This summer, for two weeks, Brussels office of the European Federation for Intercultural Learning has had a chance to cooperate with Obada Ota Bashi, a young refugee motivated to volunteer in a youth organisation. The project was facilitated by TANDEM – an initiative set up in support of Brussels-based refugees, helping them restore their dignity and autonomy through short-term volunteer placements in European NGOs.

Please find below a text written by Obada about his experience and don’t hesitate to approach the EFIL office for further information.


My name is Obada and I am Syrian. I have been living in Brussels since August 2015 and I obtained my refugee status in December 2015. I have volunteered with EFIL through TANDEM initiative that helps refugees volunteer and gain new skills and experience in NGOs. During these two weeks with EFIL, I learned new things about the importance of intercultural learning and the importance of youth networks in Europe. I think it is very important to have organisations like EFIL that can help raise awareness on intercultural learning and connect young people through Europe.



My volunteering in EFIL included days in the office where I helped in preparation of a study session in Budapest on involving refugees in youth work. The study session “Active citizenship in the refugee crisis – local projects for the global exchange network” took place in the European Youth Centre in Budapest from 22 to 27 August. The goal of this study session was to encourage active citizenship and cooperation among youth organisations in order to exchange practices and experience when it comes to the assistance of refugees.

I can say that this study session was useful as youth needs to be included in discussions and concrete actions in order to help refugees coming to Europe. Often, people are very much unaware of the real situation that refugees are going through – here I am talking about the experience in our countries but also the experience of the very dangerous crossing of the sea and many European countries. I believe that my participation was valuable as I had a chance to explain real problems refugees are facing when coming to Europe.

I think that every organisation that is willing to help can do so. In my view, there are many obstacles with the integration of refugees in Belgium and I am quite sure in other EU countries. I am confident that if there is willingness, there are also solutions. For that, organisations that want to contribute can take very concrete and realistic actions.

One of the main obstacles for the integration is the  impossible access to the labour market. Therefore, one concrete action is to give the opportunity to people to volunteer in NGOs or other organisations. This can clearly help with widening the knowledge on the functioning of NGOs, but also with improving different skills and competences. Also, there should be a way to start recruiting people as trainees and also as regular employees.

I consider AFS able to help with this and spread the good practices among other organisations. This would, then, be one of the best examples of integration of refugees.

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