Patience and Courage

“Hungarian people become angry quickly, but there are patient and kind ones too,” said Sally, the 10-year-old who came from Syria with her parents. After only a few years she had learned Hungarian so well that it is not even recognizable that her mother tongue is different. She learns a lot at the study hall of the Refugee Community Center in Budapest with other foreign young people.

“During study hall, I mostly play and study. If somebody doesn’t speak Hungarian, we speak English or Arabic,” says the little girl from the Community Center. The Center is on Váci Street with 150 square-meter classrooms, a community space and a friendly playroom.

“Usually I always have a lesson, but if I don’t have homework or I have free time,” Sally said, “I really like the study hall, because here they explain everything that I don’t understand. Cool people teach me and cool people are here. They know me as if I had been here for 10 years.”  She says that patience and courage are the most important things she has learned from her teacher.


One year of help

The study hall has been helping refugees and migrants for more than a year now thanks to an EU competition. Recently they held an open house where professional and volunteer teachers talked about their experiences with the integration and education of foreign young people.

Safe ground

Teacher Zsuzsanna Horváth thinks that cultural differences and the importance of not breaking rules of propriety must be taken into consideration. At the study hall, in addition to teaching, we have to give a safe ground for these young people. This is a place where they can come anytime and where we will have some kind words for them. We want the study hall to be a point from where these people can find their place in an unknown linguistic and cultural atmosphere. I consider it a big success that we have a community here where a Chinese girl and Afghan boy play together, speaking Hungarian.

Hate is something that exists

The teacher says that their children are often banned in their schools. “We try to tell these children that hate is an existing problem. We want to teach our students how to respond when they experience hate. Arabic young people are often called Gypsies, so the problem is not their mother language, they are identified as Gypsies. In these situations, Arabic people have to face the fact that they do the same with Persian and Afghan people. So it is a kind of mirror for them to see how it feels to be on the other side.”


Opened doors

“Study hall means after school, foreign children come to us to study Hungarian and have tutoring lessons,” says Melinda Ottucsák. The leader of the migrant study hall adds that in Hungary their program is unique because it is the only one where migrants can study (though there is another study hall in Debrecen also). “We welcome every non-Hungarian-speaking student who needs Hungarian education or help. Our program has three parts: Hungarian language teaching, tutoring lessons in mathematics, biology, physics and IT and improving social competence. This last focus is perhaps the hardest: don’t break the rules and accept each other.”


Melinda thinks that the children with aims will learn better and move steadily towards their goals. “For those children who have an uncertain family life, live alone in a dorm or have daily living problems, it is very hard to stay motivated, because they do not have the basic needs. In this situation, we try to supplement the missing food and clothes from donations.”

Colorful bouquet

For the open house, the director of the Reformed Mission Centre, Rev. Erzsébet Magyarné-Balogh, arrived with a “colorful bouquet.” “The bouquet consists of ten kinds of flowers, and if I multiplied the number of petals on every flower, it would not be able to express the diversity in each of you. This bouquet has a message! It says that the life, even if it is short as the stems of cut flowers, it delights us. It has a point. Every human life is a value. Every human life is joy.”

At the refugee mission 13 social workers, teachers and almost 30 volunteer workers help refugees and migrants. Foreigners can get help in language learning, obtaining official documents, housing and finding employment.

Written by Zsuzsa Fekete; translated by Nóra Csobán

Originally published on 

Photos: András Kontsek