How to get involved in the city’s humanitarian effort to help refugees…
With thousands of refugees already in the city and hundreds more arriving each day, it’s safe to say that one of the largest humanitarian crises in our lifetime is on our doorstep.
While the German government’s open-door policy is admirable in many ways, the country’s infrastructure has been obviously overwhelmed and it has often been down to locals to pitch in and help fill in some of the gaps.
Berlin being Berlin – i.e. generally tolerant, open-minded and with centuries of immigrant history to draw on – people here have been quick to get involved on a number of levels, both practical and imaginative. Many of these people are here to stay, after all, and the quicker they can be settled and integrated, the better it will be for all of us.
Below are some ways in which you can help. It’s almost certain that you will make some new friends and learn lots in the process…
On The Ground
This is a well-known community platform for all kinds of volunteer engagement. The platform connects Berliners with organizations in need. Whether you have an interest in arts, teaching, tutoring or cooking, it’s a great place to begin. Another great place to sign up is Volunteer Planner, which will connect you to shelters, many of which are looking for urgent help.
Volunteer at the LaGeSo
Some of the biggest problems are administrative now. Outside the LaGeSo (the State Office of Health and Welfare) hundreds are lined up in the cold. Tee vor dem LaGeSo and Nachts vor dem LaGeSo are two groups that you can go along with. The first brings nightly tea and the other blankets, food, clothing and more to help those literally left out in the cold.
Many refugees say that what they miss most from home is a sense of normalcy, and this includes having an active social life. Befriending a refugee through an organization like Start With A Friend means you are able to provide whatever advice or skill you have readily available – just as you would with your friends.
If you have space and time to meet a refugee in your home, consider Place 4 Refugees, a website where you can sign up to host someone for a few days or a few hours. Escaping the harsh cold or overcrowded camps can be an overwhelming relief for refugees.
One of the largest hurdles to integration is, of course, the language. If you are able to offer basic tuition or language instruction, the above link can provide you with the names of local organizations seeking help. In this way, you can help the city feel less alien by teaching even the most basic German. If you speak Arabic and German, you are especially sought after! Ref.connect will connect you automatically with a refugee who you can accompany on their official dates to the Behörden.
For some people, this is the easiest and preferred way of helping out. There are many organizations asking for money, winter clothing and other basic necessities. Some well-regarded ones include HelpDon’tHate and Moabit Hilft. Seek out refugee camps near you, most of which have specific requirement lists and times for drop-off.
Sign a petition
Signing online petitions might seem like lazy ‘clicktivism’ but some of the biggest hurdles (administrative problems and government policies) require the voice of many people. Two important petitions to sign are this one at ProAsyl, which calls for more EU member-state rescue help in the Mediterranean, as well as Amnesty International’s, which calls for reformation of current asylum policy.