In Germany alone, 158,000 refugees have sought protection this year. They flee their homelands because they fear war and political power struggles and consequently see no opportunities there for themselves. For this reason, we, the nine bachelor degree students at the Celanese Sulzbach site in Germany, took heart and organized a social day at Villa Anna in Eppstein during this pre-Christmas season.

The Villa Anna, which was once an addiction therapy center, was converted into a shelter for unaccompanied refugee minors two years ago. When we arrived, we received a hearty welcome with a delicious breakfast. Then, Thorsten Schaaf, head of the center, told us something about the origin of the old house and explained Villa Anna’s mission of support for refugees from a variety of different countries. The house offers space for 25 youth; however, as demand is quite a bit greater, there are in fact 32 young refugees currently staying at the center.

The room we were assigned to paint was once an in-house carpentry workshop that served the therapy program for individuals suffering addiction. Today, it serves as the common room for the center’s residents. When we arrived, however, the only sign of the room’s use as a lounge were some randomly assembled couches and a billiard table; otherwise it featured a couple of workbenches and numerous holes in the walls. We didn’t waste any time and soon had the furniture moved out, the cobwebs cleared away, and the holes in the wall filled and smoothed. In no time, we were painting walls, doors, window frames, woodwork, and wall heaters.

At lunch, we had the opportunity to speak personally with some of the young residents as well as with their counselors, which gave us a better idea of life at the Villa and the everyday world of these children and youth. We were served an African dish for lunch – something completely new to us which we enjoyed trying.

After finishing up the last round of painting, we packed our brushes and rollers back into our cars and left with a good conscience. We knew that a colorful, cheerful room was ready and waiting for the Villa residents – a place where they can now relax again in their free time and enjoy the Christmas holidays.

Thanks very much to the project team and Merry Christmas!