Since I moved back to Berlin to finish my studies, I have been thinking about getting involved in voluntary work of some kind. About escaping the library and my computer screen for a couple hours and helping where help is needed. Some of my friends and acquaintances are involved in MoabitHilft so I went to the area of LaGeSo (Office for Health and Social Affairs Berlin) to help. An incredible work done by the volunteers there, no question.
However, I feel slightly overwhelmed by the situation there, which appears more like a disaster area to me than Berlin authorities. After my day there I came back home at night with the feeling that there is no way that I could replace the work of trained doctors and emergency workers that would be needed there. Without a doubt, LaGeSo is a place where help is needed urgently, but I have to admit that I personally couldn’t handle it too well.
A few days later, I came across the volunteering platform vostel.de and browsed through the projects listed on the website. Saving food that would otherwise be thrown in the garbage? Sounds like a good idea and a meaningful job. I put my name down for a day of volunteering at Berliner Tafel.
So on a Thursday morning a couple of days later, I found myself at a big wholesale market. On other days, I would usually have my first coffee in the library at this time. Instead, I am wandering around between warehouses, lorries and vans. Finally having found the right warehouse, I am greeted and shown the way to the office by another volunteer. We are given an introduction, take a quick tour around the building, get vouchers for lunch, T-shirts and gloves and can start helping right away. Helping means sorting fruit and vegetables. A pile of crates in the middle of the room is filled with peppers, salads, strawberries, bananas, cucumbers – all mixed up, some of it is still fresh, some mushy. To the sides are tables where the volunteers are sorting the food, separating still edible from gone bad. A job surely not too demanding, but very satisfying in its simplicity. “What about prepackaged salads?“ “Is there a crate for onions anywhere?“ Those who have already been here for some time help out with any question that arises. Two hours pass quickly, we have lunch and continue. The crates with saved fruit and vegetables that the Berliner Tafel will be giving to those in need later have reached impressive heights by the time I have to leave. My time management is a little tight, so I call it a day before everything is tidied up and cleaned for the next day. I still get a slice of cake for the way home. Next time, I’ll help with the cleaning, too!