(Disclaimer: the views and facts expressed on this blogpost do not reflect the views of any organization or person named in it. They only express Hangar 1’s team opinions)
These past two weeks, Don returned to Berlin. As you may know, Don is one of the members of our board, and one of the members of the Frauenloop team, a fantastic initiative that teaches women how to code. You read right; I didn’t make a distinction between refugee women and other women because they don’t, they just teach everyone, regardless of their status.
When we sat for a little board meeting with Don, we told him everything that went on since he left for Ireland during the first week of May, exactly when we filed for official registration. To be completely honest, we experienced some significant obstacles that became frustrations, and promising ideas became disappointments.
We told him how a very bright woman that leads an initiative to help other women in Berlin (not naming you but you know who you are!) made us think about this pseudo “Stockholm syndrome” that prevails among the charitable organizations. Organizations that instead of empowering newcomers, generate dependency on the organization by inflicting fears or being too patronizing. The conversation stemmed to the fact that as Hangar 1, we were contacted by some individuals and organizations asking us for “partnerships”.
These individuals and organizations, to be clear, think that a partnership is for us to bring newcomers to their workshops, educational programs, and more. That’s it. There’s nothing in favor for us. You would think that they do it to give more possibilities to the newcomers. Think again. It’s because most of them receive hefty grants (and loads of credit and deification that feeds their egos of course).
There was this person, whom I’ve known from a past job and is an artist, that sent me a Facebook message saying “Hey, I found this grant that gives me xx amount of money for teaching refugees. Do you think you can point 5 or 6 my way?”. These are almost his/her literal words.
Another time, I got a call from one organization we were trying to partner with. A screaming woman told me that I was going to their sessions fishing for women to come to my program. She said “do you know how hard it is to get them to come to every session and keep their interest?”. Well, as any human, they have decision making abilities. And they are not a commodity that enables you to get credit and continue your program, so I don’t see the problem on accepting to meet another human on a more personal level. Last time I checked, nobody has ownership over anyone.
Let me clarify: I was indeed meeting with the women individually and trying to help them with other troubles. When you have women escaping their countries that have experienced significant trauma such as harassment or worse, rape, and you reach out promising them to help them find a career or learn a trade, they want to learn it from day 1. They don’t want to sit, get to know you, take cute photos. They need immediate help because they are in constant fear. We tried to get them immediate help as much as we could, even if that support meant just to enjoy some drinks, share experiences and have fun.
Back to our board meeting: Don mentioned some facts that resembled a lot like our experiences. He spent the whole week investigating and talking to his newcomer friends, and the results of his findings are directly appalling. Here are some:
– A company has offered a job to one of the newcomer graduates from a program he is involved in. This job was offered to a man with a family to support. He is a front-end web developer. His yearly pay? 17.000 €. Yeah, that’s 8,50€ an hour.
– An organization that teaches refugees how to code and gets approximately 16.000€ from the job center per student. This organization is heavily recruiting new students throughout the year with new classes starting each month. Do the math, 5 students per month, for 12 months and the organization will receive approximately 1.000.000€. For this, students complete 9 months of training and then have 3 months of unpaid internship.
– Another extremely well-known company that’s leader in communications offered jobs to refugees and mentioned a salary. Then when the time for signing the contract came, the salary was 500€ lower than promised.
Luckily, there are some wonderful people out there whose approach to helping is legitimate. If you want to help any organization, HELP THESE (by the way, we are naming people that also helped us a great deal in an uninsterested manner here, not only organizations that need help):
– We don’t have any grants because our papers have not arrived. We cannot even get the money from our fundraiser out because we need documents. Friends and Family are helping us through this page.
– We are fortunate enough that the wonderful people of Among Us are safe keeping our small funds until we are entirely legal. Among Us people all have day jobs and little time, but they are dedicated social workers that always come up with new initiatives to fund their project.
– Our incredible partnership with Kosmica Institute which opened the kids’ minds to new ideas was 100% financed by our friends and family, with the help of Kosmica. They donated four weeks of work to make that initiative happen. Time is one of the most precious gifts one can give.
– Artipoeus, possibly the most fun and sharp art podcast offered us a partnership. You know which were her terms? None. She wants to ask her listeners to donate to our organization on her shows. But Susie, the creator, producer, and owner of Artipoeus runs a program that teaches self-defense to refugee women through an approach that is completely coherent with their religion, part of her Pretty Deadly initiative. Olivia Steele (and her brilliant studio manager, Abigail), has provided space for Pretty Deadly workshops on her wonderful studio, free of charge. We are in touch with the studio because she wants to keep learning about what we do, and how she can help.
– Our friends at Pass the Crayon run four workshops per week and are starting to look into proper grants and fundraising. They do legitimate actions and have been running like us, on friends & family donations for a long time. Do help them as well; they are also head-hunting.
– Our friend Hannah is actively collaborating with women that have suffered significant trauma and harassment. She is a screenwriter searching to produce a film she is also writing, about two women from different backgrounds becoming friends after hard times. She has helped two of our friends from Syria, Sally, and Alaa to inspire them and improve their writing.
– And of course, by all means, help Frauenloop. I have studied with other women in their program, and they keep fighting to give other women the possibility to have careers in tech.
There are much more that I’m possibly forgetting, but we’ll do our best to highlight them as much as possible.
Lately, we have been quite silent. Not because we weren’t doing our weekly workshops, or meeting to organize our upcoming November event. We took some time to reflect on some actions that we previously wrote about here and that sort of backfired.
We won’t stand silent anymore, but we also won’t call out names. We have decided to stay in our line of work and continue regardless. Maybe we are not as open as we would have liked to because we’d rather not get contaminated. We want to stay pure, and imperfect. We firmly believe refugees are not commodities, so our new reserved profile responds to this principle.