A give and take: Berlin visitors engaging in social projects


Undeniably, wielding of a dusty broom or a mucky pitchfork is readily associated with serious physical effort – yet, both chores could turn out to be oh! so rewarding emotionally! Perhaps activities such as these may not come to mind ad hoc when considering a trip to Germany’s trendy capital, Berlin. The modern full-time hedonist will usually opt for places of ample sophistication: clubs, theatres and cabarets, museums, the opera, boats, urban beaches or street parties, chic shopping malls, quirky cafés or fine dining restaurants and might even muster the patience to queue up for a visit to the parliamentary Reichstag … all of which are stops equally perfect for fringe programmes enhancing exhausting conference schedules!

Since the end of the Cold War and Germany’s reunification in 1990, Berlin’s worldwide popularity catapulted the city into top ranks amongst metropolises largely considered the most attractive ones. Meanwhile, excessive tourism has lost some of its lustre for many a sensible traveller, and it is they who are looking for experiences free of the superficiality that oftentimes prospers in the neighbourhood of the consumption-minded. Social responsibility is a stance that may well be converted into reality even during a brief vacation or business trip. Vostel, a young Berlin agency, have started bridging a gap asking to be filled.

Encouraging matchmakers

The founders of Vostel: Hanna Lutz and Stephanie Frost

The founders of Vostel: Hanna Lutz and Stephanie Frost. Photo ©Vostel.

Vostel founders Hanna Lutz and Stephanie Frost see themselves as mediators between volunteers and not-for-profit organisations seeking help for their social projects. Interested parties are invited to post their applications directly via the agency’s website. Getting to know the city in a socially and environmentally responsible way off the beaten track or connecting with Berlin’s truly multicultural denizens form part of the scheme for regular visitors: In the course, many friendships have been forged, language skills improved and valuable inside tips exchanged.

An interactive platform for social volunteers

Foreign volunteers not versed in German might be concerned about their language barrier. No need to worry! How about investing some of your faculty at „The Old Sheep Farm“ in Brandenburg? The homestead is being run in a sustainable and organic manner, and a hands-on mentality is definitely required. The sheep, horses, dogs, pigs and chickens frolicking on the estate of 15 hectares, are equipped with inborn sensors tuned to comprehend words uttered in any random language.

You will stay for three days/2 nights, free accommodation and board granted. Farm work like feeding, cleaning the stables, doing some gardening or tending to the fields will be part of your responsibility. You may also have to help out with painting or hanging wallpaper, if necessary.Please register at least three days ahead, bring wellies and old clothes (it’s a messy job!) – and be sure to be on terms with the unpretentious, ecological way of life you will encounter here.

Advanced German is needed when supporting the Berliner Obdachlosenhilfe e.V.
The non-profit organisation renders aid for the destitute whose fate is a desolate life in the streets. Volunteers provide them with clothes and warm sleeping bags donated by the society. You can improve the situation of the homeless by helping to prepare fresh and healthy food along with hot drinks and by distributing the rations at the locations they frequent. With some luck, you may even discover your hidden talent as a successful morale-booster.

To qualify, you
– should be communicative without reservations towards the group of people you are dealing with.
– Acceptance and solidarity should come naturally.
– take challenges pro-actively without guidance
– hold a valid pass issued by BVG = the public transport system to move around the city
– need to register as early as you possibly can, three days in advance at the latest.


Header image ©Christina Feyerke