4 Reasons All Expats Should Volunteer in Berlin (plus advice on how to do it)
by Lucie Heath
Finding a volunteering opportunity may not be everyone’s top priority when moving to Berlin. You’re too busy attempting to navigate the painstaking Anmeldung process and sampling every shawarma within a ten-kilometer radius. Plus your levels of German are basic at best so how are you supposed to find a volunteering opportunity when you can’t even tell someone to get out of your way on the U-Bahn?
Yet despite how overwhelming moving to a new city can be, volunteering is one of the greatest ways to settle into the city of Berlin. Whether you’ve been here for 3 weeks or 3 years here are 4 reasons why all expats should volunteer in Berlin:
1. Meet new people
It’s surprising how lonely moving to a city like Berlin can be. While you can initially keep yourself busy by exploring the flea markets, visiting art galleries and delving into the city’s famous nightlife, you are soon going to find yourself yearning for a deeper connection than that person you met in the toilets at About Blank over the weekend.
Volunteering is a great opportunity to build some real friendships with like-minded people. There’s nothing like a day spent cooking or building with a person to turn them from a stranger into a friend. Volunteers are friendly by nature and not only will you meet some people in the exact same situation as yourself, but you will also get that all important chance to meet some native Berliners.
2. Get to know your city
You’ve seen the sights of Mitte and know Oranienstraße like the back of your hand. You fell like you’re getting the hang of things but Berlin is so much more than cafes and Kreuzberg! It’s time to start delving a little deeper into the city if you wish to call it home.
The organization Berliner Obdachlosenhilfe is just one example of how doing some volunteer work can help you get to grips with a new city. By participating in their mobile tours that aim to provide food and clothing to Berlin’s homeless population you will learn a lot more about Berlin, both geographically and socially.
3. Help migrants less fortunate than yourself
For many Berlin expats, moving to the city is a fairly simple experience – grab your EU passport, book the next Ryanair flight and go! For others the move is not so easy, since November of last year almost 30,000 refugees have applied for asylum in Berlin¹, the majority of them being forced to live in mass shelters around the city.
So instead of spending your time stressing over how to find that perfect sublet, why not reinvest your energy into helping migrants much less fortunate than yourself. Even if you only have a few hours, there are plenty of great organizations out there looking for your help such as Berliner Stadtmission and Pass the Crayon.
4. Learn something new
Moving to a new country is a pretty weird experience – everything is a little bit different and you start to miss random things from home you didn’t even know you cared about (like your favourite brand of butter or the sound the pedestrian crossing makes when it’s time to cross the street). It takes a lot of effort to leave a comfortable life behind and start all over again, so well done to you for attempting it!
So while you’re at it, why not dedicate some of your time in Berlin to trying out something that you would never have thought of doing at home? Learn how to fix things at the Repair Cafe, work in a winery or help to build a sustainable living and working space at Das Baumhaus. There are many English-friendly volunteer jobs in Berlin that will help you master a new skill while contributing to the wider community. Win-win!
Expats of Berlin, what are you waiting for? Apart from vostel.com you can also find plenty of volunteer jobs on http://www.servethecity.berlin/ and http://givesomethingbacktoberlin.com/ – both websites are also in English so it really could not be more simple.
Lucie is originally from Scotland and has recently moved to Berlin after completing a degree in History and Politics at the University of Edinburgh. Aside from working as a digital marketing intern, she is currently spending her time trying to assimilate into Berlin by volunteering and drinking a lot of Club Mate.