Refugees On Rails Cologne

Give refugees - and your old laptop - a brighter future! -- here in Cologne

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We are a group of volunteers from the Cologne tech community that provides free mentorship to refugees who are interested in learning coding.

We started in late 2015 and first organized some individual weekend workshops. We since moved to a regular rhythm of having mentorship meetings with the mentors and students every 2nd Thursday evening.

For the refugees/students our meetings are an opportunity to use the “downtime” that they currently have (since they are not permitted to work yet) to learn a new skill that will be helpful for them in the future. In addition other important aspect of our meetings are about networking and cultural exchange, it’s a good way to get to know new people form the local tech community.

For us the coaches, organizers and the local tech community it is a way to help refugees by doing what we like and what we are good at. It enables close contact with our new fellow citizen. And it might help to bring new talent to our industry.

In addition to the mentorship we are also providing donated laptops, which we source from local companies and individuals, to the refugees so that they can continue learning to code at home.


We have informal mentoring meetups every second week on Thursday nights at 19:00.

You can find the current/upcoming events on our Facebook page or Meetup Page.

We plan to offer a structured 3-month web developer course that will start on Thursday September 1. With biweekly group meetings and weekly coach-assisted exercise time. We will be using the curriculum from the Firehose Project.

If you are interested in joining the class, you should attend at least one of the meetups in August to prepare for it.


Our mentoring meetups take place in the Railslove office in the south of Cologne

Railslove GmbH
An der Bottmühle 5
50678 Köln

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Who is this for?

Our mentorship meetings are meant for all interested refugees from the Cologne region.

You should have decent English/German skills and a strong interest in computers. Programming experience is very helpful and welcome, but not required. Everything else (laptops, location, drinks, etc.) will be provided by us.

Learning content

For the meetings, we don’t have any particular lessons or a curriculum prepared for the students. Instead we just have a number of mentors with a wide variety of skills that are happy to provide mentorship in any way that works or to help with little projects that students are working on.

If you don’t already know what you want to learn/get mentorship for, we offer 2 tracks of tutorials that you can do (together with our help):

Track 1: HTML for beginners

  • Understand how web pages work
  • Build your first web page (for example a personal portfolio page)
  • Apply custom styling with CSS
  • Create interactive websites with JavaScript
  • You do not need any previous programming experience for this
  • This is the tutorial that we will use:

Track 2: Advanced web development (with Ruby on Rails)

  • For everybody that already knows a little bit of HTML/CSS
  • RailsGirls App Tutorial:
  • Having some basic programming experience is certainly helpful, but not required


Our mentors are simply volunteer from the communtiy.

If you would consider mentoring at at our meetings, just join our Slack chat channel and come to one of our Thursday-meetings

Who are we?

We are a group of volunteers from the Cologne tech community who would like touse their skills to help refugees here in Cologne

  • Jakob Hilden
  • Denise Schynol
  • Christian Vervoorts
  • Tatjana Lajendäcker
  • Tim Fischbach
  • Natalie Friedrich
  • and more

How can I help?

There are many ways to help:

  • Help us reach the right participants in the refugee community
  • You (or your company) could donate some not too old laptops
  • We are looking for coaches/mentors for our workshop(s)
  • There are many other areas that need organizing help (editing, design, PR, logistics, marketing, …)

Laptop Donations

Do you, or your company, have any old laptops that are not really used for anything anymore? You can give your laptops a new life and make a real change for on of our refugee participants.

Here is how the donation works:

  • We will securely wipe all the data on your laptop(s) for you using military-grade software, so you don’t have to worry about that.
  • Laptops can be dropped of during business hours at Railslove (address see above)
  • For the laptops to be useful for programming they need to meet the basic requirements of at least a 2 core CPU and 2 GB of RAM.
  • The laptops remain property of Refugeesonrails, but can be taken home by the participants.

What are the plans for the future?

We are still a very young initiative and are very open to new people and new ideas. So, if you have other ideas what you and the Cologne tech community could do for refugees, please let us know. We are very open for new directions.

In the press

Here is a list of articles that were published about our Cologne meetup:

Other IT-related offerings for refugees in the area

  • At the C4 (the local location of the Chaos Communication Club (CCC)) there is an “Brückenbauer” integration course every Tuesday from 18:00 to 20:00. It involves language learning, smartphone repairing, socializing, coding, hacking, video gaming and more. If you are interested you can find more information about the C4 in their FAQ [de]

  • The C4 also helps with IT infrastructure (internet access, wifi, …) for refugee camps in Cologne with their Chaosnetz initiative

  • “FlüSchmiede” is a regular Android/Java development course taking place at the Stadtbibliothek. The next course will take place on Friday July 22 from 14:00 - 17:00. You can find more information in this blogpost [de]

Code of Conduct

Be nice and fantastic to each other. More infos here: Berlin Code of Conduct


You can contact us on our Facebook Page, by writing an email to, via Slack, or in our Google group / Mailinglist