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How can digital education in terms of informal and non-formal learning contribute to the topic of migration in the European Union? The Innovation in Learning Institute at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg asked themselves exactly that question. The Erasmus+ project CaseWORK is the fruit of their labour. The project supports long-term and successful integration of refugees together with four other EU countries—Slovenia, Italy, Greece, and Austria.
The programme is not targeted towards refugees themselves as much as towards the volunteers who work in the area of asylum and integration. Volunteers are a key force in the field of migration and their enthusiastic dedication is the reason that many integration and support programmes for refugees are possible in the first place. It is no wonder that volunteers are considered the driving force behind successful integration. The targeted support of the volunteer sector in the field of migration is thus a central task. The CaseWORK team is confident that supporting the helpers can directly affect the success of volunteer-based integration measures.
The volunteer sector in the field of migration: needs, problems, and solutions
The volunteer sector in the field of migration has changed in the years since the start of the “refugee crisis” in 2015. While the number of volunteers skyrocketed at first, their ranks have thinned considerably over time. There are various reasons for this. For one thing, the once welcoming attitude of the media and of society has shifted. Furthermore, the spectrum of volunteer tasks in the field of migration has undergone a significant transformation. In 2015, the main focus lay on first aid and immediate, urgent issues, such as distribution of clothing and food. Now, in what is a far more time-consuming and long-term process, refugees need counselling when it comes to integration measures and must be supported in their daily lives.
At the same time, the volunteer sector in the area of migration suffers from a shortage of suitable support programmes that do not further infringe upon the daily life of the volunteers by requiring time-consuming commitments. Organising and maintaining a support network is without doubt an unusually challenging endeavour, which can leave volunteers feeling abandoned and overwhelmed. The CaseWORK project aims to provide targeted support to volunteers in areas in which there is a deficit thereof. This way, the potentially daunting threshold to commencing volunteer work can be lowered and, for those already active as volunteers, adequate assistance can be provided.
What type of support does CaseWORK offer?
The CaseWORK team has developed an online training seminar, available free of charge, which provides support to the heterogeneous group of volunteers active in the field. The seminar is easy to use and offers a maximum level of flexibility. In order to align the content with the real needs of volunteers, the team assessed the topic of migration in all five partner countries and, with the help of personal interviews and surveys, determined the needs, problems, and wishes of volunteers. The results of this needs analysis are available on the project’s website at casework.eu. Despite the differing situations of migration volunteer work in the partner countries and the fact that the key issues cannot be generalised, there are three core areas in which volunteers need support across the board.
Firstly, there is often a shortage of information on regulations and legal issues, such that many find it difficult to orient themselves within the European asylum system. Another matter concerns the fact that volunteering, particularly in the field of migration, is highly challenging and can also be psychologically taxing. The confrontation with heart-wrenching biographies combined with the overall psychological implications of helping means volunteers must work through and process their experiences in order to learn to healthily cope with emotional burdens. Last but not least, there is often a need for more pronounced intercultural competencies, so that volunteers can properly assess situations as well as overcome language barriers. Support in this area helps volunteers to avoid cultural pitfalls. Therefore, the training seminar includes the following three core modules:
Where can you find further information and how does participation work?
The training seminar will be available free of charge starting in mid-September. There are no prerequisites for participating in the courses. We invite anybody who is interested in the topic to sign up and get started. In the meantime, please find further information about the project on our website casework.eu. Stay up to date and sign up for our newsletter or start by visiting our Facebook page CaseWORK.
Save the Date—28 November 2019
On 28 November 2019, a final conference will be held in Fürth at the Innovation in Learning Institute. This event will focus on the results of the piloted training seminars as well as serving to promote general exchange and networking between organisations and experts in the field of migration. To this end, experts and interested parties from all five partner countries have been invited.
Be a co-creator!
If you yourself wish to actively participate in the conference by giving a presentation, please contact us any time per email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We appreciate all participation and every contribution. Detailed information about the conference and about the course launch will be released shortly on the project website casework.eu.
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About the author: Mona Schliebs has been a research associate at the Innovation in Learning Institute since 2017, where she coordinates the CaseWork project. Additionally, she supervises the university’s learning platform and is in charge of planning and implementing electronic exams.