“The most radical thing you can do right now is help one person”
As the refugee crisis worsens, civil society is stepping in where governments are failing. Mobilization has been especially massive in Germany, where authorities reported approximately 1.1 million asylum seekers in 2015 alone and refugee organizations cite a 70 percent increase in volunteers since 2011. But as the crisis wears on, some activists are plagued by doubts: Is all this volunteer work letting government off the hook? What is the “right way” of helping? Are some efforts causing more harm than good? Should more energy be directed toward a political solution?
For the third installment of the GOOD Dinnertime Conversation, this time in Berlin, we, along with host and writer Kati Krause, invited nine people from very different backgrounds involved in a range of refugee projects to share their experiences and insights. Katharina Dermühl heads the marketing team at Kiron Open Higher Education, which provides refugees with free access to higher education, and founded Migration Hub, a co-working space for those tackling mass migration-related challenges. Mareike Wenzel is an actress and core member of Moabit hilft, an emergency relief organization for refugees arriving at Berlin’s only registration center, the notoriously chaotic State Office for Health and Social Affairs (known as LaGeSo). Mareike Geiling and Jonas Kakoschke founded Refugees Welcome, an online platform that matches newcomers with Germans offering flatshare rentals—a concept so successful that it now operates in nine European countries. Hamid Ehrari and Mohammad Yari inspired by their own experiences as recent arrivals from Afghanistan, launched the Arriving in Berlin app, an online map pinpointing resources for refugees in an otherwise unfamiliar city. Lastly, writers Sven Lager and Elke Naters founded Sharehaus Refugio as a community project that quickly evolved into a communal home for 40 people, including Malakeh Jazmati, a Syrian chef and television host who now holds cooking classes at Refugio and aims to be the first woman on German television wearing a hijab.