In today's positive news, a German couple have created a social media site, Flüchtlinge Willkommen, to help refugees find somewhere to live
As the refugee crisis across Europe continues to grow, it’s really hard to know what you can do to help. Sure, you could stop on the street and hand over your bank details to a man wearing a fluorescent jacket and holding a clipboard, but that hardly feels like enough.
Which is where Jonas Kakoschke and Mareike Geiling come in. The couple from Wedding, Germany, created Fluchtlinge Willkommen back in 2013, in the hope of helping refugees find somewhere to live.
‘We don’t like the idea of putting these people into one place where many, many people live’, says 28-year-old Mareike.
Jonas, a 31-year-old graphic designer, adds: “Many asylum-seekers have to stay [in hostels] for years … doing nothing, because they are not allowed to do anything. They are not allowed to work, they are not allowed to have German classes sometimes and sometimes it’s not a city, it’s a village and there’s nothing to do and so you get depressed after years and stuff like this.’
For them, the project started when Mareike realised she was going to be working out of the country for a lot of the year, and they decided that they should let their spare room. But after discussing the refugee crisis, they realised they could kill two birds with one stone, and help somebody in need at the same time.
The pair sent out an email, asking friends and family for donations to cover that room’s rent – and they were quickly inundated with people who wanted to get on board and help out. Soon, they’d raised £3200 – enough for a refugee to live there for six months.
But they didn’t stop there. The couple knew that there were loads of people around Germany who had spare rooms – and who would be up for letting them out to refugees and asylum seekers, if only they knew how.
So they set up Fluchtlinge Willkommen – a social media network that matches refugees up with potential roommates across the country. All you have to do is fill out a form and submit it online – then they try to find you a match. Rent is covered by the local government – and there are a few factors that affect whether or not a refugee is eligible to apply (if they’ve applied for asylum, etc). But it’s already been super successful. In fact, Jonas and Mareike have made 52 matches across Germany – and have launched a sister site in Austria, too.
‘We try to handle this like ‘normal’, like regular, shared flat-matching – but it’s not. It’s still a sensitive topic,’ Jonas told BuzzFeed News, adding that that’s why they don’t post applicants’ details on the site for people to scroll through and pick from – as you would on Spareroom.com or Gumtree.
Now living with a 39-year-old man from Mali, the couple feel like they haven’t just done a good deed – they’ve made a friend, too.
‘I think I just asked when we met the first time if it’s OK for him that I drink alcohol,’ Jonas says with a laugh. ‘He said, ‘Yes, of course, it’s your life, do what you want with it.’