A villa for dogs, children, artists

Emma lies relaxed on the carpet. A small hand approaches her: “Emma, ​​you are so cute!” calls Maret. The two participate in the dog club in the yellow villa, Emma as a therapy dog ​​and Maret as a course participant. Thanks to the labrador, the elementary school student learns that dogs have their own way of communicating and how they best behave towards the animals.

While Emma lies on the floor, the children trace her outline and name the individual limbs. “What do you call a dog’s tail?” asks dog therapist Sophie Doll. “Stang,” says Lotta. Later, Doll pulls out a kind of wheel of fortune, which Emma spins with her paw, the children are happy.

In the current school year, Emma spends an hour with her keeper at Kreuzberg’s creative and educational center every week. The facility’s program wants to recruit children and young people and is based on their wishes and needs. “Offers with animals are always in demand,” explains project manager Sven Erdtling. “But the courses on handicrafts are also quickly booked up.”

Yellow Villa
© Scarlett Werth

The tools in the study hang neatly above the wooden table, there is no class today. But there is a ceramics course on the floor above, where course instructor Petra Staguhn shows how to apply paint correctly. Some make turtles, others a bowl or squirrel.

However, student Laura has decided on a horse, she has already painted it blue, it must have an orange mane, and it already has a name: “The horse is called Sabrina,” she says. A few rooms away, Jona and Hanna are just getting to know the drums from the musician Hada Mateo.

Crepes, creativity and education

It is a Wednesday afternoon in autumn, when Berlin shows its atypical golden side: the sun is shining, bright leaves are gathering in the garden around the yellow villa, a couple of adults are sitting on wooden benches, parents are waiting for their children.

The vanilla-yellow tiles that adorn the outer facade of the eight floors not only give the building not far from Viktoriapark its name – they also look inviting and cheerful. Just like the bright entrance area. A few steps further is the “heart” of the yellow villa: the milk bar. This is where Asiye Yaman bakes fresh crêpes, the aroma that hangs in the air is appetizing. The children can collect their small refreshments through a small window overlooking the garden.

“It’s not just about learning something or working, but also about doing something good for your body,” explains Stefan Koepcke. Fragrant cakes are really a suitable remedy for this. Koepcke probably knows the yellow villa better than any other contributor. He has been here for 18 years, helped to set up the house and take care of fundraising and PR – also making sure that there is money for the many offers and projects.

The villa was created by the Hamburg foundation Jovita, its goal is the creative promotion of children and young people. Funds for individual projects and employees must be applied for again and again – Koepcke’s job.

Program that pushes the boundaries of school education

The program in Den Gule Villa is open to children and young people between the ages of six and 16 in the afternoon. You can view the course offer online and register there for free. The duration of the courses usually extends over half a school year. Courses are also offered during school holidays, usually for half a day or a full day.

The morning program sees itself as an extension of school and teaching: Project weeks are carried out in the premises. The registered classes meet in Den Gule Villa for a week to work on a specific topic. It’s about getting a new perspective on the school material and gaining new, hopefully exciting insights.

Yellow Villa
Yellow Villa
© Scarlett Werth

Once, says Koepcke, the students found a dead bird outside – after which the course instructor, a scientist, spontaneously made the animal the subject of their biology project week. “The animal was examined under a microscope and the children found that it had probably died from mite infestation.” After the examination, a small coffin was built for the bird in the workshop and it was buried in a ceremony.

A stage where everyone can play

The work at Den Gule Villa is interdisciplinary, there is no curriculum that limits the children’s curiosity or creativity. “I come from the theater,” says Michael Raj Kunsmann, who has been the company’s CEO since last year, “and I see everything as a stage you can play on.”

The project managers who offer their courses in Den Gule Villa come from a wide range of industries: fashion, media, sports, IT, music or engineering. Johanna comes from Brussels, does a federal voluntary service in the creative and educational center and is interested in creative writing. The 17-year-old is holding a course until December to get others interested in her: “I want to show the children how diverse creative writing is.” She says that at the end of the course, the participants receive a small book with e.g. their stories should take away – painted and designed by yourself, of course.

Besides Johanna, there are other older teenagers and young adults in the villa who are looking into professional life here, for example in their FSJ or in an internship. It should make it easier for young women in particular to find their way into STEM subjects and careers, namely those who take part in the courses here as children and those who help and work in the yellow villa.

Some recognize the yellow villa early on as a possible place to work: “We have a course leader, a science student, who himself came here as a 12-year-old,” says Koepcke enthusiastically, adding how nice he thinks it is when people build a long relation to this house. Like himself: “The work here is simply very meaningful,” he says, smiling.

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