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Five ways you can help refugees in Germany

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Woman bring clothing donations to a German Red Cross station in Heidenau, scene of anti-refugee demonstrations last weekend. Photo: DPA
15:09 CEST+02:00
The Local's pointers for how to get started if you're interested in donating your money, unwanted possessions, time or skills to help refugees in Germany.

The Local is a news site primarily aimed at "expats" - a term that in itself is loaded with the reality that while some groups have been able to travel to Germany relatively easily to start a new life, a much larger number of people face extraordinary difficulties as asylum seekers.

If you'd like to even out the balance a little, here are some places where you can get started.

If you only speak English, we suggest getting a German-speaking friend to help you get started.

But with many Germans speaking excellent English you should be able to make your way given the first push.

As a spokesman for the Evangelical Church told The Local on Thursday, "the advantage of English speakers is that it's the most common second language among the refugees."

If you want to inform yourself about the situation of refugees in Germany and how you can help this post from Collidoscope Berlin is a good place to start.

1. Host a refugee in your home

Check out the Refugees Welcome website – you can register your flat if you have space and they will put you in touch with a person in need of accommodation.

"We don't like the idea of putting these people into one place where many, many live," co-founder Mareike Geiling told NPR, adding that in official homes they can "stay for years doing nothing, because they are not allowed to do anything".

If you can't offer space, you can donate money to help a refugee pay rent here.

In Berlin, a more traditional German charity organization run by the Evangelical Church, the Evangelisches Jugend- und Fürsorgewerk (EJF), also runs a programme placing refugees in private homes, complementing the work of overloaded local authorities.

"Waiting for asylum applications to be processed can take a few months or up to a year and a half," EJF spokesman Ewald Möller told The Local.

As well as finding space in flats owned by private individuals and from the large housing companies in and around Berlin, the EJF educates refugees about accessing the private housing market in Germany.

If you think you could help, email wohnraum-fuer-fluechtlinge@ejf.de. There is also a flyer with an FAQ (in German) here.

In other states, check the website of your local Flüchtlingsrat (refugee council) for similar projects.

2. Donate some clothes, a computer, or supplies

If you have some spare clothes lying around, then the Deutsche Kleiderstiftung (Clothing Foundation) accepts donations at containers in Berlin, Hamburg, Brunswick, Hanover, Magdeburg and many other cities, as well as in many churches.

Check for a location near you here – or you can always send in a package by post for free.

Some organizations are looking for laptops and other computer equipment that can help refugees communicate with family, orient themselves in a strange country and learn German.

Some Labdoo "hubs" are organizing donations to refugees. Near Berlin, Refugees Emancipation e.V. in Potsdam needs laptops, monitors, computers and tablets to organize computer courses for people in need.

Get in touch with a hub near you to see if your old laptop can get a new lease of life for a refugee.

And check Wie kann ich helfen? (How can I help?), who have a regularly-updated interactive map (embedded below) with organizations asking for donations of food and other perishables as well as more durable aid.

4. Register as a volunteer

Every city in Germany has organizations working to help refugees establish themselves.

In Berlin, there is even an English-language charity directed at helping expats volunteer to teach, called Give Something Back to Berlin.

For German speakers, you can get in touch with the Berliner Stadtmission.

You could also volunteer to help translate for refugees by registering at ref.connect.

There are too many organizations all over Germany to list here, so get in touch with the Flüchtlingsrat in your state to find out more about how people are organizing near you.

Another valuable resource is Wie kann ich helfen? (How can I help?), which also provides an interactive map with links to projects all over Germany.

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The posts range from calls for food or in-kind donations to opportunities to teach German or English or help refugees deal with the authorities.

4. Foster an under-aged refugee

Many under-aged refugees arrive with no family members and find themselves in the care of the state in a foreign country.

German-speakers can report to the Jugendamt in their town and let them know you are willing to take care of an under-aged refugee. There is an application process that may take some time and effort to get through.

Nuremberg's Jugendamt warned Die Welt in May that potential carers should know that many young refugees are traumatized by their experiences of war and flight.

5. Donate money

If you're in a hurry, you can donate quickly and easily to the Deutsches Rotes Kreuz (German Red Cross), Save The Children or Aktion Deutschland Hilft (German Aid Action) online from the comfort of your sofa.

And the German Central Institute for Social Questions (DZI) has a list (in German) of national, international and local organizations that you can donate money to that will reach refugees where it's needed.

Thanks to Finding Berlin and all the other organizations mentioned in the article.

SEE ALSO: Four ways to help refugees in Austria and How to help refugees if you live in Sweden

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