The study session “Active citizenship in the Refugee crisis – local projects for global exchange network” was held in the European Youth Center Budapest in cooperation with the Council of Europe and its Youth Department, from the 21 to 28 August. This event gathered 29 participants from 12 different countries, as well as 6 trainers.
This study session was an intense learning experience for participants, as well as very inspiring and motivating. What made this week so special is the fact that half of the participants were AFS volunteers, while the other half were people from different external organisations, all engaged in work or volunteering with refugees. The participants were recruited in pairs from the same country – each consisting of one AFS volunteer and one participant from an organisation working with refugees.
In February 2016, EFIL Board recognised the need and importance of contributing to the refugee crisis as follows: “While acknowledging that AFS is not in the frontline when it comes to dealing with traumatised people, AFS does have good contacts with school networks and an expertise with ICL education, and can play a role when it comes to targeting local communities, and even better so in cooperation with other non-profit organisations specialised in the field.”
This is why the aim of the study session was to establish local cooperation between AFS and external organisations who are experts in working with refugees, as well as cooperation between the initiated projects themselves.
The specific objectives were:
- “Raising awareness and discuss the terminology and legal definitions of the term refugee.”
- “The organisations (both refugee organisations and exchange organisations) get an opportunity to learn from each other and discover the complexity and the challenges regarding the needs and the reality for an inclusive society (local community and refugees).”
- “Get inspired and learn from good practices in the topic from other European countries, within and beyond the AFS network.”
- “Develop at least one concrete initiative and activity for every participating country, involving AFS volunteers and structures in the refugee support and plan further follow-up.”
- “Exploring the possibilities of collaboration between exchange organisations and organisations working with refugees and discussing synergies between the ideas/practices of youth exchange and the work with refugees.”
The participants were very motivated and engaged and they enjoyed sharing and exchanging opinions. Different local realities were shared and explained. As they were supposed to work together after the seminar, a lot of time was dedicated to team building and get-to-know activities. Participants also had an opportunity to get to know and explore themselves better, in order to understand where their motivation comes from and what personal resources and talents they possess to carry out their projects and thus make a change.
In the end, every country pair came up with one project to implement after the seminar. Support groups (peer groups) were formed, consisting of three projects each. Participants will, in these groups, stay in touch after the study session and help everyone implement the activities they have planned, as well as motivate each other in times of low spirit.
Some of the follow-up activities are:
- Organising workshops for under-age refugees and AFS exchange students together
- Visiting local schools and talking about migrations and interculturality in order to raise awareness and create understanding among local youth
- Visiting refugee centers and providing workshops about local culture/different cultures and language lessons
The external organisations present were:
- Voices of Young Refugees in Europe (VYRE) – Preparatory team
- Formaat, Belgium – Preparatory team
- Mitrajectories (France)
- Fedasil (Belgium)
- Save me Konstanz (Germany)
- Refugees welcome café Hamburg (Germany)
- Red Cross (Iceland)
- Intersos (Italy)
- Press (Norway)
- Asylum Protection Center APC (Serbia)
- Asociación de Apoyo al Pueblo Sirio AAPS (Spain)
- RFSL (Sweden)
- KuGlobalAId (Turkey)
A big thank you to the Prep team and the participants for having engaged in this innovative session for EFIL and good luck for implementing the projects developed!