From immigrants to citizens

From immigrants to citizens

When it comes to working with immigrants, many times we put high emphasis on teaching the language of the receiving country, or on giving more and more information about the culture of the receiving country. While all these are valuable, it might be good to challenge the way we are doing this… is there another, more efficient way, instead of having our participants in a classroom and offering courses to them?

Name of the activity: From immigrants to citizens
Duration: as long as you would like to.
Preferred location: preferably outside, anywhere (your location will mostly depend on the activities that you do).
Working method: learning by experience, individual work and teamwork.
Purpose (expected impact, outcomes): creating an interaction between your participants and members of your local community; creating and fostering inclusion through simple, practical activities.
Instructions: create an event or create a workshop schedule for your participants, so that they can return regularly (in this second case, the continuity will bring much more results and opportunities for you in order to follow their process of development). During this event or during these workshops, have a list of practical activities that your participants can do outside, such as repairing a bike, cooking a meal, cleaning materials from previous activities, digging a hole, gardening, or repairing something around the house (preferably outside). Give a timeframe for your participants (in case you decide to use the workshop schedule, they can have a certain amount of time at once – let’s say 4 hours – and come back the next time to continue their work where they left it). For all these activities invite local people as well, who would gladly contribute to the inclusion process of your participants, by working together with them, speaking and practicing the local language and offering more information about the area and about the possibilities it holds. Having an organic conversation between your participants and local people can be extremely valuable; doing practical things, asking help from each other through these, and learning more about the culture and language while creating actual human connection can bring great results in the long-term and can make this whole inclusion process much more sustainable. As a plus side, you also get a lot of things done around your foundation, which can benefit you as well.
While the activities are running, you as a facilitator should also walk around, support your participants here and there, and do what the locals are doing – have conversations, get to know them more and find out how you can guide them appropriately.
Debriefing: after each activity or after a period of time (every few weeks) you can have a cup of tea with your participants and reflect on the whole experience. Some questions that can guide you:
– how is the experience for you?
– what are you learning?
– which is the direction or the next step you would like to take?
– have you discovered any new possibilities in the area that you would like to try?
– what are your difficulties?
– what more would you like to do?
With all these questions you can support them in realizing where they are standing and how would they like to continue. Still, many times with this target group, having such a conversation is quite difficult, therefore you can just include these questions in your everyday practice, individually, while painting the walls or gathering the leaves. The key here is to follow the progress of each individual and to support them by asking questions, giving tailor-made assignments or making personal observations from time to time. It is also good if before this activity you create a vision board with your participants, check what is their desired outcome in the upcoming few months, since then you can guide them in this direction, in the direction they chose for themselves.
Possible alternatives, changes for different circumstances: since this frame is quite wide, you can easily play around with it. You can decide for how long you would like to do this, what kinds of activities you would like to include, and how you are planning to guide your participants through this experience.