Refugees on Rails Rethinks Refugee Support
Anne Kjær Reichert and Weston Hankins, from Berlin, wanted to help the 600,000 refugees that entered Germany this year. They also noticed that Berlin didn’t have enough coders to fill the growing demand of its startup sector.
Lots of Europeans have been trying to come up with ways to integrate refugees into their communities during the long waiting periods between when they arrive and when their work permits and residence documents are issued. Reichert and Hankins saw the opportunity to bring them into the startup community to help give their forcibly idle lives more normalcy.
With their consultant friend Ahmet Acar, they started Refugees on Rails, a startup that teaches refugees to code using Ruby. They’ll launch their three-month curriculum at the end of the month, using donated laptops and co-working spaces.
26-year-old Syrian refugee Muhammed is also involved in the project. Having lived in four other countries as a refugee before settling in Germany, he has been eager to be productive during his 10-month waiting period. An entrepreneur himself with a degree in business administration, this project is the perfect fit.
Lots of people in the startup community already want to hire refugees to bring fresh perspectives into their companies. But Hankins tells Forbes that it’s about more than that. It’s about helping people return to their lives, integrating them into the community, helping them find activities and connect with others through online tools they will gain the skills to develop.
Hankins says, “We’re not giving them jobs. We’re giving them tools in case they want to become entrepreneurs which can mean running a business or running a project. It’s really about empowering them to create their own future.”
To find out more or get involved visit http://refugeesonrails.org.