when I decided to go to Berlin for one year it was clear to me that besides my personal pleasure ( my 10year old granddaughter, going to movies, listening to lectures from psychoanalysts and other scientists, visiting exhibitions, writing), I wanted to do some work in the social field. When there was a question from the IPU (International Psychoanalytic University) for supervison in a student´s project I immediately answered.
In this project students in psychology look after refugees in different settings. My first group worked in a refugee-camp near the mainstation in Berlin. It is a socalled emergency accomodation, that means refugees are here only for a certain time til there is another place for them to be. Up to 300 persons can live here in two huge halls, one for the women and the social places, the other for the men. The halls are subdivided into smaller „open cages“ for sleeping. The refugees are not locked in, but I found this expression suitable for these places which are open to the ceiling of the hall. They give place for 4 beds, one above another so that 8 people can sleep here and be here during the daytime if they wish.
My students were lucky because one of them came from Iran and spoke farsi, the language wich is also understood in Afghanistan. It was clear that she was frequently asked for a talk, for an advice, for a listening to the stories of some refugees, and it was clear, too, that this was an overwhelming experience and a huge burdening. One of the refugees showed a picture in his handy, laughing, do you want to see my friend? It was a picture of his friend, dead.
The trauma of difficult and often horrible flights cannot be contained in the moment. We do not have enough psychotherapists in Berlin or elsewhere who are competent in this field. My students do there best, but psychotherapy with refugees is not their job. They can help to make their everyday life a little better: to help them with bureaucracy (very important!!!), to find addresses and accompany them to clinics and physicians, to explain to them differences in cultural attitudes. I found one event very helpful and inspiring: my farsi-speaking student organized a cooking-event with a dozen of refugees. They had a lot of fun, the people were active and enjoyed the coming together.