Unter√§geri, 07.12.2023

Expats organise Christmas party for refugee children

Year for year, the Zug association Community Links has organised a Christmas party for the children of asylum seekers and refugees. Two worlds seem to collide there.

The Ägerihalle in Unterägeri is festively decorated: long tables with red, green and gold decorations, candles in jars and tangerine baskets stand ready. It's snowing thickly behind the window. There are other tables on the opposite wall, with Christmas treats from all over the world.

The stage is decorated with a Christmas tree, and behind it there are countless gift bags waiting for the Christmas presents from Santa Claus. A pianist and three young singers rehearse their performance for the “Christmas Party”, which the Community Links non-profit association organises every year to benefit the children of asylum seekers and refugees.

Children “from babies to 13 years old” cavort in the foyer, supervised by their fathers and mothers; Ukrainian, Arabic, African and Asian idioms can be identified in the confusion of languages. People are welcomed at two stations “from A to G” and “from H to Z” and receive numbers for each child who is to receive a gift. Around 400 people are expected, including 220 children. A Herculean logistical task.

They want to give something back to the community
They are all volunteers who have been working here for weeks, and since early morning on this first Saturday in Advent. Community Links was founded by expat families around the International School of Zug and Lucerne. The association has the motive, “to find a way to give back to their community,” as it says on the website.

The annual Christmas party is the main project of the club. Led by Martine Benabderrazik, Kelly Fitzgerald and Lara Bernasconi, and in collaboration with the Zug Social Welfare Office, refugee families are invited to attend the party with dinner, games and gifts.

Many volunteers from Switzerland and other countries are now taking part, both intellectually and financially, as well as in practical terms.

The Christmas party is held every year to benefit asylum seekers.
The Ägerihalle in Unterägeri is festively decorated.
Each child is called onto the stage and receives a gift from Santa Claus     
Photos: Stefan Kaiser

Material abundance and existential depression
The International School from Walterswil has a special task. During their school years, its students complete the “service learning” subject, which deals with topics such as migration, seeking asylum, charity and fundraising for social causes. John Hay, the teacher responsible for this, enthusiastically explains how the 12 to 14-year-olds become familiar with worlds with which, as children born into highly privileged families, they would otherwise never come into contact, both theoretically in class learning, and practically in a hands-on manner through regular visits to asylum seekers' homes in Zug.

At the Community Links Christmas Party, the young students from Walterswil are responsible for thinking up and planning games and crafts for the children. They then let the little ones colour pictures, stick on Epiphany crowns, string wooden bead necklaces or decorate biscuits in the rear area of the Ägerihalle,.

At three o'clock, Santa Claus finally comes onto the stage and the children queue up to go to him one by one, to receive a gift bag and be photographed by their parents. The hall then quickly empties. And somehow it seems as if two worlds have collided here: on the one side,  the material abundance and enthusiasm for helping others, and the existential gloom in the eyes of the others, and, in between, the children: lively and lively as everywhere else in the world, who should be able to enjoy a Western Christmas.

Further information about Community Links and their charity projects: https://communitylinks.ch/ and https://www.facebook.com/CommunityLinks.ch/