From Kabul to Berlin, making new connections
Berlin, winter 2021. It’s getting darker and colder. For those die-hard commuting-to-work cyclists, that means thicker gloves and more batteries for their bike lights.
However, for many here, the winter brings a different worry: whether family members might make it into European territory without suffering freezing temperatures enroute. Sanctions on EU border crossings have recently become more vigorous and the UK has come down harder on groups of migrants traveling by boat, which has already cost many lives.
Whilst some people endure these arduous journeys to Germany, migrants on the ground try their best to settle into their new lives. Integration is hard at the best of times, and it can take just one good connection to fast-forward the feeling of ‚Zuhause‘.
For 6 years, Rückenwind has been this connection for many people, bringing together Berlin newcomers, long-time residents, students and bike-nerds – and that’s just the volunteers.
The aim of the volunteer organisation is to repair and distribute as many bikes per week as possible to refugee families in the city. Meanwhile, Rückenwind actively searches for new connections – whether that’s donors, wannabe mechanics, organisers for their regular „Aktionstage“ or, of course, people in need of bikes who might not otherwise have an opportunity.
After what felt like a lifetime of Covid 19 lockdowns, Rückenwind are delighted to have slowly reopened their doors in the heart of Neukölln. Thanks to the funding of the Postcode Lottery this year and the seemingly endless motivation of the Volunteer Trainers, Rückenwind had a recent boost in volunteer numbers. Which means that more bikes can be given out over these winter months – and new connections in the city can be made, whether that’s getting A to B on a bike, or making a new friend.
The charity has also established important links with refugee organisations in Berlin since it reopened the workshop a year ago.
„For me, as the supervisor of a youth welfare facility, networking is very important. Working together with Rückenwind offers me the opportunity to give young refugees a bicycle that they can use to explore their social environment more individually than with public transport. They can do their daily commute by bike, go for a ride in the evening to clear their heads, or simply ride to school. The bicycles are always adjusted together with a trained mechanic, and the young people also learn something.“
Micha from EJF And that remains the aim throughout the winter and beyond for the ‚Rückenwindies‘ – maintaining an approachable, learning environment for all involved, offering a piece of home for those just trying to connect in Berlin.
Written by Roisin Brehony, Rückenwind Volunteer