The refugee crisis in Europe is understandably dominating the headlines. Germany has declared willingness to take in an estimated 800,000 refugees this year and the outpouring of support has been significant. Many in Berlin have given donations and volunteered their time. We asked ourselves how we could best help do our part as an organization. The answer for us is twofold:
1) We did some early spring cleaning and came up with bags of helmets, old children’s bikes, and boxes of spare parts. We donated these to a local charity dedicated to teaching bike riding and providing bikes to refugees in a more distant suburb. Given the relative isolation of some of the centers as well as the importance of biking in Berlin’s urban environment, numerous organizations are equipping the new refugees with a mode of transport to become more independent. The donation was a win-win for us, as we’ll be getting our new shipment of bikes next year and it was great to free up some space.
2) We’ve teamed up with the official Berlin tourism office to provide orientation rides to groups of new refugees. We provide the bikes, our guides provide their time and expertise, and the tourism office handles the logistics of bringing the participants to us. We’ve run a few of these already and so far it’s been a great success. We’ll be continuing these through the end of November. Our guides have gotten a real joy out of showing some Berlin highlights to the enthused and engaged participants. Pardon the pictures from last week’s tour as they don’t do the tour justice – it was rainy and we didn’t bring but a phone for pictures.
So far it’s been an amazing outpouring of support. Sure, a handful negative acts throughout Germany make for catchy headlines, but everything we’ve encountered has been Germany showing its best side in welcoming all the newcomers.