The Open Hearts Space focuses on creating safer spaces for people experiencing migration, trauma, and a sense of alienation.
It aims to build long-lasting trust relationships between people using different forms of expression.
The project is open to families, women, and children.
Its volunteers go through a learning process to provide support in culturally and psychologically sensitive situations.
What is the Open Hearts Space about?
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 founded the project with migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, joined Give Something Back to Berlin in 2015. Their work has continued under the name Open Art Shelter for several years, before changing to Komorebi. The Open Hearts Space went through considerable changes in 2021 and the community reorganised itself. 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 peace. The activities and target groups varied differently over the past years.
Many people have volunteered with and contributed to the Open Hearts Space. Some of these people have stayed for longer, dedicating their skills, love, energy and time- loads of time- to offer others much-needed attention, acceptance, and creative inspiration. We cannot thank these people enough. Some of them are Amélie Stenglin, Anna Bednarczyk, Anna Stryjewska, Anna Fedas, Annick Repellin-Holzgreve, Beatriz Gómez, Carlotta Duken, Chiara Lioba, Christoph Thun, Elisa Moll, Fatim Alhaji, Flora Kwong, Julia Pelta Feldman, Ken Wallingford, Liz Ricks Aherne, Lucie Wirz, Patrick Haddad, Rebecca Kirch, Sinéad Walsh, and Yasmeen Almalki.
Open Hearts Space activities
Since its beginning, Open Hearts Space has created a community of care and support. All activities are designed to function as safer spaces, specially catered towards those with vulnerabilities and trauma histories. The activities are open to everyone but we take measures to ensure that they will be safe and comfortable for all participants. Volunteers are responsible for organisational support and are expected to commit for 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. We offer regular peer supervision sessions and support to our team.
Open Hearts Space conducts four regular activities: Open Art Space, Lockerlassen (Loosen up! – temporarily on hold), Frauensprachcafé (German language café for women), “Be my buddy” support programme for teenagers and kids, and Club der Sterne (Stars Club).
Open Art Space
The idea of creating such a space drew from the old tradition of arts and crafts circles that are known and practiced in almost all cultures across the globe. In these spaces, people spend long evenings telling stories, playing music and doing handicraft activities. We meet to create an art oasis where anybody can express themselves freely through art, have a nice conversation or just enjoy in silence. We provide art materials in a peaceful and accepting atmosphere to spend time painting, drawing, knitting, doing embroidery, sculptures, or collages.
The Open Art Space gives us the opportunity 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.
Time and location of Open Art Space: Tuesdays 16:00-19:00, Lenaustr 4, 12047 Berlin
Activity coordinators: Yasmeen Almaki, Rebecca Kirch, Flora Kwong.
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 foster 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 to talk about anything- from sharing recipes to finding a good computer course- all while improving their German. Frauensprachcafé is more than a language café. It creates a community and solidarity network of women.
Time and location of Frauensprachcafé: Thursdays 16:00-18:30, Lenaustr. 4, 12047 Berlin
Activity coordinator: Amélie Stenglin, Annick Repelin-Holzgreve
“Be my buddy” support programme for teenagers and kids
This programme aims to cultivate stable and safe relationships with children and teenagers who were forced to flee their countries of origin. With a holistic approach towards the needs of individuals and families, we provide social and emotional support, while helping also in practical and organisational matters. This includes individual support or providing a creative safe space for children.
With special thanks to Alys Randall-Smith, Chiara Lioba, Christoph Thun, Ewa Cichocka, Javier Silva Mora, Joanna Simson,Ken Wallingford, Małgorzata Burkot, Maximilian Brase, and Marta Łepkowska for their commitment to the programme and families, and to Bissan Awwad, Rama al Ghamian, and Fatima Alhaji for linguistic and cultural interpretation support.
Club der Sterne (Stars Club)
Club Der Sterne is a weekly meeting for teenage girls with a migrant and refugee background focusing on intellectual, social and emotional self-development. Although each session has a similar structure, activities are agreed upon with the girls and adapted to their needs.
Activities may include doing homework together, discussing a topic that is bothering the girls, painting to the sound of Brazilian music, organizing a birthday party, watching a movie, going to the park, the lake or for ice cream. Whatever happens within Club der Sterne, the purpose is always just an attentive presence with the girls, accompanying them in discovering themselves and the world around them.
Activity coordinators: Anna Rapoport, Chiara Lioba, Ewa Olędzka, Lucie Lou Wirz, Siobhan Fisher
Lockerlassen – Loosen up! (Temporarily on hold)
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 from 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 offer individual massage sessions.
Get involved with the Open Hearts Space!
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 or small- and you can choose a one-time 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.
The Open Hearts Space looks forward to hearing from you! Don’t hesitate to get in touch with Antonina Stasiuk directly at email@example.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
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!