Recently, our intern Clara Mendes participated in the training Refugees+ which took place in Brussels, organized by JINT and funded by Erasmus+.
Besides her, other twenty-three people from 20 different nationalities joined the training, eager to learn about each other’s projects and practices concerning the integration of young migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in their countries of residency.
The training was conducted by Jana Pajic and Pepijn Hellebuyck who worked hard to maintain a good balance between work and fun throughout the week. The multiple ice-breaking games and group activities were a crucial part in order for the participants to establish very close relationships with each other and to feel comfortable in sharing more about their life and work experiences.
The organization made sure that the participants got familiar with multiple NGOs which are actively working on these topics within Belgium. For instance, representatives from Tumult and PIN came to the venue to present their project Navigate You(th), through which they have developed a peer coaching system so that refugees who are already established in the country can help newcomers finding suiting activities for their free time while articulating the process with their families.
The group also had the opportunity to visit different cities in Belgium and to get to know the environment in which other NGOs work. Some of the participants went to Antwerp, while others made their way to Louvain, or stayed in the area to further explore Brussels. Clara’s group went to Ghent, where they got to know Refu Interim (who aims to promote the social and professional self-sufficiency of newcomers, through paid volunteering experiences), Jong (an open house in the neighborhood which welcomes young asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, where they can find support and multiple activities) and JES (an urban laboratory developing innovative projects for children and youth in Belgium). The day ended with a wonderful session of communal cooking under the orientation of a Kurdish Syrian family and some magic tricks performed by some of the youngsters from the youth center.
The rest of the days were filled with workshops, presentations and debates, organized and carried on by all the participants, plus very touching personal stories shared by the ones who were also refugees. Topics discussed included sexual health, trauma, self-care, local action and youth participation, alongside activities such as dancing or visiting an Arabic bookshop.
On the last evening, at the Open Arts House Globe Aroma, an artistic work and meeting place that newcomers can use to improve for their own cultural and artistic development, the group was surprised with a workshop of Dabke, a traditional dance performed by Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians and Jordanians. It was the perfect (even though exhausting!) end for an incredible week, full of captivating ideas, hopes, projects, friends, cultures and lots of languages.