Refugees’ Social Integration through Education
“Education is the second sun for people”, Plato.
More than 3,000 visits every month, 3 Integration Learning Centers, 3 cities -Athens, Thessaloniki, Ioannina-, 450 registered adult students, 180 people attend Greek language courses on a regular basis, 1,950 teaching hours, 7 on-line training courses as an alternative form of education.
All the above summarize the work being done by SolidarityNow in the context of the pilot integration program “HELIOS” (the word sun in Greek). “Our sun”, a modern and innovative program, implemented in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and EU support, is addressed to beneficiaries of international protection in Greece. “HELIOS” offers services aimed at promoting the independent living of people in the country and includes, among others: housing benefits, integration courses and employment support. On the occasion of the World Teachers’ Day, we celebrate the teachers and educators of SolidarityNow, as education is an integral part of the organization’s work and the only way forward and towards social inclusion.
“HELIOS” main goal is to empower people by providing them the opportunity to learn the Greek language; this is the first and essential step for their social integration in the country. The long-term goal of the program is to be the “second sun” for people who are given an opportunity to build a safer and better present and future by offering them equal opportunities and access to education.
The “HELIOS” program
SolidarityNow is a key implementing partner of the International Organization for Migration, in the framework of the “HELIOS” program, which began in June 2019 and includes courses of language and of other necessary skills, in three Integration Learning Centers in Athens, Thessaloniki and Ioannina. Each of the six-month course comprises of units related to the learning of the Greek language, the cultural orientation, the degree of work skill and readiness.
World Teacher’s Day
The teachers working for “HELIOS” are the foundation for its successful implementation; they are the ones who have undertaken the task of providing multifaceted education to the program’s beneficiaries. To date, in the three cities where the program is active, there are 450 enrolled in integration courses, 180 of which attend the Greek language courses.
In fact, the first certificates were recently awarded to the first graduates of the program at a small graduation ceremony that took place a few days ago in Athens.
Some interesting facts about the “HELIOS” program implemented by SolidarityNow, from June 2019 till today:
– over 3,000 visits monthly at the three Integration Learning Centers in Athens, Thessaloniki, and Ioannina
– 7 on-line training courses for learning the Greek language were created so as for the program to meet both the emergency caused by the coronavirus and the needs of people living far from the Integration Learning Centers. The online courses, through the digital educational platform “e-campus”, operate until today, effectively serving the beneficiaries’ different needs
– a Special Recreational Space for Children was created with the aim of facilitating parents during their lessons
– teaching hours exceed 1,900
– 45% of students are women and 55% are men
– the three main countries of students’ origin are Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
Providing multidimensional education
The organization’s teachers do not provide only Greek language courses, but also courses related to several other topics. More specifically:
- students participate in meetings to develop life skills, such as how to manage household finances and how to contact public services
- courses are devoted to culture, history, geography, the political system, and basic law system of the country
- students are empowered to enter the job market by learning to prepare their CVs as well as cover letters, how to look through job advertisements and present themselves in a job interview.
“The important role of teachers in the development of students and of the society is the core of the “HELIOS” program. Having the teachers by their side, the adult students seize the opportunity to become familiar, through properly planned actions, with the Greek way of life and culture in order to be supported on their way towards a smooth social integration. At SolidarityNow we provide educational and soft skills courses because in addition to language learning, we contribute to the creation of autonomous people. We want them to be able to live an independent life, in which they will be offered opportunities in both education and work, as well as in achieving equal and active position in society”, points out Antigone Lyberaki, General Manager of SolidarityNow.
“We promote interaction, cooperation and communication within the classroom to form the appropriate learning environment, which works cumulatively in the learning process. Every day we feel proud: for the two brothers from Afghanistan, who in six months managed to speak fluently Greek. For the mother who raises a child alone, learns Greek and managed to find a temporary job. For our young student who learns Greek, and now works as an interpreter. For our illiterate student from Iraq, who can now read and write in Greek and every day describes us the feeling of the joy he feels when he reads the signs on the street – when he knows how to live, as he says, without the need of others”, says Giannis Giantsidis, Education Specialist at the Athens Integration Learning Center.
*SolidarityNow is a key implementing partner of the International Organization for Migration, in the framework of the “HELIOS” program, which is funded by the European Commission – Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME).