In Berlin, we visited Sharehaus Refugio and met with the beautiful community there. The 5 floor building is entered through a nice cafe, which was once a broken-down space before the community renovated it. The cafe had a very chill atmosphere, where people were sipping on their lattes on one table, while a group of residents were engaged in a German language course in the next table. The building also includes a big hall where they were having an African dance event alongside with delicious homemade food. “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 padding 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 Eiad, a Syrian student living at the house.
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 in Berlin, the grassroots efforts of integration, and education solutions and obstacles. We were lucky enough to have Fatuma and Eiad, two residents of the house to share their perspective. Fatuma helped me correct my vocabulary : “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. Kiron utilities the wealth of online academic material combining MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and partnering with Local Universities. Kiron brings an alternative 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 and receive their prospective degrees from prestigious German Universities.
Kiron presented a smart solution to a very tough problem, by utilizing the wealth of online academic material, and providing the obstacle of obtaining a legal status which prevents newcomers from enrolling in formal education for extended periods of time,
Our space requires an estimated amount of 9000 Euros, which we aim to raise via this online fundraising campaign. Please feel free to contribute!