CHANGE: Students & Refugees together for Inclusive Societies
The project in brief
Jesuit Refugee Service Europe (JRS)
European level project in Belgium, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Malta, Portugal. and Spain
The project started January 2019.
The project is ongoing until December 2021. It is expected that the project can be sustainable after it officially closes as the materials will be available to use through the project’s website in a variety of languages.
CHANGE aims to educate young people on the positive contributions of refugees to society and encourages them to take action in schools and local communities. CHANGE promotes critical thinking and forming value-based judgments.
CHANGE seeks to encourage the dissemination of fact-based information complimented by the stories and testimonies of refugees to create a balanced perception of the situation faced by asylum seekers and refugees who have arrived to Europe seeking safety. CHANGE takes place in schools with students up to 18 years old and, by extension, teachers and the larger school communities of administrators, coaches, and parents.
The project enables students to develop critical thinking skills, to debate different viewpoints about migration and to counter overtly negative coverage and/or hate speech present in the media, in social media or among their peer groups.
Additionally, the project provides awareness raising material and communication tools for social media to mobilise students to spread positive messages about refugees.
CHANGE focuses on the following outcomes:
- Partnerships will be developed across 9 countries in Europe between schools and the JRS partners – to create national and a Europe-wide network – with the aim to develop and implement awareness raising and educational activities with young people
- Real facts about migration and integration will be communicated to young people and disseminated throughout society through social media and events in schools and local communities
- The awareness raising projects aimed at young people will change societal attitudes about the positive contribution of migrants to our societies;
- Stereotypes, negative rhetoric and/or hate-speech against third-country nationals will be combated by young people through micro-campaigns
- Refugees are given a voice in the public debate on migration and integration through their involvement in the awareness raising presentations in schools and their involvement with micro-campaigns or advocacy activities with students.
CHANGE has mobilised a network of about 400 schools, teachers and students across Europe (BE 25, ES 110, HR 30, HU 20, IE 25, IT 100, MT 30, PT 50, UK 20). We expect that the project will be able to reach approximately 60,000 students and teachers.
In addition, a small group of about 10 students per school as Student Ambassadors who will participate further in the project goals, disseminate awareness raising material and lead at least one event per year in their school or local community – totalling 800 student lead events of the project over the course of 2 years.
Finally, the Voices for CHANGE speakers council involves 50-100 refugees who are trained to delivering appropriate presentations and testimonies to young people and are able to visit schools to tell their stories to the students in their classrooms or during school assemblies
CHANGE is co-funded by the Asylum Migration & Integration Fund (AMIF) of the European Union from 2019-2021.
- Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Europe
- JRS South East Europe (Croatia)
- JRS Portugal
- JRS Malta
- JRS Hungary
- JRS Ireland
- JRS Italy (Centro Astalli)
- Stanislas College
- Foundation ALBOAN
Challenges and how they were overcome
No significant challenges were encountered in the project so far.
Results of the Good Practice
- Specific impact can better be reported at the project’s end.
- The project, through a research methodology, aims to evaluate a change in perception in young people’s views over the course of the project. The baseline survey for this evaluation is currently being completed through an online form, and the follow-up will be completed at the project’s end.
How the project meets the GCR Objectives
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
CHANGE’s main goal is to educate the next generation of society’s leaders to think critically and to be well informed on refugee issues, in order to form their own value-based judgements. With growing populism, nationalism and negative narratives spreading across Europe against migration and refugees, CHANGE aims to change these narratives. Despite negative reactions and contrary to the anti-refugee discourse, it is proven that there is widespread support across Europe for embracing migrants and refugees in societies. The reality is that over one million refugees what Europeans need to accept the reality of migration and that refugees are already here and living in European societies. Therefore, the challenge now it to ensure that people are accepted, integrated and that societal cohesion remains intact across Europe – CHANGE aims to strengthen the values of young people and by extension for the society of the future. The European Commission’s Action Plan on Integration of Third Country Nationals dedicates a specific session on education, not just in the sense of ensuring education for migrants, but also in supporting the school community to promote inclusive education. In general, the Action Plan recognises the importance of targeting youth, in particular through education, to prevent and combat discrimination and to foster social inclusion.
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
Through the Voices for CHANGE speakers council, refugees are made more self-reliant. This council engages a group of about ten refugees across nine European countries. Refugees involved receive specific training developed for the project, are accompanied through the process by JRS staff and receive a small incentive compensation for their participation. Refugees are invited, through Voices for CHANGE to share their stories with students in order to create moments of real-life connection with young people and educate them on the challenges and hopes of refugees. In telling their stories, refugees focus on personal experience of living in a new, challenges and opportunities, and their hopes and dreams for the future.
Participating helps refugees to develop valuable skills like public speaking and presenting, developing their language skills in their new country and increasing their self-confidence. It also enhances their social networks and capacities by introducing them to people – with students and educators, with other refugees and migrants and other associations who they may not have otherwise met and who become a network of support for them.
CHANGE is ongoing, with funding until 2021. The project’s material and educational curriculum will be available on the website and can be sustained or adapted after the project’s official completion.
Claudia Bonamini, Jesuit Refugee Service Europe