From its official launch in 2013 GSBTB’s overall goal has been to make newcomers active contributors in their cities, creating strong networks for participation and inclusion. Through our GSBTB Open City-project we empower people to make the most out of their voice, energy and interests, not as some kind of “last step” in the integration process but as the guiding light in an often challenging process. By equipping potential stakeholders, sustainable integration is promoted – and more importantly, so is societal equality and therefore true democracy. Within the Open City project we created concrete grassroots tools for more political advocacy and participation for both migrants and refugees. Both symbolically as well as realistically, being an active part of society entails having the means to engage oneself politically and socially, as well as have a platform where one’s opinions can be heard. This is especially important for migrant populations who often feel disempowered in a system where they seemingly have no control.
Through GSBTB Open City we connected these groups and individuals with the right people, hosted politically-themed events to imbue them with knowledge regarding pressing issues (as well as those that directly affect them) and providing them with an outlet to make their voice heard, in our projects, in the refugee shelters where they lived or in the broader neighborhood or society. We worked both on the “frontline”, online and well as “behind the scenes”, in the offices of political representatives, fancy conferences but most of time on the ground; in the neighborhoods and the refugee shelters.
Open Job Coaching
The Open Job Coaching project provided migrants and refugees with the chance to ask your questions and receive individual consultation about the German job market from GSBTB’s professional job coach.
Supporting homeless shelters and soup kitchens
At a time when a lot of media attention is focused on refugees, we are always keen to maintain support for other organisations and people in need, such as the homeless. We supported the soup kitchen in Pankow and a shelter in Friedrichshain with GSBTB volunteers who made the visitors feel welcomed and gave them important basic social contact. The monastery also ran help services for the homeless; establishing positive social contact in the soup kitchen could help people make the next step to talk to these services.
We also supported the Kälte Nothilfe, who provide food and clothing for the homeless, especially during the cold winter months. For our volunteers who hand out clothes and food, it has been a rewarding opportunity to talk to someone new. As one volunteer put it: “I would say it was a success. The majority of donations were clothing and blankets. However, there was a lot of food also. The reception from the homeless people was very good and most people started to have a chat.”
Creative workshops with the disabled
We supplied volunteers to a number of projects working with people with disabilities in the city. For example, GSBTBers ran workshops and organised activities for people with learning disabilities in Moabit for more than three years – one of our volunteers has been with then since the beginning! They organised boat trips, watched football matches, cooked on a weekly basis and held art workshops.
Kiezrally through Neukölln
Together with the Neukölln city council, GSBTB organised and hosted a ‘Neighbourhood Day’ in the famously diverse area of Neukölln. Focusing on the history of migration in Neukölln, it gave residents the opportunity to get to know different sides of migration and several of the great initiatives operating in their neighbourhood. The tour ended with a communal meal in a big Roma housing collective and offered the chance to make connections, learn, share and discuss our neighbourhood.
Cycling lessons for ladies
This project started with a request from migrant women to learn how to bike in Berlin and soon became an opportunity for women from all over the world to meet monthly, get to know each other and share a common interest. Since its start, GSBTB has been sending heaps of volunteers here who’ve been contributing to building up the project.
Many, many shifts in emergency shelters
We work closely with various emergency refugee shelters so that we are up-to-date with their needs and can quickly send volunteers to help out without getting held up by bureaucracy. We have matched lots of volunteers to help with signing in new arrivals, handing out clothes and generally supporting the stressful situation in the shelters. We’ve also found many Arabic speakers who help out at art workshops for refugee children in Wilmersdorf, translating for the art therapists. We did several creative workshops and social events for and together with the refugees there.
Social activities for refugees
Through GSBTB’s projects many refugees and non-refugees met and got to know each other where worlds had previously been divided. They became friends – friends that you hang out with casually, go to the club drinking with, call for help when you need it, drink tea with on your balcony and call when you are angry or have something exciting to say. Something so simple and yet so hard when worlds are kept apart.
Neighbourhood work with SoliNaR
SoliNaR is a project based in Neukölln that brings together neighbours from different cultures, age groups and social backgrounds. GSBTB supported them with a variety of projects, including a weekly cooking group, art and craft events for children, Berlin sightseeing tours and a refugee buddy program. With these diverse projects they pursue a similar goal to GSBTB: to offer opportunities to establish new connections and friendships in a multicultural surrounding.
Neuhardenberg is a small, isolated village in Brandenburg where refugees from different countries have unfortunately experienced anger and resentment from the locals; unlike in Berlin, there was almost no volunteer support and no activities to mitigate migrants’ loneliness. Thanks to those GSBTB volunteers who provided car rides, decorations, food, clothes and presents, we were able to get there and spend one day each month with them, organising games, art and music activities.
Cooking group for children at a social centre
A Greek PhD student learning German from German kids with all sorts of migrant backgrounds while teaching them healthy cooking? Why not? The weekly cooking group at the lovely community centre Elele in Kreuzkölln made it happen. Every Friday they met to cook, learn and share. According to Christine, the woman running the organisation, it became some of the kids’ favourite day of the week.
Tempelhof kids project with Feldfinders
The Feldfinders project worked with children from different backgrounds, using the massive, beautiful Tempelhofer Feld as a place to do sports and fun outdoor activities together. Originally focusing on children with foreign parents who were brought up in the neighbourhood, more recently they have been working with newly arrived refugees and we helped them out. Our volunteers brought their own skills to the project, whether it’s kite-flying, skateboarding or football.
Neighbourhood Street Party Oldies and Goodies
During the Summers GSBTBers helped out at several neighborhood summer parties. For example, the ‘Oldies and Goldies’ summer street party in Prenzlauer Berg celebrated the older residents of the neighbourhood and brought different generations together. GSBTB volunteers helped out with everything from setting up decorations for the party, playing music and cooking for the guests.
Theatre project with refugees and Per Aspera
The theatre group Per Aspera organised a refugee solidarity performance event. The performance provided a stage and an attentive audience for members of the refugee community to tell their stories through artistic expression in whatever form they chose, whether it be music, poetry, theatre, dance, film, or something else. GSBTBers cooked and catered for and together with the participants during the whole long week of rehearsals and the performance.
After school activities at a community centre
GSBTB has been involved at the community centre Martha Gemeinde in Kreuzkölln. The centre has been open everyday for kids from the neighbourhood to come play, do sports, get help with homework and develop their own creative ideas! GSBTBers have been acting as mentors as well as doing activities for the afternoon programs. GSBTB has also run refugee cooking events there.
Mentoring and tutorial at a girls’ club
With some short breaks for holidays, mentors and girls from the girls club Schilleria in Neukölln met every week for over a year in a GSBTB English mentor co-operation. Initially the focus was on German-English language exchange and getting help with homework, but with time it developed into true friendships sharing stories, problems, hopes and ideas for the future.
Various projects for the elderly
We helped to combat the isolation and loneliness that a lot of old people in elderly homes can experience. For our young, international volunteers this was an opportunity to improve their German or just spend time with an older generation they might not normally have contact with in Berlin. These are two groups who would not otherwise meet and can learn from another, gaining different perspectives. We worked with various homes, for instance in Wedding and Treptow.
In our collaboration with the Nachbarschaftszentrum Neukölln, GSBTBers helped to organise monthly excursions for elderly citizens in the area. For people from disadvantaged neighbourhoods, these trips were a unique opportunity to explore different areas of Berlin.
Streets of Berlin
Streets of Berlin was a storytelling project whose participants interview homeless people all over Berlin giving them a voice and creating a platform for sharing their stories. GSBTB has supported the homeless project Streets of Berlin since early 2014 and helped build up the project with expertise from our volunteers and creative community. You can visit their Facebook page here.
Computer classes for refugees
Before the Gerhard Hauptmann Schule was evicted, GSBTB started up a weekly computer and internet class for the refugees living there. We also collected computers for them and installed wireless W-lan (wifi) in the whole building to enable them to stay connected with home and friends.
Building a sensory wall at an elderly home
Together with the Lutherheim elderly home we gathered a group of GSBTB creatives to build a sensory wall for people with dementia. The day became a kind of a social event and the golden Berlin oldies were excited about the helpers from all over the world coming to visit.
Educational Urban Gardening Projects
Where does our food come from? Not always the easiest question if you are a kid growing up in a big city. One way to ensure that our next generation of Berliners are eco-savvy and aware of where their veggies come from is to grow them together. The project GemüseAckerdemy is helping school kids grow one full cycle of delicious vegetable crops from start to finish in their gardens in Mitte. Since 2015 GSBTB has been involved in sending summer volunteers to help them out in their garden.
Dance workshops at a support centre
Sometimes GSBTB works as a catalyst for completely new projects and creative collaborations. Through our website and community team up events we connected three people with similar ideas and motivations. A choreographer, a dancer and a therapist got together and developed a concept for therapeutic dance workshops. They started offering them at our project partner Selbshilfezentrum Neukölln and then ran them in several organisations across Berlin. Recently they even received financial support from the EU to further develop the project!