We celebrated our 10th anniversary last week and threw a birthday party as diverse and fun as our organization itself. Our speakers sent out strong messages, and the performers made the dancefloor go wild.
BY BÖBE BARSI
Communications and Partnerships Officer, GSBTB
“We are cooking hummus!” Abdul was greeting me cheerfully. The middle-aged man with a contagious smile, a member of Open Kitchen, our social cooking project, was busy arranging plates and pitas on a long wooden bench. Three of his fellow Open Kitchen members were laying pieces of zucchini on the grill meticulously as if grilling veggies was an art—because for them it is. A few meters away, a dozen people, predominantly elderly women with headscarves, were painting silently with tempera in the corner, where GSBTB’s Open Art Space took place.
The backyard of Refugio was swarming with people on this sweaty Thursday afternoon. But it was not just an ordinary day for us. On the ground floor, posters were hanging all around announcing: Give Something Back to Berlin is ten years old, and we are celebrating our anniversary today!
Why we are proud
We had a good reason to pat ourselves on the back and throw a big party. During the past ten years, Give Something Back to Berlin grew from a loosely organized network of activities into a well-known organization that has mobilized 35,000 volunteers and participants since its founding, received over 1.8 million euros in funding from more than 80 grants and sponsors, won 10 awards and has now 10 staff members.
But first and foremost, it has remained true to its original vision during all this time: to create a community where migrants, refugees, and locals co-create in a spirit of solidarity. Our engine has been the recognition that, as Annamaria Olsson, GSBTB’s founder, wrote in our recently published 10 Year Impact Report, “individuals’ reasons for leaving are different, but their needs are the same: the ability to create and rebuild life, access support networks, feel a sense of belonging, and be accepted in a society as equal citizens.”
“Every single person that comes here can make the society better.”
To celebrate the occasion, we invited a good many special guests. Our keynote speaker was Hakan Demir, Member of the Bundestag representing the constituency of Berlin-Neukölln. Hakan shared how he has followed and appreciated the organization’s work since they met with Annamaria for the first time. “Thank you for giving me and all the other supporters the feeling of being meaningful, doing meaningful things,” he said.
His speech was followed by a panel discussion about collective struggles and selective solidarity with representatives of migrant and refugee communities. Llanquiray Painemal (Legalisierung Jetzt! campaign and Mapuche activist), Koray Yilmaz (co-managing director of Migrationsrat Berlin e.V. and co-founder of GLADT e.V.), and Juliana Kolberg (project lead at xart splitta e.V.) talked about what solidarity means, with whom we show solidarity and its effects on the community.
Some members of our senior management also hit the stage. Besides Annamaria herself, Lucy Thomas, who played an essential role in the organization as our first director, and Tom Young, our Programme Director. At the end of his speech, Tom sent a loud and clear message: “Every single person that comes here can make society better.”
The rest of the evening was about excellent music and performances. The concert of the Open Music School was followed by the dance show of Elisa Elli, hip hop artist Breezy, and the finale was a show by belly dancer Prince Emrah, who turned Refugio’s hall into the wildest dancefloor of Neukölln for half an hour. Luckily, a storm was approaching Berlin by the time the party ended, and a nice cool wind received our friends who left the building after this hot and intense evening.
We are determined to organize a similarly awesome 20th anniversary party in 2032. Please help us stay on track and improve our work’s quality further by completing our survey! All responses will be anonymous; we will not ask for your name and email address.