When it comes to giving back to the community, Berliners have a history of rolling up their sleeves and volunteering for a good cause. A city built out of adversity, the people who call this place home are always keen to welcome newcomers and help those in need. For some, a lack of German can feel like an impossible hurdle when lending a helping hand. However, there are plenty of English-speaking volunteering experiences in which to get involved. We found the best volunteering experiences for you – here are the good deeds any Berliner can do.
Once a month, in four locations around Berlin, Alzheimer-Society Berlin put on an evening of laughter, music and dance at the Alzheimer-Tanzcafé. Held at spaces in Kreuzberg, Spandau, Tempelhof-Schöneberg and Treptower-Köpenick, these adorable nights aim to promote self-esteem and happiness in Alzheimer’s patients by giving them a night of dancing and bliss with caring volunteers. It’s believed that music can help Alzheimer’s patients with memory recollection and self-rediscovery, and as a volunteer, at the Tanzcafé you can put on your dancing shoes and help see these effects take place. While most of the oldies speak German, anyone can volunteer for an afternoon boogie at these special cafés.
Give Something Back to Berlin (GSBTB) is an award-winning project platform and network making community engagement, volunteering programs and skill-sharing simple and easy for all Berliners. The GSBTB Open Art Shelter is a safe and creative space for intercultural expression and open dialogue. Art, crafts, music, theatre, dance, storytelling and literature are at the core of this initiative and are used as tools to overcome language and culture barriers. The project offers a comfortable environment for people to come together and exchange their stories and creativity to help build stronger communities in Berlin. There is a range of activities involved in the art shelter, including the painting of murals, summer urban gardening and letter exchanges. It’s open to everyone, and there are a multitude of programs for volunteers to take part in throughout the year.
The American Church in Berlin participates in the citywide Laib und Seele, meaning body and soul, which is a food distribution program. It’s a chance to reach out and give back to the neighbourhood by providing food for people in need. The program is currently helping feed about 150 people on a regular basis with food items that have been donated by local stores and merchants. The food is distributed every Friday evening from 5:00 to 6:30 pm, and they are always looking for volunteers to help with van driving, food pick-up, sorting the food, distributing it and cleaning up. To help out, volunteers can email or call the church to sign up.
Give Something Back to Berlin runs two language swaps, in English and German, at Refugio Café in Neukölln. They offer free language learning via meet-ups, which provide a chance for newcomers to practice their language skills in a social setting. Some partner off with regular tandem partners, while others make friends by chatting in groups targeted at their language level. They’re always eager to involve native German and English speakers to help students of all levels. There is no need to sign up, volunteers can simply turn up to Sharehaus Refugio’s café on Wednesdays from 5:30 pm for German exchange and Tuesdays from 6 pm for English. GSBTB also offers an additional English language swap every Wednesday from 6 pm at ImmobilienScout24, near Ostbahnhof.
Sharehaus Refugio is a five-story housing initiative, helping bring together and shelter those who have lost their homes, or who are looking for a new life and community. Over 40 people from all over the world share the house, working together to promote education, community and making a better life for themselves in Berlin. At the ground floor of the building is Refugio Café, which is run mostly by volunteers. This quiet international café accepts people with a range of German and barista skills, and they’re even willing to train people in making coffee. To volunteer and work with an international team, people can contact the café via email or Facebook.
For the poor people among us, donating clothes and supplies is a great way to lend a helping hand. A range of organisations around the city will accept clothes and supplies depending on the season and their needs. If you have some clothes lying around, the easiest way to donate is via the Deutsche Kleiderstiftung (Clothing Foundation). There are also clothing containers across Berlin for people to easily drop off their bags of clothes, or people can also send in a package by post for free.
Meet ‘n’ Eat is a community-building project where teams of refugees and locals cook together, showcasing meals from their home countries for around 60-80 people. Volunteers and refugees plan meals, shop, cook and clean up together, putting on a banquet for their community. The program is run by Volkssolidarität, one of the country’s largest social and welfare organisations and is open to volunteers with a range of language skills. People can sign up via Vostel – they are seeking regular volunteers for a range of roles.