Woman Of The World — Anna Gyulai Gaal
Steps, no matter how small, matter. The trick to making any sort of positive impact on the world is to simply start taking them.
Anna Gyulai Gaal started with one small step. To say that her efforts have made an impact, would be an understatement. Her project, to help Syrian refugees find their footing in Germany, began in 2015 when she first moved to Berlin. She was a journalist and was writing a piece on refugee camps. It was through her exploration of the harsh living conditions, that it became clear to her that she needed to find a way to lend a hand.
While the German government is doing their part to provide support for refugees, the housing offered is far from comfortable. Some of the houses are set in old military airports; others are in old town hall buildings. There aren’t any kitchens and they have to share bathrooms with hundreds of other people.
Food is such a crucial part of Middle Eastern culture. Without a kitchen, there is no way to prepare a meal. Anna’s observation of the situation became a spark that would set her mission in motion.
I thought, why couldn’t I give women access to my home, and give them the opportunity to cook their own food? — Anna
It would be a small step in the direction of helping the Syrian refugees integrate with the Berlin community. Anna started by inviting her family and friends for dinners prepared by the refugees. Two worlds coming together to bond over Middle Eastern cuisine.
In January of 2016, Anna offered to take care of the refugee children so parents could have time away to get out of the small confines of the refugee camps.
Being locked up, in such a small space all the time, is difficult. Everyone needs to get out and get a breath of fresh air. I wanted to make sure they were able to do that. — Anna
And she didn’t stop there; she took them to appointments and helped them break language barriers that had previously stopped them from filling out legal paperwork. All the while, she was building upon her original concept of bridging a connection between refugees and Berliners through home cooked meals. She extended an invite to anyone in the Berlin community to meet refugees at her home and share a meal.
She could feel the impact being made, and that’s when she decided that she could build her mission even bigger. A few months in, she decided to turn her project into an independent NGO. A charity of her own. Her website www.refugeedinners.com is in the works. The larger goal is to help others get involved in hosting dinners in their own homes.
Berlin alone had 54,000 refugees come into the city just last year. The line outside the immigration office stretches for miles.
It’s extreme. These people think they are escaping to a better life. And then they get here and they wait. They don’t get to choose where they live; they are placed in temporary housing. Sometimes they stay there for years. The situation is really unimaginable… A common misconception is that refugees come from impoverished lives, but for most, that’s not the case at all. — Anna
These are smart people who had money, nice homes, and really beautiful lives. But they live in conflicted countries. Their homes were being bombed, and their family members were being killed. They cannot stay where they are, so they have to sell all of their belongings and hire smugglers to help them leave to safety. — Anna
It’s difficult for first world minds to even conceptualize the trauma involved. Families are breaking up, homes are being bombed. There is no other solution but to escape, so that’s what happens. The reality is devastating. But connectors like Anna are getting involved to shed light on this dark reality.
I find that some people walk through the world and are open to connecting and giving back to others. It’s those people who make a difference. Many individuals with a certain mindset can change the world. — Anna
When Anna got started, she never dreamed that her idea would be anything more than just a few dinner gatherings. And then suddenly the New York Times, the LA Times, and other large publications were knocking at her door. Her small steps were becoming bigger strides and her idea began to truly go the distance and spread across the world.
My hope is that other people begin to follow me and host dinners in their own homes. I would love to see these dinners happening all over the world. My greatest dream of all is to help people understand the refugee struggle. I believe that knowledge and connection are the best ways to make the world a better place. — Anna
To grow, Anna will need continued donations and financial support. Right now, the refugees who prepare the dinners receive payment from the guests who attend, but they’ll need more than just donations alone. Anna’s dream is to employ refugees within her organization.
It would be so wonderful to have 90 refugees working for us and getting paid for their work. We’re not there yet, there’s so much for me to learn, and so much support that we’ll need, but I’m going to keep the big idea in my mind. We’re going to keep moving forward, and keep taking steps. — Anna
It was through Withlocals.com, that We Roam discovered Anna’s initiative. Our group had the pleasure of experiencing the shared meals first hand. In case you missed it, one of our Roamers Jessica captured the night beautifully in this article — Syrian Refugee Dinner in Berlin
Bringing worlds together, building bridges, and opening minds to different cultures is what we’re all about here at We Roam. To be able to connect with Anna and the Syrian Refugees in Berlin was really an incredible thing. — Nathan Yates, We Roam Founder
In a world that feels big and filled with many problems seemingly beyond our control, it can be difficult to know where to begin or how to get involved. Anna’s advice?
Don’t think that you need to go big. I’ve always been involved in social projects and I’ve always done volunteer work. For example, when we have a lot of leftovers from the dinners, I go down to the end of the road with my boyfriend, and we warm up the leftovers and pass them out to the homeless people at the train station. I don’t think of myself as a big changer. It’s just about starting with the small things. It’s about able individuals helping out individuals in need. — Anna
It’s a concept so simple, yet so impactful. The We Roam crew left the night at Anna’s with full stomachs, full hearts, and a full agenda for how we’ll be spreading Anna’s good work throughout the rest of the world.
Stay tuned for more updates to come in the near future.
While the world is changing us, we’re busy making plans to change the world.
If you’re interested in becoming a Roamer, submit an application here. One of our team members will be in touch!