Read, Debate: Engage.

Giving something back

Author: Gurmeet Singh

The GSBTB refugee cooking group in Berlin -Kreuzberg


One thing people outside refugee circles and political crises can do is acknowledge that just because you’re far away from violence, doesn’t mean you’re separate from it.

Lives, ruined by violence, end up in camps or in graves. Why?

They’re different over there. They do things differently.

To have privileges you never yourself earned, to be safeguarded by laws you never yourself fought for – to feel that others must earn theirs – whereas by right of birth, you don’t – this is ultimately the story that emerges from escape.

They die because they believe in killing, we don’t. They need to escape, we don’t. And if they come here, we won’t give them anything. We don’t want them here. We don’t want anyone else here – because they’re not like us, and our lives are more meaningful than theirs.

While we’re insulated by laws, technology, the feeling that we’re different – we’re still part of this world. Our expectations are not different from others; we have to ask ourselves: do we care that others suffer? This is what escape forces us to ask.

Annamaria Olsonn, founder of Give Something Back to Berlin (GSBTB) told fairplanet:

“The project was founded in 2013 –it was absolutely organic. We just wanted to help communities living in Berlin – particularly expats – as they are called – to really get involved in Berlin life.

There was no structure or funding or anything. We just put out a Facebook post – and after a few years, it turned into a full-blown project”.

Two months after starting, Annamaria went down to Oranianplatz, where refugees from North Africa self-organised protests and a school. Rather than playing what she called “the blame game” where the media blamed society’s problems on refugees, or do what the hysterical left do – challenge all of society, rather than try to include people – she asked the refugees what they could do together. They wanted to learn English, she said. Use computers, and find jobs.

There is a tendency to live in our separate communities, says Anna Maria – for whatever reason, it’s just easier to escape from the world’s problems and think you have nothing to do with it. But you can make a difference – stand up, get involved and find projects you can get involved in.