Yesterday saw the second installment of Warm Up, a clothing donation event in benefit of refugees at Voo Store. I am still amazed that so many of you came and donated loads, and loads of kilos. All together we managed to collect 819 kilograms of winter warmers and 463 Euro, that went directly to Kreuzberg Hilft who are distributing all donations to the city’s shelters. I am speechless!
It was once again a special Sunday afternoon, filled with generosity, love and much happiness. People came pouring in, donating high quality items, chunky knits, puffy jackets, thick boots and loads of scarfs, gloves and hats that will keep many people warm during this coming winter.
I want to take a moment to thank some people, without whom this event couldn’t have happened. First of all of course Herbert, Yasin and Michael of Voo Store, who allowed me to turn their beautiful store into temporary chaos, providing us with everything we needed. Then Mark of Box at Work, who did not only give us 100 of their sturdy plastic boxes (made from recycled materials!), but also took over the logistics of delivery, and worked the whole day on labeling and stacking all those 100 boxes filled with your donations. Claudia, Nora and Fabia of Kreuzberg Hilft, who gave us their tested sorting system, and helped all day organizing donations. Ana, who took all the photos. And not to forget my amazing helpers: Jessica, Alexandra, Barbara, Isu, Lena, Cameron, Miriam, and Sarah who weighed, sorted, and wrote the raffle tickets; Majeed, Noor, Dyaa, Anna and Inga who sorted all those items into the respective boxes. And of course to Companion Coffee, Tausendsünd and Bonafide Broth for supplying us with hot drinks, broth and delicious cakes! Last but not least, to all the sponsors who gave us the greatest prizes for the raffle!
Even more pictures are on Facebook. One more thing, I actually prepared a speech for the event, however, it was so much to do with receiving, weighing, sorting, and then the raffle, I didn’t get to hold it. Still, I wanna publish the text, so I’m doing it here.
Even with all the newspapers and blogs covering their story, it actually still is easy to avoid the refugee crisis. Simply skip the headlines, unfollow a few Facebook friends, close your eyes, and live your life as you’ve always done. Coffee, shopping, city trip, and maybe it’ll snow on Christmas?
Because as much as politicians and other people are calling this a flood, little of it is actually visible in our daily lives. Few people have met a refugee, or talked to one, listened to their story. Despite what you may have heard, have you actually seen them roam our streets, fill the U-Bahn, or skulk on the markets? Did you see any making „problems“, stealing, taking away our jobs?
It’s easy to believe nothing’s happening, nothing’s wrong. But something is happening, and something is wrong. I ask myself, what will happen in five years, ten years time? When coming generations will ask, what did you do? I saw the news reports, read the posts that went viral, even saw those photographs and videos of people dying in the Mediterranean, and I started to wonder, what have I done? What can we do?
We, a generation that has lived most of our lives untouched by war, conflict, or terror, are now faced with a situation where immediate action should be the only possible response.
And this doesn’t have to mean taking to the streets or opening our homes and emptying our bank accounts. Help can take many different shapes, all of them important, all of them valuable in their own way.
I can tell you, few things in my life have changed my perspective as much as the time I have spent working with and talking to people who were forced to flee their homes. Their resilience humbles me, their will to live puts my carelessness to shame, their optimism wrecks my sarcasm.
Working with refugees, helping in shelters, handing out tea on the streets, trying to support them navigating the bureaucracy, made me appreciate my own peaceful and rich life more every day.
And I don’t mean to sound like a yoga teacher, because this realization was a painful one too. It showed me I should cherish every single, luxurious opportunity handed to me because I was born white and German. I did not earn these privileges, and I certainly do not deserve them more than anybody else. You cannot help but realize that the smallest, the most self-evident things in our lives, the most invisible, are so important.
However, there tragically is only so much we can do. We can, we have to donate time and money, open our hearts and help open doors, but our options here are limited. And they are limited mainly by politicians, men and women driven by fear or fearmongerers, pushed by a society that seems to shift farther to the right more and more each day.
I feel so embarrassed about how we as a western society treat refugees, how it is our laws that force them to take shitty boats to travel across the sea, force them to walk thousands of kilometers, gives us the power to confine them and send them away.
I feel so embarrassed that Germany, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, is failing these people in so many aspects, and still – still is doing a better job compared to most other European countries. It makes me embarrassed and worried, angry and sad. Angry about the limits of my own ability to offer help and support. Sad to realize what future generations will think about me, about us.
With our eyes on a better future for all of us, it is clear we need to stay together, we need to prevent our world, our society, our sanity, our selves from falling prey to the panicking people out there who want to tell us that these people came to destroy us, that „we“ have to lock our borders, send out the army, and defend „our country“.
That is why I am so beyond proud that all of you came to support this cause. All my heart goes out to volunteer organisations like Kreuzberg Hilft and Moabit Hilft who have stepped up and do incredible work. And I hope you’ll be going home with some new thoughts, new optimism, new light in your heart, and that you’ll start to open your doors. It’s so easy to help, check the Facebook group of your district – Neukölln Hilft, Tempelhof Hilft and so forth and register at volunteer-planner.org. Start getting to know the people who came here at such a high cost. Because let’s not make the same mistakes as the generations before us, let’s just not.