Volunteering at Rise Foundation with Patient Care TL, Genevieve
In this interview, we speak to Patient Care Team Lead, Genevieve about her volunteering for a local homeless charity, Rise Foundation.
Written by Cory Jones
Published: Friday, 29 September 2023
We believe that we have a responsibility to help the community around us and play a positive role in assisting local projects focused on improving health and wellbeing. Whether through fundraising or sponsored events, it is our goal to unite our company culture with these kinds of initiatives.
So, in this interview, we spoke to one of Medbelle’s Patient Care Team Leads, Genevieve, on her experience as director of Rise Foundation e.V, a local charity organisation that helps the homeless population of Berlin.
Through this selfless work for Rise, Genevieve shows how her caring nature extends beyond her role at Medbelle and the support she provides to our patients. She is instrumental in growing the volunteer base of Rise and helping to organise its vital outreach to vulnerable people around Berlin, and we are proud to have her in our team and support her passion outside the workplace.
Can you give me a brief introduction to what Rise Foundation does?
Rise Foundation is a small homeless charity, focused on providing support and resources to people sleeping rough in Berlin. We help people in need by distributing essential items every two weeks. We deliver things like food, sleeping bags, warm clothes, toiletries, sanitary products and essential medical items, as well as socks, gloves and hats in the winter.
The organisation has been going since 2018. I am the director of Rise but it was initially founded by a guy called Piyush about six months before I joined - it began with him just reaching out to people on social media looking for ways to help the homeless. It is no secret that Berlin has a serious homelessness crisis. And so, it started out with a few volunteers who went to his house and cooked food and distributed it. From those beginnings, it has grown significantly but the core ideas have always remained the same - it’s about direct outreach and providing essential items every two weeks to those who need them.
What made you decide to volunteer with Rise?
I worked in a homeless hostel in London years ago. I always loved the job. When I moved to Berlin I wasn’t sure if I could carry on that kind of work because of the language barrier and my poor German skills at the time. I began searching on Facebook for opportunities to help and sure enough found Rise Foundation there. On the page, it clearly stated that you could join even without any German skills so I decided to go along and volunteer at one of their events and got a feel for it. From then on, I carried on volunteering over the next months and eventually, Piyush asked me to become more involved with the operations and running of the charity. I was delighted to be able to help more.
Can you think of one memory of working with Rise that has stuck with you?
One of the people who stood out to me was a homeless girl we helped around three years ago. We did some distribution around Warschauer Strasse in Friedrichshain which is an area with a very high population of homeless people. It was a rainy day, we all got completely soaked while volunteering that day. So, due to the rain, most of the homeless people gathered underneath a bridge for cover. But one young homeless girl was sitting out in the rain. We went over and chatted to her and gave her some supplies.
We suggested she go and get cover under the bridge too, but she didn’t want to because she would not get any money from begging there. Such was her need for money to support her livelihood that she would sit in the pouring rain - it was heartbreaking.
She was 19 years old and had been homeless since she was 14. She also spoke 4 different languages, English, German, Spanish and Japanese - she was clearly highly intelligent. She spoke to us at length about her experiences over the last years - what struck me was her resilience. She had spent 5 years without family, sleeping rough in Berlin all the while she had either learnt or continued to practice 4 languages. And, all this in spite of all the extra dangers and difficulties that young homeless women face, too. It was an incredibly moving experience and really highlighted the issues that we’re up against with homelessness.
What is next for Rise? Any volunteering or fundraising opportunities we should know about?
We will continue to do our events every two weeks and distribute items to those in need. And so, volunteers are always welcome for those. We do have some fundraising events in the future too and we are currently applying for a big fund with which we could open a day centre in Berlin for homeless people to come and wash their clothes, get information, help, hot food and hot drinks. Our aim is to open the day centre towards the end of the year.
The fund is from the European Commission that has become especially important and pertinent after the pandemic. They have set funds for each country in the EU and can distribute them to various charities that deal with issues to do refugees, the homeless and those who are otherwise vulnerable.
In what ways can people help with Rise’s Mission?
If you’re based in Berlin, we are always looking for volunteers. During the pandemic we lost a large chunk of our volunteer base as it had disrupted so many people’s lives, so unfortunately Rise had lost its rhythm a little. We’re still trying to get back to the pre-pandemic levels of involvement at the moment, so a stronger volunteer base would be really helpful. I’m very grateful for many of my friends and colleagues in Medbelle who have made up such a large part of volunteers in the past but we always need more!
We also always need donations. For clothes, we’re actually quite picky due to limited storage - but still, clothes are often helpful. But even more so, we appreciate donations of other essential items like socks, new underwear, any winter items and sleeping bags. Toiletries and medical things are really important of course too.
Finally, one really helpful way people can get involved is by connecting us with any corporates. If anybody has ideas for how we can collaborate or partner with your employer then that can be really useful. It was one of the most successful ways of fundraising pre-pandemic. Medbelle have actually always been a really big part of it too with sponsorships, lots of the art in the office was bought from a Rise Foundation fundraiser in 2019 and many of the team and the founders are regular donors.
Finally, of course, direct donations via our betterplace.org page are always really welcome too.
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