An Article from “The Spiegel” about some willing Helpers in Germany


“The day has only just begun, but the phone in Anja Damerius’ office at the University of Siegen is already ringing off the hook. An elderly woman wants to read books to refugee children: “Yes, of course!” Damerius says into the receiver. “When are you available?” A family from the neighborhood wants to distribute food. “Come over.” Toys? “Please drop them off at the church, our garage is full.”

The masters student from North Rhine-Westphalia had actually planned on spending her semester break relaxing, sleeping in, meeting friends and doing a bit of partying. But instead, she’s been working on the campus from morning to evening, she says.

Damerius, 33, coordinates the program for 50 to 60 refugee children at the University of Siegen. She is one of a dozen volunteers at the university who are working with asylum seekers, known here as “guests.”

The regional government has placed approximately 200 asylum seekers in the university gymnasium. Initially, it was seen as a temporary solution, meant to provide shelter for a few days until space in the reception center opened up again. But by now, refugees have been living on the campus for almost a month — and nobody at the university is seriously expecting that the asylum seekers will be housed anywhere else by the time the semester starts in mid-October, despite official promises to the contrary. In fact, 17 additional refugees arrived just last week.

But hardly anyone in Siegen is complaining. The student union is organizing meals through the cafeteria; a student initiative has launched daily language courses, and almost 90 interpreters have been recruited; and, with the help of students, the city is organizing primary medical care.

Siegen University rector Holger Burckhart, who is also vice-president of the German Rectors’ Conference, says that given their status as public institutions, universities have a responsibility to help. “We are part of social life and can give something back to society here.” According to Burckhart, the students are getting a clearer sense of the scale of the world’s crises.

In the afternoon, two computer science PhD students bring by laptops and tablets from their department. In a makeshift Internet café set up in a red-and-white tent, children use the devices to watch music videos. In a corner, three Syrians are trying to reach their families via Skype and Facebook. When it finally works, one of them wipes the tears from his face.

A Nationwide Movement

The University of Siegen is an example of a popular movement taking place across Germany. From Munich to Berlin, Dresden to Hanau, tens of thousands of people are standing up to help refugees: high school and university students, workers, retirees.

Reports about extreme-right attacks on refugee shelters have been heaping shame upon Germany for months. The Federal Criminal Police Office has counted 199 attacks against refugee housing in the first half of this year — almost three times as many in the first six months of 2014.

The helpers from Siegen and other cities and regions embody a different Germany: solidary, empathetic, happy to lend a hand. The volunteers are less visible and less loud than the agitators and arsonists. But they are efficient, and there are lots of them.

In 2014, researchers at Berlin’s Humboldt University and at Oxford University polled 460 volunteers along with 80 aid organizations that work with refugees. They found that roughly 70 percent more people have been volunteering for projects in recent years. According to the research, over one third of the volunteers invest over five hours per week.

These activists protect asylum seekers from attacks by racists, help them look for apartments or jobs and provide medical treatment. More broadly, they prevent the support system from collapsing by compensating for what the state neglects. They also provide what no state can: friendliness and attention — and sometimes even friendship.

Hanau: Maritime Rescue

It’s a Thursday afternoon in August and Hagen Kopp, a 55-year-old warehouse worker, is sitting in a stuffy room in an office building in Hanau, in the central German state of Hesse. He is wearing an earring in his ear and a T-shirt reading “No person is illegal.” The eight-hour Alarm Phone shift has only just begun.

For two years, Kopp monitored the death of the refugees in the Mediterranean for the Watch the Med project. After 366 people drowned in a shipwreck near the Italian island of Lampedusa in October 2013, he no longer wanted to simply describe the catastrophe on Europe’s outer borders. He wanted to put a stop to it.

Together with colleagues from Watch the Med, he founded Alarm Phone, an unofficial emergency number, last fall. The activists take emergency calls from refugees on the high seas who have become stranded on their odyssey to Europe. Other helpers are waiting for phone calls alongside Kopp: Noori, from Afghanistan, Newroz, a Kurdish woman and Asefaw, a man from Eritrea. Hundreds of volunteers are now working for the project, not just in Hanau but in different countries in Europe and North Africa.

The activists have spread the Alarm Phone number online and in refugee camps on the Mediterranean. Desperate people are calling almost every day, usually from one of the satellite phones that is located in almost every boat. The helpers ask for coordinates in English or French and ask whether the boat is damaged, whether there are sick people or children on board. They are constantly confronted with questions of life or death.

Just a few weeks ago, a boat carrying 180 refugees was in distress near the Libyan coast. The desperate passengers turned to Alarm Phone, where the employees transcribed the call.

“Are woman or injured people on board?”
“Of course! Yes! Please!”
“Do you have enough to eat or drink?”
“There is no food, no water. Please, help us!”
“Is your motor working?”
“Please help us. Please. Please help us.”

Klopp and the other employees immediately contacted the responsible coast guard and asked the officials to help those in distress. They kept pushing, again and again, to make sure to make sure that a rescue boat was really on its way. “We don’t let things rest until the refugees are safe,” Kopp says.

Berlin: Communal Cooking

Approximately two years ago, when refugees were camping out on Berlin’s Oranienplatz square, a couple of students were busy thinking about how they could help the asylum seekers. They decided on communal eating. Ninon Demuth, a 25-year-old who studied biotechnology at Berlin’s Technical University, points out that such an activity is unpolitical, global and fun. They considered publishing a small book with recipes from around the world, written by refugees. “Our goal was to reach people who had never before encountered the subject of asylum,” Demuth says. In the end, 21 recipes were collected and 3,500 books were sold. Given its success, the students continued — and began organizing communal cooking nights with refugees and locals.

These events now take place twice a month, each featuring a refugee who cooks a menu from his or her home country. Participants pay €45, and the cook receives a small donation. The group also produced a second cookbook, more professional and printed on high-quality paper. It contains 36 recipes and sells for €25. Five thousand of the books have been sold.

One of the recipes, for a stew called dambou, comes from Mouhamed Tanko, a 31-year-old from Niger. On a recent Sunday evening, he demonstrates the preparation of the meal to 15 guests in a show kitchen located in Berlin’s Charlottenburg neighborhood. Fried plantains and thick slices of yam root serve as appetizers.

While peppers, chard, carrots, fennel, onions, tomatoes and black-eyed peas simmer in large pots, the chef shows photos from his homeland. He says he has ten brothers and one sister, but that he is the only one who made it to Europe. In 2011, he came to Italy via boat, then to Berlin in 2013. Mouhamed Tanko also talks about his grandfather, whom he claims is over 100 years old and has never needed glasses because he consumed so much palm oil, which he claims is good for the eyes.

When Mouhamed Tanko finishes his story, the guests applaud. One student has brought her father, there are several couples, and a woman who wanted to come into contact with refugees. The evening lasts long into the night.

Four of the early organizers have now mostly completed their studies and now work full time for the initiative. They finance themselves and their project from grants, donations and the revenues from their work. The amount leftover for the organizers is “far below the legal minimum wage,” claims Rafael Strasser, a 29-year-old industrial engineer. “It is all still very student-y.”

Perhaps. But the project — known as “Über den Tellerrand Kochen,” or “Cooking Beyond the Plate’s Edge” — has become so big that it demands a full-time organizer. There is a soccer team, a group that plants a rooftop garden and a group of established refugees that join students to cook for newcomers in the Berlin neighborhood of Moabit. The new acquaintances regularly meet for parties on a rooftop terrace in the Neukölln district or to grill on Tempelhofer Feld. The go on bicycle or canoe trips together.

These days, over 100 people come to the meetings. Strasser says they are all about understanding and making new friends, but also about practical issues. One of the refugees, for example, found a job through one of the participants in the cooking class and will soon be starting work at a taxi dispatcher. Others have been hired as cooks.

And the initiative is expanding. Together with the Technical University and Cocoon, an organization dedicated to construction projects, the helpers from Über den Tellerrand are building a so-called kitchen hub. During a five-week summer school session, the students and refugees are designing a communal kitchen for a new space in Berlin’s Schöneberg neighborhood in which the meetings of Über den Tellerrand are to take place in the future.

Dresden: Protection from the Right-Wingers

The tents are lined up in rows. Men and women wait in long lines for food to be distributed while kids play in the gravel. The refugee facilities in Dresden-Friedrichstadt look more like a camp in Jordan or Lebanon than a home for asylum seekers in one of the world’s richest countries.

Julius, in his late twenties, a refugee activist from Dresden, walks around the property. The area is cut off from the outside world by a fence and tarps. He explains how the tent city was built in a rush and that, initially, there was hardly any staff to take care of the approximately 800 people in the camp. But the network Dresden Für Alle (Dresden for All) jumped into the gap and, in the space of just two days, assembled about one hundred volunteers and distributed food and clothing to the refugees.

Cars race past the camp on the way to the nearby Autobahn. But some roll by at a snail’s pace and come almost to a standstill in front of the camp entrance. One man takes some photos and keeps driving, only to return 20 minutes later. Julius claims suspicious people like him are right-wingers wanting to cause trouble and provoke the refugees. Together with other activists, Julius collects the license-plate numbers of the spies and organizes night watches to protect the refugees.

Sometimes the helpers themselves become the target of attacks. In late July, Julius sat in front of the tent city on a street corner with friends after a solidarity event. Shortly before he wanted to leave, 50 people in masks marched up to them, some throwing bottles. “We just ran,” says Julius. One member of the group was beaten up, he says, and had to go to the hospital. Nevertheless, Julius returned to the tent city the next day. “We can’t leave the refugees alone with the neo-Nazis,” he says.

Munich: Healing Deep Wounds

Mathias Wendeborn is on vacation, which means he has more time for the refugees. The 56-year-old pediatrician has established an on-call practice in the Bayernkaserne, a former army barracks, together with other doctors. His goal is to put an end to the conditions that last year turned the overfilled reception center into a symbol for government failure. The doctors, who treat the refugees, call themselves Refudocs.

A young Afghan man with a fever is curled up on a stretcher, his face pale. He has caught the chicken pox, but a Refudoc is worried that he may also have contracted meningitis. To be safe, she wants to send him to the hospital.

About 70 physicians are part of Wendeborn’s association, taking turns so that the practice can be opened on every workday. They include retired doctors and one former clinic director, but also plenty of younger medical professionals, like the general practitioner taking care of the boy from Afghanistan.

Wendeborn runs a pediatric clinic near Schloss Nymphenburg, one of Munich’s most affluent neighborhoods, and his normal tasks involve cuddling babies and calming mothers. At the Bayernkaserne, he also has to take care of the usual complaints: coughs, fevers, sore throats. But he and his colleagues frequently see evidence of their patients’ hardships. “Scars, poorly healed gunshot wounds, burns,” Wendeborn says. An asylum seeker recently came to see him with bloody feet, full of blisters and wounds. The man must have travelled hundreds of kilometers without proper shoes.

Wendeborn is proud of what the Refudocs have established. He had suggested his concept to the authorities, he claims, long before the situation escalated. But it wasn’t until the newspapers reported about the misery, distress and chaos in the barracks that the politicians jumped in. Crisis teams met, task forces were established. The Refudocs started their work in November.

Normally, refugees need to get a document from the social welfare office prior to being treated. But the Refudocs, because they receive an hourly honorarium from the government of Upper Bavaria, see their patients immediately. The doctors see themselves as idealists, but they don’t want to take on the medical treatment of thousands of refugees for free. That, Wendeborn argues, would release the state of its responsibility.

Schwabhausen: Promoted Together

In the end, they were in each other’s arms: Coach Franz Gottwald, his protégé Kanteh Buba from Mali and the other players from TSV Schwabhausen. The soccer team managed to make it back into the regional league on a June afternoon, with a 3:1 win over the FC Pontos München. For Kanteh, it was the moment when it became clear that he had arrived in Germany.

Kanteh, 20, and his compatriot Zoumana Fofana, 21, had arrived in Schwabhausen a three-quarter year earlier after an odyssey through Africa and Europe. Schwabhausen is a community of 6,600 in Upper Bavaria and the two are housed in a container on the edge of town, together with over two dozen other refugees. They live there in close quarters and try to find things to do to pass the time.

Kanteh, Fofana and three other asylum seekers decided last fall to wander into town to visit TSV’s training pitch. Some of them had kicked the ball around a bit during their journey to Germany and they knew the rules from TV: offsides, penalty kicks, hand ball, yellow and red cards. They asked Coach Gottwald if they could join practice and he immediately said yes. He badly needed additional players.

A local aid group donated football shoes while the club itself had sufficient warm-ups and uniforms for the newcomers. On the field, the refugees and their teammates communicated in English, German and with gestures. And it worked: The newcomers were faster than most of their opponents. “We practiced dribbling and kicking technique,” Gottwald says. Kanteh scored three goals last season while Fofana plays defense.

The refugees have since become an integral part of the team. The other players have added them to their Whatsapp group and they take them along when they go to parties in the area. “We are friends,” says Kanteh. His team shirt bears but a single word: “Climber.”

By Martin Knobbe, Conny Neumann, Maximilian Popp, Anna Reuß, Barbara Schmid, Timo Steppat and Wolf Wiedmann-Schmidt

Last Cab to Darwin


This is a trailer to a movie we saw last Monday in Melbourne. Last Cab to Darwin is a very well made Australian movie. The cast was excellent and the road pictures were wonderful.

We saw the movie in this cinema:


We had time for coffee and cake before the movie started at 10am or thereabouts.



This is part of the roof above the big hall where we sat and relaxed having our coffee.
This is part of the roof above the big hall where we sat and relaxed having our coffee and cake.





I got the following from here:

Last Cab To Darwin M

Coarse language and mature themes
Rex is a loner, and when he’s told he doesn’t have long to live, he embarks on an epic drive through the Australian outback from Broken Hill to Darwin to die on his own terms; but his journey reveals to him that before you can end your life, you have to live it, and to live it, you’ve got to share it.

RELEASE DATE:06/08/2015



DIRECTOR:Jeremy Sims

CAST:Michael Caton, Ningali Lawford, Jacki Weaver, Emma Hamilton & Mark Coles Smith


Apparently this movie was a stage play before it was made into a movie.  I got the following from Wikipedia:

Last Cab to Darwin is a 2003 Australian drama/comedy stage play written by Reg Cribb and based upon the true story of taxi driver Max Bell who was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer in the early 1990s. Wikipedia

The Gratitude Bell at Nan Tien Temple



This is where the Gratitude Bell is. There is a great view from up there.
This is where the Gratitude Bell is. There is a great view from up there.


When you chime the bell you are supposed to think with gratitude of your ancestors. I remember when I once walked to the bell in summer, I got very hot. Last Wednesday in the midst of August, I had no problem walking up to the bell. I do love the bell’s sound. It spreads far and wide over the surrounding area.


Our Weekend with Martin, August 2015

Our XPT to Melbourne Aug/ 2015
Our XPT to Melbourne Aug/ 2015

As soon as I took my seat on the train, Peter noticed that I had been given a seat with an emergency button. This made me feel very safe indeed. 🙂 The menu card promised that we could be adequately fed during our long train journey.


In Junee the train had to stop for a while. So Peter had a chance to go off the train and take a few pictures.


In front of Junee Station
In front of Junee Station


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Martin lives in Melbourne near Essendon Station. Martin once took this picture with the rainbow above. He is proud that he could capture this rainbow. He kindly let us have the picture. We did not travel from Essendon Station this time for Martin had hired a car for the weekend and drove us around everywhere.

 Sunday,6th.Aug.2015,Martin drove us to the Woodlands Homestead.
Sunday,6th.Aug.2015,Martin drove us to the Woodlands Homestead.



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Having a rest after a long walk
Having a rest after a long walk
In Aug 2014 we were at Sussex Inlet and saw there a lot of kangaroos.
In Aug 2014 we were at Sussex Inlet and saw there a lot of kangaroos.

But back to the homestead. Refreshments were available there: Great Devonshire Tea and coffee. It was lovely to sit in typical English surroundings.

This is the Entrance to the Homestead.
This is the Entrance to the Homestead.


After we had had our refreshments we went around to have a look at the different rooms in the homestead and Peter took some more pictures:





As we wqere leaving, Peter took some more pictures outside:










This is what I found in The Guardian:


Mass migration is no ‘crisis’: it’s the new normal as the climate changes
by Ellie Mae O’Hagan

What’s the common factor between the tragic deaths of refugees in the Mediterranean and the Arab spring? Food shortages driven by global warming

I’ve been interested in the way the migrant crisis is being debated in politics and the media. It’s that word – crisis – that is particularly striking. It suggests that what we’re seeing in across Europe is an aberration, a temporary disaster to be “solved” by politicians. Even the sight of ramshackle tents in Calais suggests a phenomenon that could be cleared away at any given moment.

In The Concept of the Political, the philosopher Carl Schmitt argued that, when presented with crisis, liberal democracies will put aside constitutional niceties in order to survive. The public consents to its government violating liberal values because crisis is a state of exception, which requires desperate measures.

Perhaps that explains why there has been so little uproar over supposedly civilised societies using terminology like “marauding” and “swarms”, and making policy decisions that result in hundreds of people drowning in the Mediterranean or languishing in detention centres. These things, we think, don’t reflect who we are as people. They are just necessary responses to this current crisis.

There is only one problem with calling this phenomenon of migration a crisis, and that is that it’s not temporary: it’s permanent. Thanks to global climate change, mass migration could be the new normal.

There are lots of estimates as to what we can expect to see in the near future, but the best known (and controversial) figure comes from Professor Norman Myers, who argues that climate change could cause 200 million people to be displaced by 2050.

In fact, it’s already happening. According to the Pentagon, climate change is a “threat multiplier” and does appear to be increasing risk of conflict.

Indeed a new study released in March suggests this is exactly what happened in Syria, after a severe drought in 2006. As the study’s co-author, Professor Richard Seager, explains, “We’re not saying drought caused the [Syrian conflict]. We’re saying that added to all the other stressors, it helped kick things over the threshold into open conflict. And a drought of that severity was made much more likely by the ongoing human-driven drying of that region.”

Syria now has the highest number of refugees in the world. A new government-commissioned report on the looming climate-induced food shortage suggests that “the rise of Isis may owe much to the food crises that spawned the Arab spring”.

In his book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond points out that the most environmentally stressed places in the world are the most likely to have conflicts, which then generate refugees. Rapid climate change will environmentally stress lots of developing countries.

One day there could be Italians and Greeks in camps in Calais, as their own countries become even hotter and more arid
But it’s not just conflicts exacerbated by climate that will create refugees: climate change, in and of itself, is likely to cause mass migration. As Simon Lewis, professor of global change science at University College London puts it: “Climate and vegetation zones are shifting, so the Mediterranean will likely keep getting drier this century, with knock-on negative social and economic impacts. That will be tough for Spain, Italy and Greece, where significant numbers of people may move north, and of course, displaced people from elsewhere wouldn’t stay in the Mediterranean, they’d keep travelling north.”

In other words, the Mediterranean countries currently trying to cope with migrants from other parts of the world may eventually have a migrant crisis of their own. One day there could conceivably be Italians and Greeks in camps in Calais, as their own countries become even hotter and more arid.

In a 2014 paper, Migration as Adaptation, Kayly Ober suggests migration is a good way of dealing with the imminent effects of climate change. She argues that the international community’s thoughts should “turn from not only stemming greenhouse gas emissions, but also how to deal with an already altered world”.

The idea of millions of migrants being assisted to move to western Europe might scandalise the Daily Mail, but it shouldn’t – because migration might be a form of adaptation many Britons may also have to consider. According to the Environment Agency, 7,000 British properties may be lost to rising sea levels over the next century. These people too will need to be relocated.

So what do we do about climate migration? The first step is to change our perceptions. We need to process the fact that migration isn’t going to go away or be “solved”. In all likelihood, it will become more common; a new normal.

The second step is obvious – we must all be more active in pushing governments to take more decisive action to reduce global greenhouse emissions, so that more people can remain safely in their homes and communities. For its part, Britain must adhere to international commitments to reduce emissions in line with keeping warming below dangerous levels (in other words 2C above pre-industrial levels) as well as providing adequate funds for adaptation. Britain must also push for a strong equitable global deal in the Paris climate talks in December, seen by many as the “last chance” to avert catastrophic climate change.

And finally, we need to urgently address the current strategies western governments are using to deal with migration, and the almost rabid commentary that often accompanies those strategies. There is a strong case for Britain to take a substantial number of climate refugees: as the first country to industrialise, we need to take historical responsibility for climate change, and should take into account our historical carbon emissions and their effects when responding to mass climate migration.

The migration we are witnessing is not a state of exception: it is the beginning of a new paradigm – and how we choose to respond to it reflects on who we fundamentally are as a society. We must deal with the victims of this permanent crisis in a compassionate way, not just for their humanity but for our own.