Wednesday, 20 January 2021

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Hummus and homes illustrate the journey of a child migrant at Children’s Museum event

Children Museum Tales Photo | ©UNRIC 

13 December 2018 – Ladders. A bed. A special, secret corridor.

Those were only some of the features children included when building a new home for Yassin, an imaginary 10-year-old refugee from Syria, for settling down in his new home country and helping him feel at home. Through interactive workshops within the Children Museum’s exhibit “Wings to grow up”, children were introduced to Yassin’s story, the challenges and difficulties – but also the moments of happiness – that he experienced during his journey.

The workshops included building him a new home; building him a football team; finding him friends – or, for instance, attending an interactive cooking session and getting to taste freshly made hummus and eggplant caviar by Syrian refugee chef Abdulrahman Aljassem. The children got to hear Abdulrahman’s compelling story while he was cooking, and solemn silence kept blending with excited voices as flavours, tastings and the tale-telling alternated. Abdulrahman lives in Belgium and has obtained official status as a political refugee, but only after gone through Egypt and Turkey and from there to Italy by perilous roads – and walking the whole way from Italy to Belgium.

This special one-day-event at the Museum was organized together with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) ahead of International Migrant’s Day which is marked on 18 December each year. The morning was reserved for school classes, while the afternoon was dedicated to families.

Children Museum Kitchen Laura Palatini

“Look! I built him a special door. And I liked the theatre play. But the one who made the other feel bad should have said she’s sorry”. That was the comment of a young six-year-old who had just finished constructing Yassin’s home and also had a chance to attend a special theatre play that illustrated a multitude of complex situations such as new encounters, cultural differences, friendship and acceptance despite differences. In the play, a girl gets confronted by someone from a different country – no one knows exactly which one – and the children interact with the play. The general conclusion afterwards was that the two should become friends.

“The major theme for this year’s Migration Day is “Migration with Dignity”. Therefore, our Country Office has decided to put the spotlight on children and migration, to dovetail with this year’s theme. What better partner than the Children’s Museum, an interactive museum in Brussels since 1976? Laura Palatini, IOM Chief of Mission in an interview with UNRIC explained, “We wanted to have an interactive day, ranging from a Syrian chef cooking Syrian specialities to different workshops on themes touching upon children in migration. We tend to forget that of all migrants crossing the Mediterranean, more than one in five is a child.”

The conditions of the journeys are often treacherous, putting migrant children, especially unaccompanied and separated children, at an increased risk. 

“The current lack of safe and legal pathways for refugees, feeds a market for human trafficking and smuggling, and therefore these children are increasingly vulnerable to economic or sexual exploitation, abuse, neglect and violence”, says Palatini.

“Working with children is very important – they often have less barriers than adults. We hope children, their teachers and their parents understood the challenges of migrants a bit better after having visited the workshops and will bring with them everything they learnt and experienced here. The most important thing, I think, is that they learnt that migrants also bring many skills and qualities with them in their suitcase. And the children really got a chance to put themselves in their shoes.”

Judging by the young, concentrated faces building the homes or setting up the football strategy, the workshops certainly were a success. 

Perhaps inspired by the Syrian chef, Abdulrahman Aljassem, and his delicious treats, a group of children had set up store at the world kitchen. “Come and have a taste!”, one of them shouted. “I’m selling scorpions and pineapples!”


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