This week Give Something Back to Berlin celebrates five years since the Facebook post that got our ball rolling.
We’ve learned so much in our first five years, and pushed ourselves and our organisation far beyond what we could have imagined when that Facebook post was written in 2012.
As we reminisce this week, we’re sharing some memories and we’ve published that original Facebook post here:
Berlin expat integration project
7 May 2012
To whom it may concern,
You live in Berlin or come here whenever you have an extra dime or some free time. You can’t think of a better place even though you sometimes get the feeling that “it was better before”.
You enjoy the cheap rents, the multiculti neighbourhoods and the dynamic art scene. You love the Sundays at galleries/cafés/Panorama Bar/Mauerpark, the cheap snacks and the fancy new pop up-restaurants. You buy drugs from your local drug dealer, laugh at funny dogs and crazy characters, drink beer by the canal and meet interesting new people from all over the world.
What you value most is the freedom that you lacked in your boring hometown. In Berlin you can write poems, make music, club around the clock, fuck with strangers, start your company, design clothes, feel close to Goethe/Humboldt/Hegel, work less or do whatever your concept of a good life may involve.
There is however one problem with this freedom; it doesn’t really apply to all Berliners. In neighborhoods like Kreuzberg and Neukölln, that you find sooo relaxed, cool and cheap, children get a lot worse education than in the ”boring gentrified neighbourhoods” where you would never want to live and where they could never afford an appartment. Many can’t afford school trips, piano lessons or art school. And no, neither do they have the contacts who could inspire them considering ”Iphone app developer” a future career or who could introduce them to Foucault’s theses.
Many of those kids often speak poor German, eat, live and hang out in their own communities and have few contacts to what the majority consider to be ”the German society”. This is nothing new to the freedom seeking expat community since they are doing the exact same thing (except that no one would force them to participate in different kinds of integration projects or cut their money if they don’t).
Today on the 7th of May 2012 we are launching the ”The expat integration project”. The idea is simple: every expat who’s enjoying all the good sides of Berlin pays back to the community by doing some hours of voluntary work (please note three hours = one beer session with friends.)
Maybe because Berlin gave you more than those kids will ever get? Because it will most probably make both you and them a better, happier and more open person? Didn’t you come to Berlin to get out of your comfort zone?
Write an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with: name, nationality, email address, whether or not you speak German (how good on a scale 1-5) and skills that you think you can contribute with. We will announce a meeting where we meet up and discuss what to do and how.
Please note that there are things that you can do without speaking proper German.
Examples of things that you might be able to contribute with:
- Music/dj/art/dance/programming/whatever school for kids or teens
- Extra German/English/French/Spanish lessons
- Mentoring kids about work and career possibilities (read: be yourself)
- Helping out in a soup kitchen for homeless people
- Play cards, chatting about life and hanging out with people who are most of the time bullied and very seldom taken seriously
- Whatever you can come up with
Come on – there’s a half blind guy at the Neukölln library who can’t do his German homework if someone doesn’t write his homework in font size 82 and print if for him – it’s not brain surgery!
Feel free to spread the word about this initiative! The expression ”the more the merrier” never felt more in place. Let’s see where this all ends!
Ami & Anders, expat Berliners since 2008