„Willkommen in Ehrenfeld“ is a citizens` initiative. A citizens` initiative is a loose group of people who campaign for a common idea. In our case the common idea is to welcome refugees and help them to start their lifes in Ehrenfeld.
The people who help refugees are so called volunteers (Ehrenamtler) or voluntary helpers (ehrenamtliche Helfer). If someone works voluntary it means that he or she works in her spare time without getting paid for that. The volunteers of „Willkommen in Ehrenfeld“ work without getting money for this because they are convinced that it is the right and important thing to do.
The voluntary helpers are working hand in hand with representatives of offices, organisiations and refugee-camp-hosts. Those are the so called full-time workers (Hauptamtler). People who do their jobs and are getting paid for that. At „Willkommen in Ehrenfeld“ the full-time workers who get paid for what they do are social-workers and representatives of different official positions.
The volunteers work in agreement with official full-time positions but the volunteers do not work for them. We don`t work for the city-government, we don`t work for the Ausländerbehörde, we don`t work for Sozialamt. We work for all people who had to flee from their countries, who came here to apply for asylum.
We are confidential contact persons, we help connecting to information centers and helplines, to schools and other organisations. We try to help wherever we can. We also offer leisure activities such as having a picnic together, playing with the kids, shopping and cooking together, going to concerts or parties and much more.
How much time a voluntary helper offers depends on what else this person has to do. Many of us are working 30, 40 or more hours a week in our paid jobs. Some have families with their own kids they have to care for. Still every volunteer tries his or her best to welcome refugees in Ehrenfeld.
Our voluntary help depends on mutual respect. This respect includes having patience. As we offer our help besides the work we have to do in our paid jobs we are not available 24/7 and some things just take a while to be done. We can help most successful when working hand in hand as a team together with the refugees.