- Home for Refugees in Berlin
About Katie Griggs
Working life began aged 14 in a local pub kitchen on Saturdays followed by a position as waitress at Pizza Hut one year later. Part-time work (WHSmiths, Somerfield, HSBC) continued throughout A'levels and University before landing a full-time position at Richard Branson's newly launched Virgin Finance company in Norwich. A few years later London was calling: a job in marketing at Sky TV awaited. After another few years there, it was time to move away from corporate life so the Amex-card, the car, the phone and laptop were exchanged for a bicycle and second-hand computer. Ten years of self-employed work followed - in London and Berlin with a portfolio of clients in organisations with a social, cultural and environmental focus including Greenpeace, an electric car company and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Then in 2015, 100,000 refugees arrived in Berlin requiring all-hands-on-deck. That included working in several huge emergency camps, hosting refugees at home and setting up Cycling Lessons for Ladies: providing cycling tuition for women refugees in the milder months and in the Winter preparing food together for homeless people at an emergency shelter. So far over 14,000 meals have been prepared as a team. In 2017, a diagnosis of breast cancer at the age of 41 meant there was even more to learn about life (and also time to launch a fundraising initiative "Cancer Care for Aleppo"). Returned to work at Friends of the Earth, as a project manager of environmental projects designed by refugees to finish that project. October 2018 started working for Berlin government managing a home for refugees.
In early 2015 Bassam folded himself into a crate on the back of a lorry in Athens and 36 hours later he was unloaded in Italy. "I am glad I had bought a change of clothes with me“, he told me whilst laughing at the expression on my face as I realised what he meant. He then made his way towards the Netherlands but got stopped by the police in Germany where he was strongly advised to apply for asylum. After one year his wife and two children joined him and they now all live together in Germany. He tells me about why he made the dangerous journey to Europe.
Over the past year I have met many people who have sadly lost everything and are now trying to start again. The challenges they face and the coping strategies used to overcome them are well worth sharing because we can gain inspiration and ideas for strengthening our own resilience, thereby increasing our own capacity for happiness.