City of Berlin awards students for refugee volunteer efforts

Ten Hertie School students honoured at a ceremony 10 May at Berlin city hall.

Ten Hertie School students have been honoured at a ceremony at Berlin’s town hall, the Rotes Rathaus, for their dedication to refugee assistance. The 10 May ceremony awarded students the Berliner Freiwilligen Pass – the city’s award for commitment and achievements of active volunteers. The award was presented by the Senator for Integration, Labor and Social Affairs, Elke Breitenbach, and State Secretary for Labor and Social Affairs, Alexander Fischer.

Congratulations to the following Hertie School students for their volunteer efforts: Erika Baranda, Colette Beukman, Christian Ecker, Andrea García Borja, Keri Hartman, Jan Lucas, Kira Messing, Tessa Schneider, Matthias Schnippe and John Turiano.

These students are all part of the Hertie Social Response, an umbrella organisation run by Hertie School students, which organises volunteer opportunities or helps connect students with volunteer organisations.

At the beginning of each academic year, the leadership of the Hertie Social Response club holds an introductory meeting for new students interested in getting involved in their newly adopted home of Berlin. Their fall 2016 meeting garnered more than 80 interested students. Many were interested in opportunities related to refugee assistance.

The club organised weekly volunteer opportunities for students to cook meals in the kitchen of the Berliner Stadtmission, a refugee welcome centre in Moabit. Asylum seekers generally live at the welcome centre for an average of six months as they wait for their applications to be processed. Once a week, around twenty Hertie school students cook and then break bread with those living there. Many of the refugees are eager to meet people from the community, and this gives them an opportunity to do so.

“Friend integration is the main outcome,” says John Turiano, one of the current leaders of the Hertie Social Response. “Demand for meeting more local people is very high “When you don’t have work, you don’t have an automatic social circle. You face a lot of barriers to making friends with local people.”

Participants also teach weekly language classes, which take place at the Hertie School.

Additionally, some students have engaged in consulting efforts – using their expertise in public policy - related to refugee integration in Berlin, sharing their experience and insights to help the process for all parties involved.