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COVID-19: Challenges for civil society and activism in Germany

Our volunteer Sabina Triseckin, who returned to Germany earlier, writes about public initiatives during the pandemic in Germany:

It speaks for our society that so many people in the world are showing solidarity to deal with the Corona crisis. Within a very short time, thousands of volunteers in Germany have contacted institutions, organizations and initiatives to offer their help. However, the commitment has to be rethought in a new and secure way, because personal contact and interaction with people and target groups is currently not possible.

On Twitter, under the hashtag #NachbarschaftsChallenge, many initiatives by individuals or groups in neighbourhood become visible. An overview of existing initiatives in Germany:

🔸 Online interaction and help for neighbours: www.hilf-jetzt.de, www.nebenan.de, www.quarantaenehelden.org, www.the-butterflyeffect.de

Almost as fast as the virus spread, websites were created to help older people or people in the risk group. Thousands of volunteers have registered to go shopping and do other tasks instead of the elderly or at-risk people, such as buying medicines, helping schoolchildren learn, and assisting with caring for children or pets.

🔸 “Just talk” – entertaining elderly lonely people: www.silbernetz.org

The Berlin-based Silbernetz estimates that around eight million people in Germany between the ages of 60 and 99 suffer from loneliness or isolation at least during certain periods of their lives, a situation that became particularly acute during the COVID 19 period. Thanks to the activists, lonely elderly people all over Germany can now talk freely, confidentially and anonymously with silver-network friends every day from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

🔸 Helping people with language barriers: www.triaphon.org

The “Triaphon” project was launched in Germany to inform people with language barriers and to relieve an already overburdened health care system of the communication problems that people with different languages have. There is an emergency Corona aid service for people who need help and who speak Arabic, Bulgarian, Farsi/Dari, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Turkish or Vietnamese.   

🔸 Corona School: Bringing the classrooms online: www.corona-school.de

Not only the schools but also the universities are currently closed. In order to relieve parents, pupils and students during the Corona crisis and to ensure a safe and reliable learning atmosphere, the “Corona School” arranges contact between pupils and students for virtual learning support. The initiative is based on voluntary work.

🔸 Help with the transition to online mode: www.so-geht-digital.de/magazin/ploetzlich-digital-die-sprechstunde/

Due to the coronavirus and social distancing, many social organizations are forced to make a complete and urgent transition to online work and decentralized interaction. The transition process often raises many questions and causes problems.  The initiative “Suddenly Digital: The Consultation Hour” organises an online consultation every Friday at 11.00 a.m. Technical experts show tools for online and video conferences and help to solve problems related to the virtualization of work processes.

🔸 Buy vouchers instead of toilet paper: www.gutscheine-statt-klopapier.de, www.lokalsupport.com, www.paynoweatlater.de

In order to support local restaurants, leisure businesses, retailers, service providers, hotels and other businesses in the crisis and to save them from going out of business, initiatives have been developed in Germany to enable them to sell vouchers online which can be used after the quarantine.

🔸 Your city brings the goods to your home: www.deinestadtbringts.de

Closing the doors of many organisations and companies, an important measure to fight the coronavirus, is a big problem for small and medium enterprises, as they are now threatened by closure and bankruptcy. Retailers, restaurateurs, hotel owners and service providers are literally fighting for their existence. Many retailers are able to deliver goods from their shop to the customer’s home. To help potential customers to know which companies in the area offer goods and can deliver them to their homes, the online portal “Deine Stadt bringt’s” has been set up, where you can view and order a list of these companies. Local transport companies or the dealers themselves bring the goods to the customer’s door.

People actively use these services and develop their initiatives and participate in these and other volunteer projects in the hope that all this will allow them to better survive the difficult period and cope with the problems encountered.