Integration: a process carried out together
The project in brief
Stichting Lemat (Lemat Foundation)
Stichting Lemat is an Eritrean diaspora-led organization working in the integration of newcomers from Eritrea. The organization provides empowerment trainings and offer guidance to newcomers from Eritrea supporting them to be productive in their educational endeavours and future careers.
Eritrean refugees are guided and supported integrating into Dutch society with the help of, mostly, Dutch- Eritreans (who have been in the Netherlands a long time or are born there) and Eritrean newcomers who have mastered the integration process and are self-reliance and are a role model for fellow Eritrean newcomers, who understand where they come from, understand their culture and share the same background. This is an unique and specific form of support in which Dutch Eritreans and Eritrean newcomers are used as bridge builders, in order to reduces the gap between the two societies and to stimulate the integration process.
Stichting Lemat provides specific trainings and consultancy for professionals and policymakers on cultural awareness and effective integration policies and strategies based on the needs of newcomers from Eritrea and has been lobbying and advocating for the rights of this group in order for them to build a sustainable life in the Netherlands.
In Tigrinya (the most spoken language in Eritrea), Lemat means “growth, flourish development”. We want to see Eritrean newcomers flourish in their new country by narrowing the big cultural gap and making integration successful. We focus on newcomers of all ages (the biggest group are in the ages of 16 to 35) and all genders.
We believe that for integration to be successful, everyone needs to work together. This will help putting newcomers in contact with others and building relationships with the local population. We, as Dutch-Eritreans are serving as a bridge between cultural differences and to help them connect with educational and job opportunities, while bringing them in contact with their Dutch neighbours. We also give trainings on cultural awareness to civic workers, employers, teachers and others.
Our project focuses on the following elements:
- Empowerment trainings for Eritrean newcomers focusing on making a future plan and the importance of becoming self-reliant. This include teaching them about what they need to do in order to succeed, how the educational system is organized, how to present themselves, what are the main cultural differences and why is it so important to adapt, and how does the Dutch system work. We also provide sexual and reproductive health education.
- Weekly meetings in Rotterdam, Assen and Amsterdam to help them with their homework, provide language trainings, help them make their CV/resume and in job searching, as well as to train them in soft skills. These meetings also serve to play sports together and connect them with Dutch neighbours and volunteers.
- Cultural awareness trainings for professionals, policy makers, employers (from the private sector), civic workers, health professionals, and volunteers, among others. We train professionals who work with Eritrean newcomers and give them information on their cultural background, why is there such a big gap, how different the cultures are, what have they been through, the mental state of Eritreans as well as challenges in integration. In summary, we give them tools on how to work effectively with Eritrean refugees.
- Advise policy-makers at the regional and national level. Advising governmental and other organizations on how to implement effective integration tools and what fits the needs of Eritrean newcomers is essential.
- Special trainings on/for Women and Girls, Women/Girls only Empowerment. These are very important for the integration process as they have needs.
- Family support, parents and children come together and learn together. Parents discuss subjects as “raising children in the Dutch context” and children receive extra homework guidance and Tigrinya classes.
- Organization of activities together with Dutch volunteers to visit museums, learn more about Dutch history, eat and have fun so that newcomers can better integrate.
- Computer classes.
- Psycho-social support focusing on mental health. We have certified trainers who give trainings on mental health issues using the 7 roses methodology. In groups you will discuss in a safe environment about stress reduction and mental health.
VIDEO: The route to connection
The main aim is to integrate Eritrean newcomers successfully in to the Dutch society, making them self-reliant and making the host community a place where they can call home, be healthy, speak the language, have access to education and find a job.
Resources used include:
- the law of integration and the law of participation (Participatiewet) enabling Municipalities to work with us for successful participation of Eritrean newcomers
- 3 national funds (Oranje fonds, Kans21, Kansfonds and VSB fonds)
- Various national governments (muncipalities) like Assen, Lelystad, Woerden, Amsterdam, Hoogezand, Wolvega, Nijmegen, Steenwijk, Emmen, Sneek, Overbetuwe, Tholen, Berkelland, The Hague, Bloemendaal, Purmerend, Amersfoort etc.
- The Dutch Refugee Council, various Dutch Language schools and social work organizations.
Challenges and how they were overcome
- In the beginning there was no funding available - we started and managed our first 2 years without any funds. Even though this was very challenging, we managed to overcome this through our dedicated volunteers.
- Another challenge is that sometimes there is much more needed to be done for Eritreans to integrate successfully. Specifically, there is a need for drastic policy changes. Many Eritreans come from rural or remote areas and arrive to a Dutch digitized system, which makes it extremely difficult for them. For instance, language classes and exams are being done digitally (on computers). If people never worked with a computer before we can’t expect them to learn the language by using a tool they are not familiar with. For this reason we need to look at other ways of learning and then invest in computer classes in parallel. We need to look at where refugees come from and adjust our policies to their needs.
How they were overcome
- We received funding from various municipalities and national Funds in order to broaden our activities.
- We worked with various municipalities and the invested in more empowerment trainings and computer classes.
Results of the Good Practice
- There are many Eritreans who participated in our project and are now pursuing an education or have a job. We have reached over 700 Eritrean newcomers with our project. They have adapted themselves and are on their way to become more and more integrated.
- We have trained more than 450 professionals working with Eritreans. These professionals now have a better understanding of Eritrean refugees' background and are using the tools we provided to them for more effective guidance.
- We also manged to influence policy-makers as they are investing in more trainings such as computer and budgeting classes.
For example, in Lelystad (The Netherlands), Eritreans and the civic workers working with them experienced a lot of inter-cultural miscommunication and were unable to understand each other properly. Thanks to our trainings on both sides and mediation, this was overcome.
Another example of a success story was a school that asked us to provide trainings because the youngsters were not coming to school. Once we trained Eritreans about the importance of school and education in the Netherlands, this was resolved. After our training the school informed us that they were all going to school again.
How the project meets the GCR Objectives
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
Through the involvement of the Diaspora living in the host country we are helping both Eritreans and the Dutch with social cohesion and integration. We are investing in policy advise and in making professionals more culturally aware so that successful policies that help Eritreans integrate and become self-reliant are implemented. This eases the pressure on the host countries.
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
By training newcomers, helping them master the Dutch language, and further supporting them in understanding and adapting to the new culture, while giving them technical skills (such as computer skills), finance budgeting skills, healthcare and guiding them to gain education (diploma/degree) or a job, Eritreans will become self-reliant.
The project will be continued, working more intensively with local partners and governmental organizations.
Milka Yemane, Founder and Director, Stichting Lemat (Lemat Foundation)