Germany is a country of active citizenship: some 23 million German citizens are involved in work for their fellow men and women and for society as a whole – in clubs, schools, environmental organisations and charities, as well as in migrant organisations, intercultural groups and religious communities. This commitment constitutes an important contribution to society which is complementary to government measures and more far-reaching. Perhaps you would like to get involved too. Besides the feeling of doing something worthwhile, you also have the chance of developing your networks or even finding new friends.
Do you want to get actively involved in environmental or social work? Or would you like to have contact with people from your home country or of the same religion as you? You’ll find a wide range of possibilities in Germany. The "Engagiert in Deutschland" Web page in German provides a good initial overview.
You are free to decide what voluntary work you want to do, as under German legislation everyone is free to choose which legal association, party or religious community they wish to join. However, you may be expected to pay a membership fee. You can ask the organisation you wish to join for details. Of course, you can also found a club or another kind of organisation yourself.
One thing is certain: it will do nothing but good. Because your commitment means not only exercising social responsibility and helping others, it is also a way of achieving personal development. You can let your potential and creativity unfold, meet other people, get to know local or internationally operating bodies and improve your language skills. So why not play a day-to-day role in this and help to shape your environment by giving something of yourself!
Many schools and day care centres in Germany depend on the active involvement of the parents. You regularly get to meet the teaching and educational staff as well as other parents at parents’ evening. As well as this, you can also join a parents’ group. By maintaining a constant dialogue with teachers or educators, you will be able to take an active role in the day-to-day life of your child at school or at the kindergarten (Kita). Moreover, you will be kept informed about his or her education and school work or get counselling, as well as being able to contribute your own ideas. You can find out exactly what you can do by asking the teachers or other parents. Also, you can find a list of parents' associations on the German-language Web site „Planet Beruf“.
Virtually all towns and cities have places where peoples of different cultures and immigrant organisations can meet. Here, people of different origins, cultures, religions, ages and nationalities come together. Besides their involvement in social issues, these associations usually offer a multitude of different intercultural activities – cultural festivals, leisure activities, sports, and grants for basic and advanced education. But the principal aim is to foster cultural exchange and mutual respect. Many towns and cities have an office for multicultural/intercultural affairs, or for integration, an integration officer and a council of religions. Here, committed individuals work towards ensuring that different cultures and religions in Germany live together in harmony. Perhaps you would like to do voluntary work with one of these organisations, or share your culture and traditions with others too.
For many immigrants, it is important to maintain their cultural and religious roots or to teach their children and descendents something about the traditions, language or religion of their country of origin. This is why it is important to build contacts with fellow countrymen and women who are living in Germany. Try looking on the Internet or in the phone directory to see whether there is a community or association near to you which does something that interests you. In Germany there are countless communities and associations which cater to the different cultural, linguistic and religious needs of people from all over the world. These often function as counselling and networking centres and can help you, especially during the early days of your stay, with useful tips and their experience of all aspects of life in Germany.
Do you already feel at home in Germany? In that case, you can share your treasure trove of experience and your knowledge with others and help them to settle down in Germany. Below are a few contacts for finding out about intercultural associations and migrant organisations near to you:
If you want to do something to help your home country, again Germany is a good place for doing so and offers a variety of possibilities.
Building bridges – active citizenship for development
Many people with a migrant background work in all kinds of ways to help development in their countries of origin or other regions. This way, they can act as key bridge-builders between the two worlds, because people who know different cultures, languages and regional contexts have a wealth of potential which can lend great impetus to mutual understanding, cooperation and development The German government runs a number of initiatives and programmes to support them in this:
Companies too provide plenty of opportunities for getting involved and for inputting your ideas, culture, or experience of other countries. For example, you can join the staff representative body, one of your company's internal networks or a work group which counts particularly on international know-how. By getting involved, you are not only demonstrating an interest in your new employer; it is also a quick way of getting to know colleagues from other sections of your company. You will overcome your initial difficulties with the German language and also pick up valuable tips about your new locality.
Incidentally, more than 1,200 companies, public bodies, associations and charities in Germany have already signed the “Diversity Charter”, committing themselves to fostering a tolerant, pluralistic corporate culture. You can find a list of these committed employers here.
Migration: Harnessing the opportunities to promote development (PDF, 1,20 MB) (German)
Information about the commitment of advisory boards (German, English, Russian and Turkish)
Information about migrant organisations in Germany (German, English, Russian, Turkish)
More than 500.000: How to find fascinating associations and clubs (German, English, Russian and Turkish)
Funding of immigrants‘ private business activities (German, English)