The living situation in many countries is bad, dangerous and daily life becomes a struggle for survival. For many, fleeing to Germany and coming to Berlin is the only way, to get a chance of a new life in safety and peace. But arriving here isn’t always easy. The journey is often a very traumatic experience for most refugees, who not only leave behind their homes, but often family members, friends and everything that they are used to without knowing what to expect. Also fleeing a country is often extremely dangerous which is why projects like Jugend Rettet e.V. have been created. This project is sending volunteers to regions where many refugees are crossing the sea. Patrolling on boats and rescuing people from open waters is the kind of intense help that is needed.
Help for refugees has many different faces in diverse Berlin. In the past year we came across projects that amazed us with their positive attitude, their empowering ideas and practical ways of integrating and assisting refugees. We want to share our excitement about some of those projects with you, which is why we have collected a small number of them here.
Most of the projects focus on bringing together locals and refugees by giving them a shared task, job and skill. Many of them are somehow related to food, which makes sense, since eating is one of our basic needs and one of the most fun and social things to spend time with and interact over. All of the projects are setting great examples on how to enhance communication between people, who are just arriving here and those, who have been here forever. We have so much to learn from each other and share with one another. People bring so much potential, skills and know-how to Berlin, when they arrive here and it is Berlin’s task to give them spaces to use it, which all of these projects do. Of course, they also base on the help of volunteers, so if you have thought about how to engage or are just interested in learning Arabic, getting to know new people from different cultural backgrounds or want to spend some time doing something for the greater good, here are some ideas that will surely make your Karma explode and boost your trust in humanity!
The name of this project means “community” in Mandika, a West African language. Creating a sense of community is the goal of Bantabaa, who offer German classes, advice for all kinds of questions and problems and especially jobs for refugees, who came here via Lampedusa, which otherwise have to face great problems getting a job and have to fear to end up doing illegal work. At Bantabaa, they get jobs in the Bakery even, if they don’t have a work certificate, because Bantabaa counts them as educational interns. This educates them for future jobs and makes them feel more qualified, which is necessary for growing back a feeling of self-worth.
Find Bantabaa on Facebook as well.
A very holistic concept for the integration of refugees is the Sharehaus Refugio. It is living space, café and communal event space in one. About 60 Berlin refugees from many different countries live and work here together, create their shared home step by step and build not only a beautiful place, but also a safe space. At Sharehaus Refugio people can learn German, meet German locals at the Sprachcafé to practice their new skills and form new friendships without being as excluded as they would be in a shelter. Here people from different cultural backgrounds get together, learn about each other, teach each other knowledge and share food, living space and free time. The roof terrace is open for visitors from now and then and the perfect spot for sunny days in Neukölln. The events at Sharehaus Refugio are always interesting, fun and great to meet interesting people from all over the world.
photo: Sharehaus Refugio
This project seeks to make the process of integration easier for both, the locals and those, who are just starting anew in Germany. Most refugees, when coming to Berlin, have to face many new and difficult tasks. Organizing their new living situation, learning a new language, learning how to write in a different alphabet, getting to know the city they now live in, arrange with the sleeping situation in sometimes overcrowded shelters and most of all: German bureaucracy. What comes short in the daily life of most people in similar contexts, is the satisfaction of positive human interaction. Everyone needs a sense of free time once in a while. A good talk, experiencing something nice, going to a cinema or just being able to talk and practice the new language with someone, who is interested in you. “Start with a Friend” made it their task to connect refugees to locals to give both sides a chance to get to know individuals from a totally different background and help each other in providing knowledge, language skills, human insights and mainly fun.
Cucula – The “Refugee Company for Crafts and Design” is a project that focuses on educating, employing and empowering refugees. From German classes to administrative support as well as work places and jobs. Cucula has a holistic spirit, like most of the presented projects, since all parts of ones life affect each other. The specialty of this association is its own furniture line, which is being designed, created and handmade in Berlin by and with people, who would otherwise have problems getting a job, because of their refugee status. Working with them and giving them a voice and literally tools to create something together is the main idea of Cucula. Have a look at their store online.
photo: Cucula e.V.
For safety reasons, the specific address of this refugee home can’t be named here. This fact alone shows just how important the existence of a safe space like this is. Refugees, who are queer often have had to experience traumatic acts of discrimination. The marginalization and degrading attitude towards LGBTQ persons doesn’t stop in refugee shelters, where very different people are forced to live on very little space together, which can stir up conflicts and aggressive behaviour. Because more and more queer refugees were seeking help at the LSVD, an association for homosexuals in Berlin, they decided to create a new home, especially for people, who had to face discrimination because of their sexuality and/or gender. In cooperation with the LaGeSo, Quarteera and Les Migras they managed to build a queer refugee shelter in Treptow.
photo: Uwe Pohling, m-männer.de
The name of this title translates to cooking over your own plate, which means as much as broadening your horizon through cooking. The founders of the association are aware of the fact that love and friendship go through the stomach. So they bring together people with and without a history of fleeing and migration to cook together. This way they create networks between people from different backgrounds and bring them together to create something new together. It doesn’t end at cooking classes. They offer cooking sessions for women only, teens only and have gardening sessions. Furthermore they have events like bee keeping, a choir, soccer games and tandem classes, where participants can enhance their language skills and teach each other.
photo: Über den Tellerrand kochen
When you come to a city in a country you don’t know much about and might not even be able to speak the language, daily tasks can become huge challenges. To make things a little easier this interactive map was created. It offers information on daily needs and answers all kinds of practical questions you will have, if you come to Berlin as a refugee. Like “where is the closest Arabian-speaking hairdresser?” or “Which doctor can i go to without organizing a translator first?”
It is a growing project that lives from the knowledge and hints that refugees share on the map to help each other.
photo: Arriving in Berlin
We tried to collect some of the most treasurable projects here that we feel deserve every bit of support, because they deal with a tragic situation in a very constructive and positive way. We are sure that we missed a lot of other projects and would love to read about them in the comments section. So, please feel free to drop a line – sharing is caring!