As some of you know and some are about to find out, my wife, Gila, and I have been heavily involved with the refugee situation here in Berlin. With a refugee center directly across the street, Gila has been giving German classes and I give drawing lessons to those refugees who, unlike the Syrians (who are considered to be war refugees and go immediately into German courses or schools) live in limbo waiting to find out if they will be allowed to stay here, or not. Most of them are Afghanis.

As one would discover with any group of people, there are the smart ones, the not so smart, the nice ones and the not so nice, the motivated ones and the ones who come to class occasionally.


Gila recognized early on that Shabnam was an unusual young lady.

Growing up in a country where most girls are married off in their teens, (Her mother was married at age eleven!) Shabnam was determined to get an education and convinced her father to let her go to Kabul and live with her grandmother so that she could go to school there. When the Taliban made life in her hometown unbearable her family had to flee. Cutting off her schooling, she of course went with them on the long trek through Iran, Turkey, by raft to a Greek island, and then twelve hours of walking to get a train to Germany.


Shabnam is eighteen years old. She is sweet and charming and fun to be with, but she is also tenacious in her desire to study and to learn, and eventually to become a physician. For six months she went every morning to the office at the refugee center to ask if they had found a school for her, and last week she was finally accepted to a vocational school where she will learn  German and be trained as a nurse's assistant. Eventually, she will become a nurse, and ultimately, we are convinced will go on to study medicine, but there is a long road ahead for her.  Gila and I do all we can to help her and what we get in return is a commodity that seems rare among most refugees here: appreciation and gratitude.


While I was drawing her portrait, I thought how wonderful it would be if the people who follow my website (folks from all around the world) would send her a supportive email. Her English is not great, but good enough to read a short, simple message.


Shabnam's email address is:


PS: It would be nice to include your nationality in your mail.