A Guide to Helping Refugees in Berlin

Give Something Back to Berlin volunteers at Templehof
Give Something Back to Berlin volunteers at Templehof | © Give Something Back to Berlin
Megan King

With the refugee crisis in Europe seemingly finding no real resolution in government and state systems, it’s up to the common person to be part of the solution. More than one million people have sought asylum in Germany since the start of the crisis in 2015, most of them being Syrians, followed by Afghans, Iraqis and Iranians. There are many wonderful organisations in Berlin offering systems of support, practical aid and empathy, so maybe it’s time for you to get involved too.

Hundreds of new refugees arrive in Berlin to seek shelter on a daily basis. If you would like to donate money, then a simple Google search will direct you to an organisation in need. But there are plenty of other ways in which you can do your bit to help. Here’s how:

If you can, offer shelter

If you have a spare room in your house or apartment, think about offering it to someone who needs a roof over their head. There is a system in place which makes this option 100 percent safe and accountable. The organisation Refugees Welcome is a reliable and well-organised platform that helps coordinate the process. You will be giving a home to someone who really needs it and you will even be able to earn money from the exchange. The organisation supports you through the whole process, puts you in contact with the person looking for a home and then you can decide afterwards if you want to go ahead. There has been an overwhelming positive response from local Berliners.

Flat share

Donate the things you don’t need

Instead of simply throwing out your unwanted clothes, furniture, mattresses and appliances on the street for some passerby to rummage through (a very commonplace quirk in Berlin), donate it to those in need. An old sleeping bag you have lying around and no longer use could become someones else’s comfort and safety. Some collection organisations are also looking for monitors, computers and laptops so refugees can communicate with families back home, orientate themselves in a new and strange country and even learn German. There are loads of drop off locations in the city, and various different organisations will happily take your old (but dignified) stuff.

Wie kann ich helfen? (How can I help?) regularly updates an interactive map with organisations who need donations, food and other aid. The Deutsche Kleiderstiftung (Clothing Foundation) also has donation containers around Berlin.

Old clothes and shoes

Give your time and share your skills

In most cases, giving your time and talents to those in need is the most effective way to help, and there are so many organisations offering the structure for you to easily become a volunteer. Here are a few ways in which to donate your time:

German speakers can help refugees with understanding and translating the tedious and overwhelming paperwork that a refugee has the impossible task of deciphering. Obviously it’s a huge plus in you also happen to speak any of the Arabic languages, but not a prerequisite to help. Get in touch with the Berliner Stadtmission to help directly. Alternatively, show up at Notunterkünfte or Erstunterkünfte, the places where refugees are first placed when they arrive, and simply offer your help to anyone who needs it. Check out the housing centres at AWO Asyl, or visit ref-connect where you will be directly connected to a refugee you can accompany to the Behörden.

For English speakers, Give Something Back to Berlin is an amazing, award-winning website and network that connects expats in Berlin with a whole bunch of fun, creative and vital volunteer opportunities. Get involved now!

On one of the many volunteer initiatives

Engage in conscious activity

Berlin is full of refugee cafes, shelters and grassroots community collectives that have spaces and events created for refugees. If you’re not already, then begin gearing your social activities towards events that support refugees – whether it’s a film screening, going for a coffee in a refugee café, attending a workshop, a dance party, or community cook-in. Be aware of the things you support both directly and indirectly, where you spend your money, and try to align this personal power with conscious organisations, enterprises and businesses working for a better, more peaceful world.

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