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Thursday 21st of September 2017

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The project “STRANGERS? Growing closer together” is continuously executed since 2009 by Association for “For the Earth” (the whole first year of cooperation on the basis of partnership and Homo Faber Association, as well as throughout the whole term of project execution cooperating on the basis of partnership with The Office for Foreigners) envisages multiple activities aimed at foreigners residing in centers in Łuków and Leonów (after liquidation of the centre, the association shifted their activity to Lublin), as well as aimed at the Polish local community.

The first activity, within the framework of project, was for the refugee children, conducted under specialists’ supervision to create a comic about basic hygiene rules. It was something special for the young refugees, for their own drawings were placed in the comic. Every child participating in the workshop received a souvenir copy of the book and was enrolled on the list of the comic authors. All artistic activities were of the greatest interest to the children (plastic, film, pottery and conjuring activities), in particular the music classes.

Under the professionals’ supervision, the children were preparing theatrical performances based on fairy tales and legends relating to their own tradition (i.e. "The Legend of Pharmat" - Caucasian archetype of Prometheus, or "Dieczik Pondar' - tale of a hero), which were co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland. The Polish-Chechen songbook was published as well. Moreover, English classes were organized under this project. They were aimed at both children and adults (as the experience shows, Poland is a temporary place of residence for most families from the centers in their journey to the West, where English is a universal language, and, in turn, for those, who plan their future in Polish-English classes, might allow their children to equalize educational opportunities, as well as increase their competitiveness in search of work for adults).

The second type of activities carried out under this project was a workshop on human rights, anti-discrimination and intercultural theme, led by members of the Homo Faber Association. The workshop was attended by all classes of the Primary School No. 5 at Łuków  and from Niemce- near Lublin (a total of about six hundred students). The Teacher Training Center specialists conducted trainings on human rights and awareness raised in terms of ​​anti-discrimination and communication in a culturally diverse group for teachers from the schools, attended by refugees from Łuków and Leonów centres.

The “STRANGERS? Growing closer together” project continued in subsequent years. Since 2010, in addition to artistic, theater, dance and music workshops, the offer for refugee children was extended to football training (Chechen football teams in Łuków and Lublin have still been acting since then). Furthermore, in order to increase the competence of Chechen refugees in the Polish labour market, Polish classes as well as vocational courses concerning catering and the following professions: a tile layer, forklift truck operator, beautician and hairdresser for women and men were organized.

Although the activity of the association is primarily aimed at the children and youth from the Center for Foreigners in Lublin and Łuków, activities addressed to the Polish society-hosting immigrants are of equal importance. There were attempts to pass the information concerning the refugee problem to Polish youth. The search for attractive and attention-drawing form of the transmission of such information ended in the recording of video clips with the famous Polish ragga-dancehall artist Junior Stress, together with children from the center, the Chechen singer Zhandar Zakaev and Polish musicians, including Tomasz Kozdraj. Two video clips: "War across the border (Wojny za miedzą)" and "Illi to my childhood (Illi do mego dzieciństwa)" based on traditional Chechen songs, translated by the late Issa Adajew and arranged by Polish musicians, were created under this project. Songs co-financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Republic of Poland ("War across the border”) and the City of Lublin ("Illi to my childhood”), and like the whole project “STRANGERS? Growing closer together” by the European Refugee Fund (Annual Programs for the years: 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012), are gaining great popularity on the Internet, reaching the whole new group of young viewers with the exile message. It is crucial that the songs are based on free licenses of Creative Commons-Attribution 3.0 Poland, which means they are non-economic and meant for the widest possible dissemination.

The issue of integration between Polish and refugee children in schools is extremely important for the project organization. Thus, new ideas for projects, including "Education through play" (2012), under which a series of activities, helped to integrate the two groups of children through play, were carried out in the Primary School No. 31 in Lublin (project co-financed by the Ministry of Education, the integration program for the children aged six and seven and "What are we playing in?" was created and the Polish-Chechen book was published). Another one was the "Climate for integration" (2013), the environmental education project (co-financed by the Ministry of the Environment), under which the Educational Platform was established, and education campaigns on environmental protection were conducted (as usual in the integration groups that include both Polish and refugee children).

The greatest achievement of the association is the employment of two culture assistants in the schools, attended by the largest group of refugee children in Lublin (assistants have been already working for two years in the Primary School No. 5 in Łuków and in the Primary School No. 31 in Lublin). The Association For Legal Intervention (Stowarzyszenie Interwencji Prawnej- Warszawa) and "Ocalenie" Foundation (Łomża) were the inspiration in this matter. Since 1 January 2010, the Act on the education system provides the possibility to organize compensatory lessons from several subjects and to employ, as a teacher's aid, a person speaking the language used in the student’s country. This person acts as an intermediary between the school, teachers, headmasters and parents of students, the students themselves as well as collaborating non-governmental organizations. Its role is not to be underestimated, as the person facilitates communication, and solves many school problems (misunderstandings, (s)he averts conflicts and translates school tasks). The assistant is present at school during classes and school meetings, acting as an interpreter, cultural mentor. Frequently, the person just looks after the children and organizes their time during the religion classes.

Since 2012, the association has actively participated in the activity of The Interdisciplinary Team for Integration of Foreigners (Lublin), together with other institutions and non-governmental organizations, such as Caritas and Municipal Family Assistance Centre, being executors of the project (Caritas Poland, in cooperation with five diocesan Caritas and Municipal Family Assistance Center, carries out the project in Lublin "Individual Action Plan - the integration of asylum-seekers, foreigners with the status and complementary protection through complex legal advisory and assistance" co-financed by the European Refugee Fund and the state budget) and The Association of Volunteer Centre, Homo Faber Association or particular schools in Lublin. The meetings theme embraces foreign children education in Lublin schools as well as strengthens and enhances the educational competence of foreign children’s parents and the development of joint recommendations to The Ministry of National Education. The subject of the meetings also concerns the search for a way out of the difficult situation related to housing for foreigners. Meetings are informative and so it began a series of workshops aimed at parents at the refugee, the refugee status or subsidiary protection. Thanks to these informative meetings, a series of workshops aimed at parents having the refugee status or complementary protection. Teachers in schools attended by the children of refugees present functioning at Polish schools, student rights and responsibilities, and emphasize the parents’ role in their children's education. Parents receive information and auxiliary materials on the compulsory schooling in the language they understand.

 

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