"Icoon for kids" is a new project for refugee children in Germany. It is meant to help them learn German - and build new emotional bridges.
Around 50,000 children aged between four and 11 applied for asylum in Germany last year, according to statistics from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS), a foundation linked to the conservative CDU party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, has developed a project to address these children: a poster, conceived as an offer of friendship with Germany. The illustrations show key objects from different areas of life that every child can relate to, such as eating, playing, colors or school.
Elisabeth Hoffmann, the foundation's education, family and youth policy coordinator, describes the poster campaign as an "outstretched hand." "It must be very hard to be a child arriving in a country where you don't know the language, or even the alphabet," Hoffmann told DW. That is why the foundation wanted the poster to emphasize things all children have in common. The description of the symbols, in German, is also intended to serve as a kind of "first aid" in learning the new language.
Hoffmann says the idea for the "bridge-building poster" came about in the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung following reports by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on the situation of refugee children in Germany. These called for more and better opportunities for refugee children to play and learn.
Help from a Syrian journalist
The foundation got the journalist Ramy Al-Asheq on board to help with the intercultural selection and choice of issues. Al-Asheq fled Syria four years ago. Today he is the editor of the Arabic-language newspaper "Abwab" (Door), with texts both by and for refugees, which aims to give the new arrivals a better understanding of life in Germany.
"I wouldn't have trusted myself to design the symbols and pictures without Ramy Al-Asheq's guidance," says Elisabeth Hoffmann. "Luckily, when we presented the project to him, he immediately agreed to act as an advisor."
The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung tasked the young Berlin-based designer team Amberpress with the execution of the project. This team already had some relevant experience: In 2015, Amberpress designed 30,000 copies of "Icoons for refugees," a pictorial dictionary for refugees and their helpers.
Perspective of children from Arabic-speaking countries
The head of Amberpress, Gosia Warrink, was born in Poland. According to Elisabeth Hoffmann, this meant she was able to relate to the situation of children growing up in a foreign country. "Our subject matter is shaped from the perspective of children from Arabic-speaking countries," she says. "The idea is that children all over the world share a love of beautiful things."
However, the poster is also aimed at children born and raised in Germany. It's supposed to show how many things German and refugee children have in common - as well as that Germany is concerned about children, and has a sense of aesthetics.
"Of course you can also use the poster to learn the German language - it provides pedagogical professionals with plenty of possibilities - but first and foremost it's a friendship-with-Germany and encouragement poster," adds Elisabeth Hoffmann. The foundation has printed 5,000 posters. They can be ordered for free from the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.