article series Yīshízhùxíng for
Magazine Cittadino Globale
The famous Chinese idiom 「衣食住行」(Yīshízhùxíng) says the four basic elements of our existence what we dress, what we eat, where we live and where we travel. In this world all big cities are jumping into big capitalist pool. We interviewed different people in Berlin to find out how they work out these four aspects in an unorthodox way.
Adam, Homeless Veggie Dinner (HVD)
Adam. Photo credits : Florian Gottschall
Starting from 2010, you found every month in the Berlin Couchsurfing (CS) group a post “Free Homeless Vegetarian Dinner”, a group of volunteers started to serve you a tasty meal every month.
1.) Where is the idea of this community dinner from?
3 years ago I met an old friend in Berlin and coincidently we ended up living in the same neighborhood in Kreuzberg. My friend had access to a space with a kitchen and asked me how to help turn this place into a lively community place that would benefit the neighborhood.I brainstormed some ideas with my couchsurfing friends and soon different members of the CS group contributed and shared their skills. I started thinking what people need and what I can offer, then I thought of food.
“Because food is for everyone.”
2.) How do you solve the food supply problem and provide this free dinner?
The idea is to provide a dinner for all. People who can afford to pay are free to donate, and the amount they donate covers the cost of the dinner for them and for the homeless. We don’t require a minimum donation or a donation at all.
“You can donate as much as you want or as little as you want to enjoy a free dinner.”
We managed to find a wholesale market in Westhafen Berlin for our food supply. The wholesale market must sell the freshest food to the retailers. Therefore once this food isn’t totally fresh anymore they cannot sell it. They always throw away so much good food, so we pick it up and turn it into a tasty dinner.
3.) Could you share with us a story about a “customer” at HVD.
I always try to remember faces of everyone who comes. There was a guy who had been missing for a year and no one had any idea on where he had been. After one year I met him at HVD again, greeted him and asked how he was. He then told me had an accident and ended up in hospital for a long time.
4.) What is the biggest challenge of HVD?
It is to find the homeless. We went through different homeless shelters and networks, and at the last HVD in July we had around 100 homeless people.
5.) What are the differences between HVD and other soup kitchen?
We try to serve everyone as if they came to a restaurant. For once they can sit at the table and order their meal. No queues with a plate in one hand and the cuttlery in the other.
Also HVD is a dinner mixing homeless people with the others in the society, they are all served the same. There’s no difference between someone with or without money at the dinner. In fact, several times I’ve seen a poor person come and put his or her 10 or 20 cents into the box. Knowing they actually pay for the dinner dignifies them.
6.) How do you measure the success of HVD?
First is the sense of community: the volunteers involved are not treated as helpers, they feel like one of us, enjoying the fun of cooking, going to shelters to promote the dinner and traveling around to collect food. We are all running this dinner together.
Second is I hope HVD can inspire people in other places, so that people start similar projects in their communities.
7.) What is your future goal of HVD?
We would like to bring the homeless back into the society. We want to connect with other volunteer organizations to provide them skill-trainings and job opportunities.
8.) What is your dream?
I don’t really have a dream. But after I organized HVD for these homeless people I realized I just want to be happy.
“Sometimes you are just so lucky to do the things which make you happy.”
9.) Do you like Berlin?
Yes, Berlin is a magical place. People are open-minded and you always find random opportunities here.
We are all having fun organizing these dinners. It’s not a job and nobody pressures us into doing it. I think this is the key to our success.
Photo credits : Veronica Solomon
Homeless Veggie Dinner
Facebook : Homeless Veggie Dinner
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org