The “Bahnhofsmission” is an aid organisation located at more than hundred railway stations in Germany. It has been around for 125 years. Here everyone, regardless of age, nationality or religion, can take a break, have a coffee, chat, or find protection. Homeless people looking for accommodation, people with disabilities or psychological and/or addiction-related problems, lonely and elderly people, people living in precarious conditions as well as refugees – they come here to find help – free of charge and without questions asked. Most of the 2,000 people working and helping here are volunteers.
At Hildesheim Central Station you will find the “Bahnhofsmission” between platforms 2 and 3. You need help changing trains? No problem. Whether you are a minor traveling alone, a senior citizen, a physically challenged or a visually impaired person – the friendly staff will help you find the right train. Once a team member had to travel to the next city involuntarily, because the train door closed before she could get off the train. In order to avoid this situation, employees are advised to not board the trains, but help situations do not necessarily go according to plan.
In addition to the human employees, there is Sammy, a Labradoodle, 8 years old, voluntary assistance dog for the “Bahnhofsmission” in Hildesheim. His owner Jennifer brings him along. There is no such thing as an official “station mission dog”. He is unique and enjoys something like a celebrity status here in Hildesheim. In order for him to get to work free of charge, the local city transport company SVHi donates an annual ticket in recognition of his charitable services.
He is there when he is needed and stays in the background when somebody doesn’t want any contact with the dog. Some people open up more easily to a dog, might only tell him about their problems and needs. Sammy listens, even if he has heard the story dozens of times before.
Life at the train station is a continual coming and going. There are those passing through and those who find a home here for a few hours a day.
A traveler has to spend a longer stay and settles in the lounge to have coffee and spend time reading.
A desperate school child would like to call home to ask the parents to pick her up from the station. The Bahnhofsmission helps.
A young Muslim, who sells subscriptions for a large German daily newspaper in front of the station, finds the opportunity for his prayer breaks in the quiet room.
There is the elderly lady who – for years now – spends a bit of time here after she met friends for coffee. She brought a packet of coffee as a donation.
Andreas is here almost every day. He talks a lot about celebrities and apparently knows all the birth and death dates of countless actors and musicians. The numbers and pieces of information just spill out of him. Those present express their admiration for his memory.
People play games, drink coffee, warm up, talk, try to remain in contact with each other.
Sammy strolls from one person to the next, trying to pick up the occasional treat from the visitors – of course, always from the treat bag with his own food, which he proudly carries from one to the next.
With his blue collar and the badge of the Bahnhofsmission, Sammy attracts attention on the platforms or in the entrance hall.
He sometimes carries his bag with goodies to show people that he uses his teeth only for the good.
The staff of the Bahnhofsmission approach people at the station in a friendly way and offer individual support if necessary. With Sammy as their companion, it’s easier to overcome initial barriers. They evaluate the problem and, if necessary, pass it on to the suitable specialist departments, for example to the counseling centers, help organizations for the homeless, food or clothing banks, but also the social psychiatric service or a psychiatric clinic.
There is, of course, the occasional turmoil as well. Sammy can report when someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which is of great help for the employees. However, there may be incidents requiring the help of the police. Even during extreme commotion, first aid situations, when the ICE hisses through the train station or the ambulance thunders in – Sammy stays cool.
He didn’t necessarily have the best start in life. In his early years he suffered from several diseases, but his family lovingly nurtured him back to health.
At the beginning, some employees were skeptical. “A dog at work? What’s that supposed to do?” Some were afraid of such a big animal. His reserved, calm manner, however, melted the hearts of the skeptics. He is the mascot of the team. He makes things easier, without asking for anything in return.
Sammy, a dog in the service of humans.
Many thanks to the people of the Bahnhofsmission in Germany for their tireless efforts to make this world a better place.
The Bahnhofsmission is financed by donations. Find their website here: