In 2015 more than a million refugees arrived in Germany and Thomas Noppen saw a need to create HiMate!, a non-profit organization which connects new arrivals and other marginalized people with free community events and services in Berlin.
To Thomas' surprise, in the beginning, only 200 people accessed HiMate!'s offerings via its website or mobile app. Then a Syrian refugee and HiMate! volunteer, Rami Saleh, offered Thomas some game-changing insight: "Everyone [of the refugees], 100 percent, uses WhatsApp because they use it [to connect] with their families at home. You can be sure that they have that."
"We wouldn't reach most of the people we reach now if it wasn't for WhatsApp."
Now, every week, HiMate!’s WhatsApp newsletter goes out to 800 people in Berlin and as many as 200 passes to social events are claimed by subscribers via WhatsApp. Thomas says, "We wouldn't reach most of the people we reach now if it wasn't for WhatsApp."
In February 2018, HiMate! began using WhatsApp Business to better connect with its users. Thomas says the away messages and quick replies features allow HiMate! to respond instantly to users, even on weekends, ensuring that no query goes unanswered.
Majd Saad, another Syrian refugee and HiMate! user, says, "It's more natural and easy to communicate by WhatsApp. I prefer that more than emails or [a] website."
Speaking about how HiMate! and WhatsApp helped him settle in a new country, Rami says, "If you have no German friends, you do not learn the culture and the language. [HiMate!] was very helpful to start a new life in Germany. WhatsApp helps us get information easily, without any bureaucratic hassles."
WhatsApp is helping HiMate! become a greater force for good than Thomas ever imagined. More people are joining HiMate!'s efforts and organizing social events for people living in refugee shelters.
"HiMate! used to be an app," Thomas says. "Now it’s become a community."