Open Hearts Space

by GSBTB

The Open Hearts Space aims to create a safe space for those being exposed to a new culture and life dynamics by encouraging intercultural dialogue and supporting trauma healing. The project uses artistic and bodily forms of expression as a tool of communication to overcome linguistic and cultural barriers. Our volunteers go through a learning process and develop skills to provide support in culturally and psychologically sensitive situations. The Open Hearts Space works with families, women, and children for extended periods of time.

What is the Open Hearts Space about? 

The Open Hearts Space builds long-lasting trust relationships between people. It focuses on facilitating healing processes of people living with experiences of migration, trauma, and sense of alienation by creating a trauma and culture-sensitive community. It develops innovative approaches toward individual-oriented, accessible methods of support, body and mind work, and personal development.

The Open Hearts Space started as a grassroots response to the sudden change in Berlin´s demography due to the arrival of thousands of people from other countries looking for safety and a new start. Hania Hakiel who has conceived and run the project with migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, joined Give Something Back to Berlin in 2015. The activities have continued under the name Open Art Shelter for several years, before changing to Komorebi, a Japanese word to describe “the scattered light that filters through when sunlight shines through trees”. However, the project’s aim and focus remained the same throughout this process: creating an open, safe, and creative environment for people who want to connect, share, or get a moment of calmness. The activities and target groups varied differently over the past years.

Many people have volunteered in and contributed to the Open Hears Space. Some of these people have stayed for longer, dedicating their skills, love, energy and time-loads of time-to offer to others with much-needed attention, acceptance, and creative inspiration. We cannot thank these people enough. Some of them are Ania Bednarczyk, Ania Stryjewska, Annick Repellin-Holzgreve, Beatriz Gómez, Carlotta Duken, Christoph Thun, Elisa Moll,  Julia Pelta Feldman, Ken Wallingford, Liz Ricks Aherne, Lucie Wirz, Patrick Haddad, and Sinéad Walsh.

Open Hearts Space activities

Since its start, the Open Hearts Space has created a community of care and support. All activities are designed to function as safe spaces, specially catered toward those with vulnerabilities and trauma histories. The activities are open to everyone but at the same time are protected spaces. Our team consists of volunteers and participants. Volunteers are responsible for organisational support and are expected to commit extended periods of time. Participants, although they are always free to give a hand in organising activities, join our activities without a particular time commitment. Hania Hakiel has been providing supervision to the Open Hearts Space team as psychologist, certified transcultural psychotherapist, and embodiment practitioner since 2015.

Open Hearts Space conducts four regular activities: Open Art Space, Family Whole Being Programme, Lockerlassen (Loosen up!), and Frauensprachcafé (German language café for women).

Time and location of activities

Due to the increase in Covid 19 case numbers all activities of the Open Hearts Space moved ONLINE as of 2 November 2020.

Open Art Space: Tuesday afternoons

The idea of creating such a space calls upon the old tradition of arts and crafts circles, that is known in almost all cultures across the globe, where people used to spend long evenings telling stories, playing music and doing handicraft. We meet to create an art oasis where anybody can express freely through art, have a nice conversation or just stay silent. We provide art materials and a peaceful and accepting atmosphere to spend time by painting, drawing, knitting, doing embroidery, sculptures, or collages.

The Open Art Space gives us the chance to stay connected with ourselves and enjoy creative moments, as we support others with acceptance and presence. We meet every week to create together and invite anybody who may need some moments of peace.

Activity coordinators (we prefer calling them “caring spirits”): Antonina Stasiuk and Lucie Wirz.

Frauensprachcafé: Thursday afternoons

This child-friendly activity is open to women who want to practice their German skills. German language cafés address an important need for newcomers and help grow their speaking skills in everyday life. However, the Open Hearts Space community observed that women have not always felt comfortable attending these cafés due to the men’s domination of conversations. Women’s participation in these activities is low partly because of religious and cultural beliefs, meaning avoiding mixed-gender spaces. In other cases, women are unable to attend as they cannot leave their children alone at home. The Frauensprachcafé offers babysitting services and provides women with the possibility to speak German in a safe and relaxed environment.

The approach is very flexible and helps many migrant women who have isolated themselves to build a network of friends over a cup of tea and talk about anything, from sharing recipes to finding a good computer course while improving their German. Frauensprachcafé is more than a language café. It aims at growing a community and solidarity network of women.

Activity coordinators (we prefer calling them “caring spirits”): Annick Repelin-Holzgreve, Carlotta Duken, with special thanks to Elisa Moll for her deep commitment and skill-sharing.

Lockerlassen: Monday afternoons 

A women’s group oriented toward stress relief, movement, body awareness and relaxation through peer-to-peer support. It addresses the needs of women who haven’t been physically active for a long time, carry excess tension and pain in their bodies, or who feel excluded by traditional fitness or yoga cultures. The program includes health-supporting activities like gentle yoga, dance, massage, or walks in parks.

Lockerlassen currently hosts women coming from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Poland, and Somalia who meet regularly every week. Additionally, we organise excursions into nature and individual massage sessions, and provide individual psychological counseling and support via Messenger.

Activity coordinator (we prefer to call her “caring spirit”): Antonina Stasiuk and Agata Waśko.

Family Wholebeing Programme: Upon need and mutual agreement 

This programme aims to cultivate stable and safe relationships with families who were forced to flee their countries of origin. With a holistic approach toward the needs of individuals and families, we provide psychological and emotional support, while helping also in practical and organisational matters. This includes individual support or providing a creative safe space for children.

Additional support may vary from a group trip to the zoo or swimming pool to organising a birthday party with a cake or helping to translating bureaucratic documents.

Support and care for the relationships: Antonina Stasiuk

With special thanks to Ken Wallingford and Christoph Thun for their commitment to the programme and families, and to Bissan Awwad and Rama al Ghamian for linguistic and cultural interpretation support.

Get involved with the Open Hearts Space!

Participate in our activities!

We are a safe, cosy, and welcoming group. Let’s get to know each other, paint or learn a language together. Let’s talk, let’s laugh, or sit in silence. Join us and become part of our community!

Volunteer with us!

We are a closely connected community and appreciate people who would like to commit themselves to work with us. Our volunteer roles require a minimum of six months of commitment. We invest in and follow individually our volunteers’ personal and professional growth. We share our creativity, energy, and care with each other. Regardless of background and life stage, we believe everyone has something to offer and take..

Donate to sustain our work!

All our activities are free for everyone. We need your support for buying art materials for women and children, catering, renting activity spaces, and transport. We appreciate all donations, big and small and you can choose a one-off donation or set up regular monthly or yearly contributions. You can donate by following the instructions on this page.

Donate art materials!

We use various art materials in our activities with women and children to boost creativity and allow them to express themselves freely. We also need books for children mainly in German, English, and Arabic, as well as undamaged toys. If you have spare materials that we can use in our workshops, please let us know. You can send/drop off donations to Give Something Back to Berlin e.V. office address: Lenaustrasse 4, 12047 Berlin.

Contact

The Open Hearts Space looks forward to hearing from you! Please contact Antonina Stasiuk directly at antonina.stasiuk@gsbtb.org for more information.

Women interested in volunteering or joining in the Frauensprachcafé can contact the coordinators directly via: frauensprachcafe.refugio@gmail.com

Read more about the Open Hearts Space:

Interview with Hania Hakiel, who founded and runs GSBTB Open Art Shelter

Interview with Anja and Vanessa, two Open Art Shelter volunteers running the open dog shelter project

Interview with Sinéad Walsh, an Open Art Shelter volunteer coordinator

Letters from the field: Refugee families at Tempelhof write to the Immigration Minister

The King and Queen of Sweden visit Give Something Back to Berlin

A view from the Frauenzimmer at Tempelhof refugee shelter

See one of our mural projects

Syrian-Polish exchange: What do I want people to know about my Syria?

Open Art Shelter Klunkerkranich Rooftop Edition

Storytelling and fundraising dinner with Afghan cuisine

Petition from Tempelhof refugee camp residents on the container village housing

Dead rats and a heap of anxiety: the living conditions at Tempelhof refugee camp

An interview with long-time Open Art Shelter volunteer Annick Repellin-Holzgreve on being a (slightly) older volunteer

An interview with summer Open Art Shelter intern Madeline McKay

Open Art shelter hosts its Women and Kids Gathering on the Refugio rooftop

An interview with a volunteer taking her Open Art Shelter experiences back home to Trump’s USA

An interview with Iranian Open Art Shelter volunteer Sanaz Azimi on using common language to connect with refugees

Partners

>

Thanks for the support Buddy Bär hilft!

>

Thanks for the support The Whole Being Fund in San Fransisco, US!

>

Huge thanks to the Krankenkasse BKK Verkehrsbau Union for your support!

>

Thanks to the support from Qatar Foundation International!