Open Art Shelter


Open Art Shelter, started by Hania Hakiel in collaboration with Give Something Back to Berlin in 2015, was a response to a sudden change in Berlin’s neighbourhoods. It was this summer when thousands of people arrived in Germany looking for safety and hope. The intention was to use art as a tool for communication, expression, connection. 

Over time, many people went through our spaces and community. Some of them stayed for longer, dedicating their skills, love, energy and time (loads of time) to offer others with much-needed attention, acceptance, and creative inspiration. There are never enough occasions to say thank you to the people who took on more responsibilities… some of those people being Sinéad Walsh, Annick Repellin- Holzgreve, Liz Ricks Aherne, Ania Stryjewska, Ania Bednarczyk, Beatriz Gómez,  Tosia Stasiuk, Patrick Haddad, Ken Wallingford, and Julia Pelta Feldman. 

With time, we learned that the tool is often less important than the connection, safe space for expression, and relationships themselves. Sometimes, indeed these qualities came through art. Other times, it was through cooking, walking in a park, playing in the woods, knitting, singing, playing with dogs, spending hours drinking tea, learning Deutsche Grammatik, waiting in a queue for a doctor, dancing in the ugly spaces of refugee shelters… 

Being here and now with a human being means rejecting attachment to our up-down goals and fancy, egoistic narratives about what kind of ‘cool’ work we do. Our focus is on supporting healing processes of people living with experiences of trauma and migration by

  • creating a trauma and culture-sensitive community,
  • developing person-oriented, accessible methods of psychotherapy, body and mind work, and focusing on personal development

Our activities

Note: All our activities are designed to function as safe spaces, specially catered towards those with vulnerabilities and trauma histories. These activities are essentially open, but protected spaces — if you feel that one of these spaces can benefit you, please write an email to 

Yoga For Peace 

Every Thursday, we hold a community yoga class fostering peace of body and mind, as well as peace between people. The class is sensitively adapted to the needs of the group, and those of each individual as well. We are applying the principles of cultural sensitivity, trauma-awareness, and accessibility. The focus is put on mindfulness of the breath, tension-releasing movement, moving with ease and joy, reclaiming one’s own body, visualisations and breath work useful in easing anxiety, depression and trauma-symptoms. Apart from yoga and meditation practice, each class includes a sharing circle with stories, personal challenges and feelings, as well as conversations and sessions on stress management, better sleep, communication skills, etc. After the practice, we share a meal in an informal setting.

People holding the space for yoga, sharing and meditation practice: Hania Hakiel, Eleanor Hicks-Willis


A women’s group oriented towards peer-to-peer support, stress relief, movement, body awareness and relaxation. It is especially designed to meet 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. A beautiful and challenging aspect of the group is its cultural diversity, currently hosting women from Poland, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq. This group meets once a month on Sunday afternoons, plus excursions into nature, individual massage sessions, and individual psychological counseling and support via Messenger.

Programming, holding the space: Hania Hakiel

Organisational and community support: Antonina Stasiuk

A person in training: Azarang Etamadi

Family Wholebeing Program 

A program oriented towards cultivating stable and safe relationships with families who were forced to flee  their countries of origin, providing a holistic perspective on the needs of individuals and families as systems. This program centers around not only providing psychological and emotional support, but also organisational and practical help, constantly adapting to the here-and-now and adjusting the program accordingly. In some cases, this entails individual psychotherapy, or providing a creative safe space for children. In other moments, it could be swimming, celebrating birthdays or filling up bureaucratic forms. We are currently supporting four families in this way.

Individual therapy and counselling, workshops, supervision: Hania Hakiel

Coordination, management, care for the relationships: Antonina Stasiuk

People committed to the program and families: Ken Wallingford, Christoph Thun

Support with linguistic and cultural interpretation: Rama al Ghamian

Open Skate School

A project to give younger members of isolated families access to a fun, empowering and supportive community. On the first Tuesday of every month the Open Skate School teams up with Push Berlin (supported by Converse), to give young people from our community the opportunity to try skateboarding. Volunteers pick participants up from their homes, escort them safely to the skatepark (purpose-built in Yaam Berlin), where a supportive skateboarding community awaits them. Participants are given boards, safety protection, and the lessons necessary to ensure that they have everything they need to be an active member of an exciting, fun and empowering community.

Skateboarding requires focus, dedication and physical fitness. The process of learning to skate encourages self-expression and develops self-esteem, while further developing compassion and understanding for others. All of these things can be of huge benefit to young people who may be struggling to find their place in more traditional institutions like school or sports teams.

As part of the program individual buddy-to-buddy time at the skateparks across Berlin is happening. The main purpose is to provide the youth with positive role models, trusted adults who offer them time, attention, care and skill sharing.

Project Coordination: Tom Young 

Supervision: Hania Hakiel

Open Art Space

A space for free expression through art – 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. 

In stressful times, art, supportive community and creativity can become our safe shelter.

Every Tuesday afternoon we meet to create together an art oasis, where anybody can express freely through art, have a nice conversation or just stay silent. This space and time is about the process of inner inquiry and uncensored expression, not about perfection or technique. We invite anybody who may need some moments of peace. We provide art materials, and a peaceful and accepting atmosphere. Anybody can just come and spend time painting, drawing, knitting, doing embroidery, sculptures, or collage. Or just do nothing and simply be among us. It is not about the final product – it is about finding space and time to stay focused, connecting with yourself and with others, finding joy in acts of creation, and supporting others with acceptance and presence.

Caring spirits of the space: Antonina Stasiuk, Hania Hakiel

Frauen- und Jugendcafé

This project is generously supported by Landesamt für Flüchtlingsangelegenheiten (LAF).

A child-friendly space held on Thursdays, in which women have the possibility to practice speaking   German. The gatherings are conducted in a safe and warm atmosphere. The group is best described by the two leaders Annick Repelin-Holzgreve and Carlotta Duken:

“There are many German-language Sprachcafés in Berlin. They fill an important need: even if newcomers to the city have access to language classes, they rarely have the opportunity to practice speaking German, or to get help with their particular challenges. GSBTB had heard from several of the women we work with that they don’t feel comfortable visiting most Sprachcafés, because men often dominate the conversation, or because respecting their religious and cultural beliefs means avoiding mixed-gender spaces. Also, many women are unable to attend because they have children to care for at home. We thus saw a need to launch our own Frauen- und Jugendcafé.

Since July 2020, Frauen- und Jugendcafé has taken place nearly every week. Since we offer babysitting during that time, the attendance exceeded our expectations. Many women have told us that being able to bring their children is what allows them to come. Another important difference compared to other Sprachcafés is that, while learning and practicing the language is a crucial part of what we do, equally important to us is community building. Many migrant women are very isolated; we give them a space to meet friends around a cup of tea and talk about their problems and concerns (from sharing recipes to finding a good computer course) (…) We are  very flexible in our approach and adjust to the needs expressed by each individual, each week”. 

Caring spirits: Annick Repelin-Holzgreve, Carlotta Duken, Elisa Moll

People deeply committed to the community and sharing their skills: Elisa Moll

When: Thursdays, 16:00-18:30

Komorebi Lab

A project aimed at regular educational and self-discovery workshops along with experiential, interpersonal inquiry on topics relevant to ensuring the quality and safety of our work (plus regular sharing circles and online support). The topics include:

  • Trauma and culture awareness
  • Burn out prevention
  • Fundamentals of child-care and psychology

Host: Hania Hakiel

Komorebi Podcast “OmmmSalammmShalommm”

Shareable materials spreading the values and qualities of Komorebi, including meditation recordings in various languages available free of charge and distributed through social media channels. The release date is planned for the end of 2019.

Core Team: Ben Osborn, Hania Hakiel, Mouta Barakat, Lidia Barakat

Read more about some of our work:

How do I become part of this project?

To be part of this project you need the meet the team and undergo certain training. Please email Antonina Stasiuk at

Women interested in volunteering for the Frauensprachcafé can contact the team directly under:

You can also support this project by donating to GSBTB, and we are always looking for partners who believe in art as a tool for both private and public change.

–> Please first read our guidelines for volunteer tutors and sign the form



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!