Our stop in Berlin had a different taste, as we visited Sharehaus Refugio and met with the beautiful community (half Germans) that lives there. The 5 floor building is entered via a nice cafe, which was once a broken-down space before the community renovated it. The cafe had a very chill atmosphere, where locals were sipping on their lattes on one table, while a group of residents were engaging in what seemed like a German language support course in the neighbouring table. The building also includes a big hall where they were having a Somalian dance event alongside with delicious homemade food, which they were generous enough to share with us. “I give back to German people”, an initiative by one of the residents, Alex, decorated the front wall of the hall, while the rest of the walls were filled with event planning, story telling sessions, dance nights, and drawings from kids expressing their love to the troubled areas they fled. The roof of the house had an eastern atmosphere, with red patterned carpets and traditional seatings on the floor. “In the summer time we had lots of fun parties and invited people from everywhere here, I can’t wait for this summer once we finish renovating it, it will be the best spot in Berlin!” Said Eyad, a Syrian student living at the house for the past 6 months.
The next day was the day our gathering formally took place, as we met with Sven and his wife Elke, the couple behind Sharehaus, along with residents and some friends of Minerva. We engaged in a conversation about the refugee situation in Berlin, the grassroots efforts of integration, and education solutions and obstacles. We were lucky enough to have Fatuma and Eyad, two residents of the house to share their perspective, and when I shared a few statistics about the “refugees”, Fatuma stopped me saying: “we don’t like this term, it makes us feel distant from the community. I prefer the term newcomers, because we don’t like to have separate bridges, we’re all crossing the same bridge together”.
A very important component of our Catalyst trip was fundraising for a learning space at Sharehaus, so we took the chance to discuss possibilities with the space we aim to renovate. “I need a good studying environment ” said Eyad, who was waiting on the response of a German university he applied to while doing 6 hours of German language course a day. Optimising for flexibility in using the place, painting the walls, setting up a group meeting room and individual studying spaces, as well as shaping the culture of the space, were all topics that we discussed.
The space will also work as a meet up place for Kiron students, a fascinating initiative that aims to grant accessible higher education to student newcomers, by combining MOOCs (massive open online courses) and partnerships with established universities. Kiron matches the curriculum of partner universities with MOOCs that students can take online for free for their first two years. Once completed successfully, students enroll regularly on campus and graduate with a degree from said universities. The process overcomes the obstacle of obtaining a legal status which prohibits newcomers from enrolling in campuses for extended periods of time, as well as minimize the cost.
Our space requires an estimated amount of 9000 Euros, which we aim to raise via this online fundraising campaign. If this resonates with you, feel free to share, contribute and maybe pass by Sharehaus once you’re in Berlin!