When it became known in 2014 that the Central Reception Office for Refugees would be moved to the Old Post Office in Harburg, we were wondering how we could show solidarity, how we could give social support to refugees and could make them feel welcome noticeably and continuously.
We started preparations for a “Café of Hospitality” in the former Youth Club of the Evangelical Trinity Parish. In this parish solidary support has already been given for a longer period of time by granting church asylum.
Together with the Central Reception Office there also came several associated refugee accommodation facilities to Harburg. Besides this there are facilities for refugees with a residency status in the quarter.
Harburg Trinity Parish is within walking distance of several of these camps and accommodation facilities. Experience that existed in the parish, a positive attitude towards welcoming people, an availability of rooms and volunteers prepared to give support made it easy to open “Refugio – Café of Hospitality”.
After the Parish Council gave permission, we were able to open in November 2014 – presently for six days a week. Positive newspaper articles and word-of-mouth recommendation made it possible that the Café developed very quickly. Every day people came and proposed new ideas. There was a lot of vigour and pleasure in working together.
Refugio is a space away from the depressing camp atmosphere. Here people can talk with each other, play games, learn the language and support each other in seeking work and accommodation. Here they can make friends and help each other in desperate situations.
We are nearly one hundred volunteers helping at the Refugio, and it is a great pleasure for all of us to work there. Many very different people contribute their talents and their preferences and learn from one another. Without the involvement of a full-time employee we organize our work solidarily, help and pay attention to each other.
There is a wide range of varying activities available inside or outside the Café: Cooking with guests, language courses, sports activities such as soccer, walking, bicycle tours and climbing, sight-seeing and guided tours, visiting sporting events, concerts, friendly outings with guests and support when visiting the authorities.
The “Café of Hospitality” was started without a long time of preparation and stiff official development process. Every day people voluntarily give time, food and different kinds of donations to the refugees. Helping in the Café gives us much pleasure. Each day anew we are amazed and surprised how easy it is to work together.
Of course we would be very pleased to welcome new voluntary helpers. And apart of this we hope and believe that it is possible to start more places of help and support like this in other locations. We would like to encourage people and tell them: JUST GET STARTED !!!