REFUGEES WELCOME, A NEW WELCOME CULTURE
En Nater We are always looking for projects that inspire us, and on our way, we have come across Refugges Welcome, a very brave initiative led by Susana Hidalgo, its founder in Spain.
Although we are small, we have big dreams, therefore we would like to help spread this project that covers a theme that is part of our essence as a brand and with our sales we can allocate a part of the profits to this foundation; Discover below one of the stories of coexistence and the interview with its founder, and fall in love like us, with this project that has captivated us so much.
Horizontal hospitality. Living in shared homes. Create a safe space. Expand networks. Be a speaker for ordinary people. " Susana Hidalgo, co-founder of the NGO Refugees Welcome in Spain.
Thanks to Refugees Welcome many refugees around the world already share a flat with local people, facilitating the start of their new life
But what is the origin of Refugees Welcome?
It emerged in Germany in 2014, in a rather light way, the founders are Jonas, Marieke and Golde, the idea stems from the massive arrival of refugees, to which the government was not responding favorably. Marieke and Jonas lived together, and they thought, that while she was going to study in Egypt, instead of renting the room, calling an NGO and offering it. The person who shared a flat with Jonah was a refugee. The coexistence was very good, and in their environment they began to do the same. There was an effect called, and Jonas decided to open this initiative to the world and created the NGO Refugees Welcome, which had a great impact and repercussion in 2014, and even became a benchmark for citizens to highlight German policy, extolling the values of citizens who did want to open the doors of their homes to refugees, the project continues to this day with success.
How was Refugees Welcome born in Spain and what is your role in the NGO?
In 2015 through an article by yorokobu (https://www.yorokobu.es/welcome-refugees/ ) I met the Refugees Welcome model, I saw that it was perfectly replicable in our country and I decided to write to the NGO, apparently, about 20 more people had written to them from Spain, so they put us all in contact, and we began to develop the project in Spain as a Federation.
Along with a multidisciplinary team, I am one of the three founders in Spain. The Spanish model does not have the same cultural patterns as the German because they do not have the same ways of understanding coexistence.
Here, the area of social care is very strong, both profiles are analyzed, compatibility of coexistence is studied, while in Germany it does not go beyond putting both parties in contact, and coexistence is more independent.
It is important to emphasize that it is a matter of living together and opening the doors of the house but not of sponsoring, for example if the displaced person wants to go to his ball, it must be respected one hundred percent. We rely on horizontality and respect for both parties. In creating a safe space. Giving citizens a voice, which does so from true love, we are like a loudspeaker of what ordinary people want.
In the end, security and dignity as a person is a right, that is why the concept of horizontality is so important, considering that we are not doing anyone a favor, because the day after tomorrow we can be the ones going to another country.
Why is horizontal hospitality so inclusive?
Because it is a process of redignifying the lives of the people who arrive. That is why it must be done from dignity and not from compassion.
Of course it is an act of generosity, but in reality it is an exchange on both sides, because the person who arrives and lives together also offers a lot. In fact some homes are free but others are not, the idea is that none of them are free.
So, considering that there are houses without pay and others with pay, is it more effective for inclusion to put a quota so that the person feels more autonomous? Yes, even if it is a small fee. There are very precarious wages, there are people who do not have a permit yet, there are wages of 400€, in those cases they can pay a symbolic rent for example 30€, which added to the transport and food subscription is a lot for them. It all depends, there are also houses in which they do not pay, but they take care of the home, without exceeding limits, since the line is very fine.
How do you come into contact with refugees?
They can get in touch through an NGO that works with them in the reception phases, register them and create a profile. Or they register themselves by word of mouth.
What is the modus operandi of Refugees welcome?
It is important to know that we do not work in the emergency, it takes us a year and a half to learn this. Newcomers do not go directly to the house, because they must first go through the reception program managed by the Ministry through the asylum entities.
Basically because we do not want to respond to something that does not have to be done by citizens but by the state. In this first phase, they spend approximately six months (it can be extended one more year, depending on their vulnerabilities, basic skills, cultural gap and language) in supervised flats, they work with a technical team specialized in asylum: psychologists, social workers, lawyers , etc.
Once they pass that first stage, there is a time that they are with financial aid, which covers both rent and maintenance, and that is when they would already go to Refugees Welcome homes. They are people who have a minimum of autonomy.
How is the selection process for coexistence and its monitoring?
On the web we have a form for people who offer their home, and another for displaced people. When we see two related profiles through the records, they are assigned to a local link, which is a person who has received training from the entity and is responsible for calling the displaced person and the person who offers their home, they remain separately and it is the one that fosters a first meeting, and if everyone agrees, it stimulates the entire process prior to the move, the day of the move and after the move.
If the profile fits, it is a very enriching experience. If later there is a problem of coexistence, it would be transferred to the local link. The idea of the local link is that it also invigorates leisure plans for the displaced person to expand their local network. They are usually volunteers. 1% of Refugees welcome are hired, the rest are all volunteers.
When we talk about “Welcome Culture”, is it because this program is only focused on newly arrived / short-term refugees or can it be applied to refugees who have been living in our country / long-term for a long time? You can register migrated people even if they have been in Spain for a long time and have not formalized a petition for international protection, which is what would give access to refugee status. In the end, the profile is people who come here, want to meet local people and expand their network.
And what is the duration of the coexistence?
Minimum six months, extendable every six. There must be a minimum of well-being on both sides, we cannot forget that it is to put people in contact with people, then there is the part of personal affinity, we cannot guarantee that coexistence will fit one hundred percent, in which case, it would be interrupted before.
In addition to the personal and social benefits of cultural exchange, what quantitative data can be provided today, based on the origin of Refugees Welcome? In Spain we have 70 coexistence.
And what outcome do these types of actions have?
The normal thing is that after six months or a year, the displaced person (or because he has found a job, or has kept the one he had and already feels safer, has improved his network, has friends in another neighborhood and wants to move ... ) start another stage of your life elsewhere.
What success stories vs. failure stories have caught you the most?
They are all special. We have the case of a coexistence of an older person, very activist at a social level, with a girl from Somalia who found a job from the beginning, because she wanted to work to send money to her family and cover hospital expenses, despite being I was financially independent from the start, I needed that emotional part of meeting people, so I fit in super well. And the one that did not go so well, was a case that has happened more times, in which the person from the house is eager to make plans and share everything, but the person who arrives needs a lot of space, and not long ago a coexistence It was renewed precisely because the displaced boy needed to be locked in his room, but because he was at that time, and that in the house was not understood and the coexistence ended.
What motivation led you to Refugees Welcome? What if you have carried it out in your own home?
I have always worked on migration, and I wanted to innovate in measures of inclusion from the citizenry, as a project model at the social level Refugees Welcome was revolutionary. Within the board of directors there are people who have lived and are living with displaced people, I have not been able to do it because I live in an apartment without a room, but I would love to carry it out one day. In fact, the powerful message that has permeated Germany is that the founders were pioneers in launching this model of coexistence.
Finally, what would you like to highlight as an added value?
I would like to add that my trajectory in migration has given me a lot of background to professionalize the entity. Now in Spain we are approximately 80 people, between volunteers and 1% of contracted personnel. Although we work as volunteers, our mission carries a lot of responsibility on the part of the entity, because you are bringing unknown people into the homes of strangers. You have to learn to screen the profiles and carry out good procedures.
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By: Miriam Gómez / @ miriamgf_79