Historic numbers of women, men and children fleeing conflict in their home country have arrived in Austria seeking asylum, or pausing on their journey to Germany, or other European countries over recent months.
Volunteers and NGOs are working non-stop to help wherever and however they can. Many people in Austria are already donating clothes or money. For those who are interested in getting involved in other ways other than donating, we have put together a list of 13 tips on how you can help these people on the move/asylum seekers/refugees in Vienna, in a meaningful way:
1. Remember: these are brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, not refugees
We media hounds have a talent for dehumanising people with buzz words and trending phrases. The words – asylum seekers, refugees, migrants – tend to do exactly that. Just remember that these are people that were living a life just like us not so long ago before war dismantled their lives.
So when phrases like, ‘refugee crisis’ or ‘wave of refugees’ are thrown around, remember that these people are sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters.
2. Volunteer at a train station
Every day, new asylum seekers arrive at the train stations of Vienna, and the masses of volunteers helping out never cease to amaze us. But there is always the need for more helping hands. If you are interested in getting involved, get in contact with Wir helfen, or Caritas, and find out how.
If you speak languages like Arabic, Farsi, Pashtun, Dari or Urdu, your help as a translator will be of great use at the train stations. Check out the Facebook page, Westbahnhof Übersetzer & Helfer – Flüchtlinge, for more information on how to get involved.
Tip: Even though you might be eager to help, be sure to contact, or check the social media pages of, the organisations beforehand to find out what is actually needed. This changes daily.
3. Put your talents to good use
The Humanitaet.org webpage provides a great overview on the various projects that are taking on volunteers. Whether you’d like to teach German, are a talented singer, can draw, cook, dance, or play a particular sport, there are plenty of different projects and activities to get involved with – whatever your talent may be.
4. Show your compassion and support for refugees on the streets of Vienna
When humans are in a moment of extreme distress and hardship, knowing that somebody is out there supporting and fighting for them can inspire a surge of strength they never knew existed.
You’ll have the chance on the 3rd of October, along with thousands of others, to show your support for refugees at a peaceful demonstration. At 1pm, the demonstration will begin at Christian-Broda-Platz in the 6th district. So far, more than 36,000 people have confirmed attendance on Facebook. A solidarity concert will be held from 4:30pm at Heldenplatz, featuring well-known acts such as Conchita Wurst, Bilderbuch, die totem hosen, Kreisky, Maschek, Christoph & Lollo and Thomas Stipsits.
5. Become a German teacher
The project Deutschkurs in Traiskirchen, started by a group of volunteers, offers free German classes for asylum seekers staying in the refugee centre in Traiskirchen.
How you can help? Everybody interested in teaching German to asylum seekers can get involved. Teaching material, and tips on how to teach and interact with your students, are offered on the website. Bring some pencils and paper so your students can take notes. Also, don’t be afraid to get creative in your ways of teaching. And we know that Traiskirchen isn’t in Vienna, but it’s not far away and can be easily accessed with public transport.
For more information and to learn about class times, check out their Facebook page.
6. Get informed, and inform others on the situation
The old saying, “ignorance is bliss”, has a very short expiration date. The more people aware of the asylum seekers and refugees situation in Europe right now, the more the subject will be discussed in a balanced and productive way within our society. Staying updated and informed on the issue is important. But be sure to check your facts first, read broadly, and then spread the word.
Among the refugees are many families whose small children have been through a lot. One simple, yet meaningful thing you can do is become informed on where refugees are staying (eg. at the train station or refugee centres) and head there equipped with some games, paper and colouring-in pencils, balloons, toys etc.
8. Get a new flatmate
If you have a room to spare in your apartment and would like to live with someone from another culture, you might be interested in getting in contact with the organisation Flüchtlinge Willkommen. This project connects refugees and people who are looking for a new roomie. You can sign up easily on the website, and the team will help you find your new flat-mate, and also cover the rent.
9. Share your mobile and internet
Having been on a long and uncertain journey, it is very important for asylum seekers and refugees to be able to stay in contact with family and friends. You can help by bringing distribution wall-sockets (so they can charge their phones), your mobile phones with internet connection and your laptops to the train stations, or other places where refugees are being hosted.
10. Drink and eat to help
This one is for the Viennese musicians, bar and restaurant owners, and those that like the idea of eating and drinking to help: On the 1st of October, more than 50 bars and restaurants in Vienna will donate 50% of their daily sales to Caritas and Flüchtlingsverein Ute Bock. To help raise more money, various performance artists will be performing at the various bars and restaurants. If you want to join in on the party with a purpose, get in contact with Lokale Hilfe für Schutzsuchende. And if you don’t own a bar or restaurant, check out all the cool restaurants and bars in the list.
11. Become a Welcomer
This project has two very clear goals: “Promoting a friendly and inviting welcome for refugees, and helping to integrate refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in Austria”, and “creating opportunities for Austrians to get to know people of all nations”.
If you feel like this is right up your alley, you can become a “Welcomer” and meet refugees and asylum-seekers, show them around your city, practice some German or learn some words in their language. This will act to make these people feel welcome in Austria. And who knows, you might end up making a life-long friendship. For more information or to get involved, see here.
12. Become part of Ärzte ohne Grenzen (Doctors without borders)
Are you a doctor and have some time on your hands? Your help is urgently needed in Nickelsdorf (a town near the Hungarian border), Traiskirchen and elsewhere affected by the influx of refugees. For more information, get in contact with the Ärzte ohne Grenzen.
13. Use Social Media
Ok, so you typically use social media to show off your selfies, share funny cat videos, or publicise your daily life. Now there’s a chance to use this powerful medium to help your fellow human being. Follow NGOs, volunteer organisations and projects like Caritas Österreich that are involved in the refugee crisis relief effort, keep updated on how you can help, and take advantage of the share button. Here are a few organisations to follow: