Study abroad turns two students into ‘heroes’

Helping refugees in Germany catapults students into the newspaper

January 20, 2017
Alexander Peck and Max Dalton
Alexander Peck and Max Dalton

​For the last two months of fall semester 2016, Alexander Peck and Max Dalton studied in Germany as part of College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Sustainability in Berlin program led by Christoph Stefes, PhD.

During their time abroad, the CU Denver political science students took part in professional, cross-cultural internships with a nonprofit center for those in need of aid named Unionhilfswerk located in a troubled part of eastern Berlin.

The center is home to a variety of people including children, the elderly and people with disabilities. It is also temporarily home to some of the estimated 1 million refugees Germany has opened its doors to in the past few years, the majority of whom fled war-torn areas of Syria.

Staff and volunteers at Unionhilfswerk are tasked with a challenging job—to normalize life for their residents.

Alex Peck and Max Dalton
Alex Peck and Max Dalton

That kind of responsibility might be enough to scare people away, but not Peck and Dalton. They dove right in, and when October came around, the duo spearheaded a Halloween party for the local residents that would rival even Heidi Klum’s annual bash.

“In addition to the many day-to-day things they do, the center also holds parties and festivals on major German holidays to help the refugees feel welcome and included,” Peck said. “I told our supervisor in passing that Halloween was my favorite holiday back home, so she thought it would be great to not only have a party for the children, but expose them to a little bit of American culture. They gave us a room, a date, and 400 Euros, and then left us to our own devices to plan and prepare.


Big news in Germany

Screen shot of tweet
Tweet from German news, Berliner Helden

Berlin-based B.Z., one of Germany’s largest and oldest newspapers, took note of the event.

After hearing how much time and work Peck and Dalton put in to plan the party, the editors featured them in the newspaper’s “Helden,” or “Heroes,” section.

Some students study abroad to change their own lives. For Peck and Dalton, their study abroad experience transformed the lives of others.

Translation for tweet:
Heroes discovered!  Two students celebrate with refugee children.

Translation for news article:
American heroes celebrate Halloween with refugee children

Monster party in refugee home: Over 40 children of the residential home on Konrad-Wolf-Street (Lichtenberg) were able to celebrate Halloween Monday evening. The party was organized by two truly scary professionals, Alexander Peck (24) and Max Dalton (20), who are born-and-bred U.S. Americans, familiar with the custom since childhood. Both are currently studying in Berlin and volunteering for three months in the organization of the Union Fund. “Halloween has always been my favorite festival,” says Alexander. “It’s great that we are able to introduce children from so many other countries to it.”


Photos from the Halloween Party

Guest Contributor: Elly Lewis, Political Science Department