It’s been quite a few weeks since my last post about how we can all help refugees in Berlin. Many things have changed since then, especially the weather. Now more than ever, children, families, young women and tired men need our help. They need clothes, they need social reassurance, and sometimes they just need practical, simple fixes to get on with their day. As I recently read in the headlines: we’re not facing a refugee crisis, but an administration crisis.
So how can you help? Basically, either your time or your money is required. For some things, you will have to get your hands dirty; for others, you can just click and be done with it. This list will give you a current overview of your opportunities.
1. Sign the Petition to Fight The Inhumane Conditions In Front of LaGeSo
Nobody said that the situation was easy, neither for the general public, nor for the administration. But: if you’ve been in front of the LaGeSo (the ministry at which the refugees have to register for temporary shelter when they first arrive), you know the situation is dire. Many people are needed for voluntary help. Unfortunately, everything going on there relies on volunteers and civilians. The administration isn’t helping at all. There’s not enough people, not enough money, not enough reaction to deal with the challenge. Men, women and children are still camping outside of the LaGeSo at freezing temperatures.
This petition calls for the Berlin administration to finally develop a working concept of how to process and register the people faster (among other things) and to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation. You can help by signing the respective petition.
2. Help out at LaGeSo: Tea
“Tee vor dem LaGeSo” is a very specific Facebook group with tight restrictions: you can’t join if you’re not willing to participate. They serve tea after 21:30 at the LaGeSo to those who arrive late or even sleep over. The tea is brought from home, ready to serve. You just go to the people who are there and offer them tea. Everyday will be a new posting in the group to ask who wants to join the day’s mission. Everybody is responsible for bringing their own tea and snacks for distribution. Black tea with sugar is preferred, don’t forget plastic cups.
3. Help out at LaGeSo: Night Service
There is nothing at night in front of the LaGeSo, and yet people have to stand in line as to get new vouchers or temporary shelters. Problem is: the LaGeSo doesn’t keep word on its own appointments, meaning that people have to come back time and time again to queue up. The situation is terrible. There are no toilets, there is no warmth; there are heated tents for which there’s no entrance at night. Why? Nobody seems to know (which brings us back to the petition). If it weren’t for the group “Nachts vor dem LaGeSo“, the people would sit through rain and freezing weather with nothing to help them. The volunteers bring blankets, tea, food and everything else to help with this catastrophic situation.
4. Donate Money
I want to encourage everyone to invest ten minutes to find an organization of your choice to donate to directly. My personal suggestions are:
- Flüchtlinge Willkommen: for organizing shared living space for refugees, instead of camps and barracks.
- Moabit Hilft: the most important group of volunteers that are handling most of the work in front of the LaGeSo.
- Welcome Baby Bags: they prepare useful bags for pregnant women or new mothers and their babies.
- You can also sponsor a refugee. Sponsoring a refugee is a bit more than a donation. At the Kirchenkreis Stadmitte, a week of all the necessary basics for a refugee is covered by 63 Euro, a month by 270 Euro (housing and elementary basics is around 9 Euro per day). (source)
5. Donate Time & Skills
Don’t consider your invested time as emergency help or altruistic mission; it’s an investment into our collective future. People should be independent at some point. So why not share your skills? And your social life? A glimpse into what a regular, sheltered existence in Berlin looks like may help in adapting to the changes. Hopefully, they’ll like it. Hopefully, they will be able to make this city their home.
Everybody should help in their own personal ways. I’ve heard about artists who opened up their ateliers for workshops and about tour guides who are doing free tours to tours to show the refugees Berlin. There are plenty of organizations now that are trying to connect refugees to Berliners (and vice versa). Here are some of them.
- WeConnect Berlin: This organization connects refugees to local initiatives in order to give refugees the opportunity to engage socially and locally.
- Start With A Friend: Start With A Friend connects you with one refugee for a certain matter. You’ll help him find his way here and hopefully make a friend. It’s kind of like tandem language classes. The initiative expects you to invest about 2-3 hours of your time per week, for half a year. The organisation helps by providing you with all necessary information and will take care of all of your questions. It’s in GERMAN but if you’ve been in Berlin for a while and have some knowledge of the language, I think you’ll be fine.
- Volunteer Planner: For hands-on work at emergency shelters, for translations, transport and literally everything. The platform is an organization tool that shows you where you can help (which emergency housing) at what time for which community / organization.
- Give Something Back To Berlin and GoVolunteer are two similar platforms. They work with listings, so you can see very quickly who needs help where and if you are the right person for it.
6. Donate Your Space
It must be shit to sleep outside because you’re forced to wait in line. The camps are bitter, too: throw hundreds of different, struggling men into a tiny barrack, and see what happens for yourself. I can’t even relax in my co-working space if I don’t have enough privacy. How would it feel to share beds and square meters with strangers at every waking moment of your life?
If you have free space, register at Place4Refugees.de. Please note: many people don’t need more than one night, or even one dinner and a little rest. If you live close to LaGeSo, you can tick the respective box. Nobody is going to be sent over spontaneously – you’ll always get a call beforehand. And you can decide how long the people can stay with you.
Of course, Flüchtlinge Willkommen also helps you find the right match to your WG, but has a more long-term approach in mind.
7. Donate Your Winter Clothes
Most people who arrive in Germany come from warmer climates, have lost all of their belongings on the journey and experience the cold first-hand. Meanwhile, we all have old sweaters and boots that aren’t needed anymore. There are plenty of places that accept your donations.
- Donation for Kreuzberg Hilft: Stil in Berlin are campaigning for a big donation to Kreuzberg Hilft by collecting on one Sunday evening at Voo Store. There’s a nice incentive and a very detailed list of what kind of donations are needed. Warm Up 2 will take place on the 13th of December.
- Donation for LaGeSo: LaGeSo still needs stuff for their everyday hustle at the queues. Here is their Bedarfsliste. It is very easy to understand, even if you don’t speak German, and updated as needed.
8. Employ a Refugee
Most people don’t want to rely on others for help, so imagine how difficult it must be to not have a way out through work. There are many jobs that don’t require German language skills (as proven by the many people in Berlin who don’t speak a word). Some organizations who will connect your company to the right refugee (with an adequate working status).
9. Stay Updated
MitVergnügen and Stil in Berlin have teamed up to bring you weekly news of the refugee situation. There’s a lot of helpful information in there, especially if you can’t keep track of the local development. For the English version, check out the last episode: Stil in Berlin’s FuGeeLa #14.
One of the best articles that I found through the sum-up was a very broad overview by the New York Times, especially if you need some background to know why Berlin is struggling so much harder than other places.