!: https://www.facebook.com/illustratorenfuerfluechtlinge
Thank you, Constanze, for this information, and for your wonderful contribution to this cause.