Integration through “being creative together”: CCP fellow Ceren Suntekin on her work at the Jugendschutzstelle, the child protection service in Bonn

Despite the significant drop in the numbers of refugees coming to Germany since the “refugee deal” was agreed with Turkey, issues relating to refugees, migration and integration remain very pressing. Over the past year, people who work with refugees have also taken part in the new CCP Refugees and Migration module of the CrossCulture Programme.

In her workshops with minor refugees Ceren used art as a means of self expression and communication and to create a sense of belonging.

In 2016, the programme offered young professionals and volunteers from Germany, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey opportunities for dialogue and exchange, and provided a platform for tackling problems relating to refugee work. In 2017 the programme is supporting young professionals and volunteers from Germany, Chad, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, and Uganda.


Ms Ceren Suntekin, Head of the Tarlabasi Community Centre in Istanbul, came to Bonn as part of last year’s programme and spent 6 weeks at the Jugendschutzstelle in Bonn. The Jugendschutzstelle is the main shelter facility in Bonn, offering round-the-clock assistance and protection to children and young people. This is where many unaccompanied young refugees are looked after when they first arrive in Bonn.
Ceren Suntekin reports on her experiences.


When working with young refugees, there is always a danger of putting them in a box and ignoring their particular characteristics, likes and dislikes, talents, lifestyles, world view, hobbies and personalities.


What are the main characteristics of this group?

– Many young people are traumatised
– In general, they are still developing their sense of identity
– They try to adapt to their new location and the new culture
– They are often from low-income families

Social workers need to pay close attention to the emotional, psychological and social changes that they are undergoing. Whether or not they are refugees, we should not forget that these are young people who all have different characteristics and personalities, and who are on the verge of adulthood.


“Being creative together”

Of course it is vital that these young people learn German, but it is also important to break down prejudices on both sides. This is where sport and art activities can help. Creative craft and painting projects are cheap to set up and run. But why is it so important to be creative together?


I have a problem with the word “integration” because it implies that the Other (as a person, society or culture) has a lesser value; that they just have to adapt and are to blame for any difficulties involved. It should be the job of social workers to challenge these ways of behaving and thinking.


If we are to live together and develop a sense of belonging, it is very helpful if we create something together.


During my time in Bonn I decided to set up an art project and work with young people to create collages. No particular instructions or previous knowledge are necessary to make a collage – it just takes a little creativity.

Collages of the faces of two participants of the art workshop.

For me, working with collages is also transcultural work. You take all kinds of different materials and use them to create something new. Each material works well with the others but it no longer has anything to do with its old self. A piece of each material is used to create the picture, but when you look at the finished work you see something new that has been created from all these tiny pieces. I think this point is particularly important when working with refugees. All kinds of things can be re-used in collages: magazines, newspapers, even nuts or fabric. It makes more sense than buying new materials.


Example: I want to make a collage of my face



– Scissors
– Glue
– Old magazines/newspapers
– A thick felt-tip pen
– Thick card
Instructions: Think about your face. What are your main features?  Draw a large picture of your face on the card. Write down three characteristics that distinguish you, and add your name under the picture.


Aim: When there are language barriers, this task helps people to get to know each other, promotes creativity without requiring much artistic talent, exercises the imagination, increases concentration, and is fun to do.


This report can also be read on the project website, the internet portal for social workers.

The original text was translated from Turkish to German by the Bonner Institut für Migrationsforschung.