“This is a marathon, not a sprint”
“Our answer to the challenges of integration work is simple: Get Involved! Meet your neighbours. Get to know whoever is considered “the other”. Work together.”
BY ANNAMARIA OLSSON
Founder of GSBTB
The article was originally published in the 10 Year Impact Report of GSBTB.
A ten-year anniversary calls for reflection. 2012 to 2022. A decade full of transformative events, decisions, and acts of kindness, impact, and solidarity. Acts that sometimes made it into the history books. And acts that imprint on individual lives. Both are equally important to remember and celebrate.
Give Something Back to Berlin (GSBTB) began in 2012 with a viral Facebook post calling for migrant new-Berliners to get involved in their city, and create a counter-narrative against the spreading xenophobia and nationalism in Europe. We needed everyday heroes creating positive results and fighting separatism. In community we must all find ways to live together in peace with all of our differences and similarities, our stories, and our dreams.
The idea that sparked GSBTB came from the shared experience of millions of people across the globe today: of migration, the feeling of being new in a country and community. Some of us leave our countries with privileged passports, goals, and dreams. Others are forcibly displaced due to wars, conflict, economic hardships, climate change, etc. 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.
After years of dedication to the cause, GSBTB has had the privilege to speak about the “success sauce” in our work at some of the world’s most prestigious institutions. Our answer to the challenges of integration work is simple: Get Involved! Meet your neighbours. Get to know whoever is considered “the other”. Work together.
Our approach has always been human-centred, and grounded in a “think global, act local” attitude. We use a grassroots method where everyone shares the skills, assets, and tools available to them. Whether this is a few hours to volunteer, a company donation, or broader foundation support, everyone can find a way to contribute.
Over the past ten years, the media sometimes lost interest in the topic of migration and refugees. GSBTB, however, always stayed true to our community and commitments. Migration has always been a part of our global history, as hard as politicians, countries, or the EU try to manage or stop it by militarising their borders or making sudden policy changes. We have advocated against such structural violence and worked to develop inclusive practices that encourage equal access for migrants in the host society.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Europe is currently experiencing the largest migration event since World War 2. When GSBTB was a main hub for new arrivals during the 2015-2016 refugee wave, we saw how fast a euphoric welcome movement can turn hostile when volunteers drop out.
GSBTB’s model is about establishing long-term solutions. We know that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and that the integration process can take years (sometimes decades). This is slow, everyday work that goes beyond media trends. It’s about creating community and authentic human bonds.
We are committed to continuing this work for the next ten years and beyond. With new and repeating challenges facing us, we see endless possibilities for action and solidarity. We hope to have you on this journey.
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.