We have been supporting a refugee house in the 2nd district of Vienna, which is run by Wieder Wohnen, a subsidiary of Fonds Soziales Wien, our most important cooperation partner. Approximately 23 families live here (about 110 people), half of whom are children. The families are mainly Muslims from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, as well as some from Iran and Nigeria. Additionally, we continue supporting the families who have in the meantime already received asylum in Austria, and have moved out from the state housing system. Although basic needs are met as legally required by the government, we are able to do so much more.
Shalom Alaikum has a unique method of individualized aid and offers a strong piece of social infrastructure. By establishing direct relationships and forming friendships, we are able to connect individual needs to solutions in a creative and flexible way. We act not only as helpers, but also as confidantes and persons of trust.
We have also focused our energy on activities intended to bridge the cultural gap on a personal level, promote intercultural understanding and create a dialogue between Muslims and Jews within the context of Viennese culture.
Each new family receives a multilingual welcome letter (mit Link), explaining who we are and why we are helping. On a monthly basis we offer our “Let’s talk” sessions, where refugees can approach us with their difficulties or wishes: these can range from sports shoes, bicycles kitchen utensils, public transportation tickets, German courses to supplying medical care for pregnant women, sick or disabled children, or finding access to academic institutions for toddlers or teens, who are not legally “eligible” for school (under the age of 6 and over 16 years of age).
As time passes, new obstacles arise, and we are learning, together with the refugees, how to deal with the challenges. After receiving asylum, finding an apartment to live in and an occupation with a paid salary, become a top priority; however, many refugees encounter difficulties and are very often exploited. We try to prevent this from happening, by using our network of friends and Facebook followers to find accomodations, recommendations, and as such we constitute the foundations on which the refugees will be able to build their new lives in Vienna.