The story of Ghayat and Biggi… and all the others

Axel Halling

Everything is different for Ghayat Svied now that he knows Biggi Marburger. Gayat Svied is 42 years old, has a degree in biology and worked for 17 years in environmental protection in Syria. For the past year he has been in Germany, trying to learn the language and to build a life for his family and himself – but he hardly met any Germans. ‘I was lonely here,’ he says. By chance, Svied discovered the office of the community foundation in Kalk, part of the city of Cologne, and took part in its mentoring project – that’s how he met Biggi Marburger. She is retired and has lots of time, and had registered as a volunteer there. ‘Personal contact is very important to make you feel at home in this country,’ she explains. Now they meet once a week, drink coffee, check Svied’s language book lessons and visit each other’s families.

Rising to the challenge

Following the large influx of migrants to Germany in 2015, many organizations, initiatives and individuals have been supporting the new arrivals. Community foundations, with their local knowledge, networks and independent funding are among these organizations.

'Magic Physics’– volunteers and newcomer children discover natural sciences the fun way. A project run by the Berlin Community Foundation.

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Janis Emmanouilidis