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Volunteering with Pass the Crayon – Pt 1

by Niamh McShane 

“What would happen if…  we shot a film in 3 weeks?”

Pass the Crayon brings together art lovers, experts, novices and curious minds from all over the world to share their enthusiasm for creativity with children and teenagers whose families have arrived in Berlin as refugees. The workshops they carry out at three locations in the city aim to equip the young audience with new skills, from lino-cutting and cartoon storyboarding, to shooting a film. Another intention is also to instill a sense of creative curiosity, another form of learning and of understanding the world around us. I stumbled upon the organization quite recently on the vostel platform, and the following is a little insight into what they do.

It’s a crisp autumnal Saturday afternoon and the quiet streets of north Berlin are rustling with the movement of feet through chestnut leaves and the chatter of a motley crew of volunteers getting ready to get creative. It’s the weekly Pankow edition of Pass the Crayon and the second in a three part session on film making. Last week the group plotted out their storyboards, with little narratives arising from the prompt “Was wäre wenn…” Responses ranged from – what would happen if I could fly? – and, what would happen if the sun exploded? – to, what would happen if a ninja kidnapped me in Netto and then my friend tripped him up using the water from a mop bucket and the police came and for some reason there was also a cute puppy involved…

As is often the case with inquisitive and imaginative minds, the session produced some wonderful, albeit wacky ideas. This week, it’s time to take the stories from paper and put them in front of the camera. No mean feat with a class of around 30, and 4 cameras. We split into groups, collecting our stories and delving into the costume box. Cue almost 30 little faces wearing tiny little stick-on moustaches of all shapes and colours… regardless of what role is being acted out, the moustaches are a solid hit. And, in an unlikely yet welcome turn of events, a hurricane in the Azores has blown unseasonably warm winds our way, so we leave the confines of the classroom and take our young film crew outdoors.

Moviestar Children

My little group is taking the Hansel & Gretel story and giving it a positive twist. In this ten minute tale, three siblings set out for a Spaziergang in the woods and end up losing their sister who goes off looking for better network signal on her mobile phone (an ingenious millennial twist) leaving her brothers to aimlessly search for her. Cut to the next scene, one whole year later, and the two 11 year olds switch from black fake moustaches to grey fake moustaches (attention to detail is everything) as they stumble upon two other kids who seem to live in the woods, and have a lead on their sister’s whereabouts. Turns out their sister has been camping out with the other two in a tree house full of sweets and other goodies the whole time. The boys are pretty delighted and celebrate the grand finale by dancing to Despacito, playing from the same mobile phone that created all the issues in the first place. A typically chaotic and cheerful project at Pass the Crayon!

We’ve seen and reviewed the footage and are impatiently waiting for next week’s home grown kino session, when our in house director will have cut together the best clips, turning our amateur productions into something pretty cool! Stay tuned.


Niamh is a 24 year old Irish student who calls Berlin home. This city has presented her with immeasurable treasures, numerous headaches, a sense of belonging and endless streets to run through in her beat-up asics trainers. She is currently spending Saturdays making art with refugees through Pass the Crayon and sharing her experiences here on the blog.

2 Comments

  1. Francis

    Great stuff, keep it up.

  2. Beate Hahn

    Lovely article. Good to hear that the refugee kids are given such a wonderful creative outlet. Loved the modern version of Hansel & Gretel! Well done Niamh.

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