Meet Said Rafiullah Kamal, our next young inspiring #EuropeanHero! He is a social worker at the Mosaik Support Centre in Lesvos, Greece. Hear what he has to say about welcoming refugees and overcoming cultural differences:
Posted by European Heroes on Saturday, June 23, 2018
Whether you have lived abroad or not, we all know how difficult it is to arrive in a new country – even more so if we don’t speak the language. Since 2015, large numbers of refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe to seek a better life. Many people started initiatives to help migrants integrate in their new environments.
The following tips are based on our team´s experiences and also on some existing initiatives, in order to give you an idea about the volunteering opportunities you could get involved in.
- Arrange for donations in your school / university / workplace / team
Unfortunately, in many countries first help for refugees comes mostly from donations and not from the state. Therefore, many basic necessities such as clothes, shoes, bags, hygiene utensils, diapers and baby food, etc. are often needed. NGOs like the Red Cross or local initiatives gather these donations and distribute them to refugees.
As a first step it’s good to find out who is your local distributor of donations, and find out what they lack most at the moment. Some initiatives even keep public lists online where they mention the most needed items, like Moabit Hilft e.V. in Berlin. This article in The Independent also lists many great initiatives. Once you know what kind of donations are needed, make a call in your place of study or work, or even within your circle of friends or your football team for everyone to contribute. Give people some time to respond to your request.
- Campaign for refugees’ rights
Find out about the amount of refugees your country is accepting and the obstacles they are facing in your country / region / community. Petition to your country’s leaders to take in more people in need and join demonstrations and online petitions that campaign for improving the lives of refugees. Contact your members of parliament and ask if they are upholding your country’s international commitments to help those in need.
- House migrants / refugees in your flat, even if it’s just for a while
Often refugees have to stay for long times in makeshift accommodation, where it’s hard for them to meet any locals. Getting to know someone in the new city by living with them for a while can be of immeasurable value.
For instance the platform Refugees Welcome helps to connect flatshares with newcomers.
- Offer to arrange an activity at the closest cultural exchange centre / refugee shelter
People who are waiting for the asylum application decision or any other paperwork, have very little to do besides waiting. Some cultural centres or even housing facilities for refugees have thus started to offer language classes, but also just hobby classes like knitting and cooking to bring local people and newcomers together.
Think about something you could teach or an activity you can lead. Could you go once a week for an hour to the nearest refugee shelter and play football with the children living there? How about a language café where people can come to learn new languages? Or a movie night? A monthly picnic with local and newcomer women? There are plenty of ideas, which won´t take too much of your time or commitment.
- Become a support family for someone
Many refugees arrive alone or just with one acquaintance in their new home country. In cultures where they are used to having a big family and many friends around them, they feel lonely, especially during important holidays.
Consider being a support family for someone. Remember their birthdays and invite them to your celebrations. Have Sunday dinners sometimes together and go on a trip to the next lake or park. Think about what you would wish for, if you were in their situation.