Working For The Three Day Homeless in Berlin

For those who are new to Berlin, this city's relationship to immigrants is a long one that goes back before the Gastarbeiter (guest worker), in which a wave of immigrants came to West Germany during the time of the DDR. Today the political landscape has changed as Berlin has the largest amount of incoming refugees than any other city in Europe, which since August 2014 is considered to be a crisis by main stream media.

Weather you personally think a large amount of refugees pouring into a wealthy nation such as Germany, and a poor city such as Berlin, is a good or bad thing, the fact is this city is taking in as many people as it can who no longer have a safe place to rest their heads. Berlin now has a growing industry for people from countries with refugee status, who work to help others find a safe life here in the city.

One of these people is Majdi Laktinah.

Majdi Laktinah, 27; half Greek, half Syrian born in Damascus Syria, is a dentist, turned photographer, turned Middle Eastern/North African expert of the Berliner Stadtmission at Kruppstraße 16 Emergency Refugee Shelter, approaches me with a warm smile and a hug of sincerity. He is shorter than average, with shaggy black hair, bright inquisitive eyes and a beard that would make any young hipster jealous. Armed with his Nikon 5200d and a green parka, he blends into this city like the graffiti on the walls that surround him.

The shelter where Majdi works is for people who are waiting for the German government to approve their refugee status. They come to stay for a few days until they are transfered either to another shelter, or have been given a semi permanent living situation. Some of these people actively seek out shelter after shelter, living nomadically, not officially relocating.

I started off translating and greeting people in Arabic, then I solved a food issue. No one from the middle east was eating the potatoes and sausage the mission was preparing, so I created a menu for them. After that they asked me to create a proper meal plan.

Now Majdi runs the kitchen. His experience? Cooking with his mother. With a background as a dentist in Syria, his education focused more on cleaning decaying food remnants from peoples mouths rather than serving it. He tells me “They had a proper chef call me and I had to teach him how to cook rice. Germans make rice differently than Middle Easterners. I was training a chef that owned his own restaurant how to cook rice! I just do what my Mom did”.

Majdi has a insatiable passion for food. One of his major goals is to create an underground kitchen, where he cooks for small groups in their own homes. He is a member of Über den Teller und Kochen which is in the process of creating a cookbook compiled of recipes from the refugees they serve.

Today's word of the day is “der Flüchtling” (refugee)

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By Glenn Crossley

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