Why German entrepreneurs wants to give refugees free coding lessons

A group of entrepreneurs in Germany are coming together to try and give the young refugees arriving in their country something that will be useful to them even in future.


This group have started a project by the name of Refugees on Rails in order to teach the refugees some necessary technical skills, coding lessons and language lessons for free. Coding lessons such as people can find on afterhoursprogramming.com, the difference being these refugees may not have the ability to educate themselves through websites such as those stated previously, therefore projects such as these exist… Read further to know more about the project and the people behind it.

1 Project Refugees on Rails

With the rise of influx of the refugees in Germany and other EU states, employment is becoming an issue that has to be dealt with emergency.


Hence a group of German entrepreneurs have decided to teach the refugees computer coding for free. The project is the brainchild of a Berlin-based nonprofit organization named Refugees on Rails, which is offering a three-month-long course on Ruby on Rails, a widespread programming language and framework for website builders.

The organization aims at enrolling upto 20 students at a given time before they start the course, which will start in a few weeks’ time. This information was conveyed by Anne Riechert, the organization’s co-founder.


She hopes that it will give people who have reached the country and await documentation, something to learn which might help them with employment. Riechert said, “A lot of the refugees are getting German classes, but still there’s a lot of time waiting, we’re hoping that time can be used in something that is meaningful and building skills that can help when the papers are in order to then go out and get a job here, or to continue studies.”

Project Refugees on Rails

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2 Refugee crisis

Germany has received the majority of asylum seekers from Syria and other neighboring states, a staggering 600,000 have already entered Germany this year. Hundreds of newly arrived migrants are waiting outside city’s health and social affairs office for their numbers to be called for registration.

Most of them spend their time wandering around refugee camps or sitting on park benches. In between waiting for registration and knowing information about each person and whether they should be permitted to stay and where they should stay, the migrants have very little to do but to only wait.

Refugee crisis

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3 The objective of the project

The original idea of the project came to entrepreneur Weston Hankins, who was discussing with a friend about the shortage of computer programmers in Berlin, when a brilliant and viable idea struck them; What if they trained refugees to code?


“It was just so obvious,” said Hankins, who then brought his friend Anne Riechert on board the project saying that the coding lessons for refugees would not only balance and fill the lack of people with technical skills all across Europe, but will also kick start the students’ new lives in a new country.

The organization also plans to teach refugees English or German, because the students must know one of the two languages necessary to study in Germany. The only requisite for the students is to have a prior experience of using a computer like using Facebook. They do not need to have any prior knowledge of software coding or high level programming skills.

 The objective of the project

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4 Funding of the project

Refugees on Rails project is currently totally reliant on volunteers who are willingly running the organization using their own time, Riechert said. Also the kind people of Berlin have donated over 190 laptops for use of students in the lessons.


Along with that Tech giants like Microsoft and Deutsche Telekom, have offered their offices to be used as classroom and working centers for free to the organization. This offer has been extended by several local companies as well to the Refugees on Rail project.

The project is seeking active funding so that it can rent space for classes and grow the organization and pay its volunteer workers. Riechert hopes to gain partnerships with the German government or the European Union, or even with tech companies using the companies’ corporate social responsibility programs or fund foundations.

Funding of the project

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5 Expected Results of the project

An example of the refugees on rails program is that they have been working with Haj Ali Muhammed, a refugee who arrived in Berlin some 10 months ago from Aleppo, Syria for last 6 weeks, in order to take the programs to other refugees who are willing to learn new skills and seek out further opportunities and make it more useful for as many refugees as they can.

“Who knows the future, how it will be,” Muhammed told a news channel. “I think it will be great for us to improve and I think it will be good for society also” he continued.

Expected Results of the project

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Many tech companies from Berlin, which is growing as a tech hub, requested the Refugees on Rails for recruiting refugees with some specific skill sets. The co-founders of the project keep an eye on the job postings and specific skill requirements by such companies in order to design the course keeping employment in mind.

Riechert hopes to take the Refugees on Rails project beyond German borders. Several organizations in Germany and across Europe, including those in Cologne, Paris, London, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Helsinki have shown active interest in running similar projects in their areas and countries.


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