Introduction to the WELCOME project
The refugee and migrant crisis is the largest since the middle of the last century and is perhaps the EU’s greatest challenge today with more than a million entering Europe in 2015. Many people fleeing persecution or simply seeking a better life are looking for help within the countries of the European Union. The speed that this is happening combined with the large numbers involved has put pressure on many local infrastructures resulting in some cases in unrest and the stigmatization of migrants. As the riots in several suburbs in Stockholm and elsewhere in 2015 indicated, migrant integration is a divisive and emotive issue.
Language acquisition is one of the fastest routes to integration and social cohesion as effective communication leads to mutual understanding and often the resolution of issues before they become unmanageable. This project sets out to provide people with the basic language tools they need to take part in their ‘host’ countries’ economic, social and cultural lives. It will provide a stepping stone to further language learning, education and where possible, employment
WELCOME will develop and pilot language learning ‘clubs’ for people who speak little or none at all of the language of the country in which they live. They will be based in the community and led by volunteers supported by language teaching professionals.
WELCOME is based on a successful pilot carried out by a group of London Local Education Authorities in 2013/15 and was inspired by the US Brooklyn Library model https://www.bklynlibrary.org/learn/immigrants. It is scalable, replicable and based in the heart of local communities.
WELCOME’S objectives are to:
- Create Community based Host’ organisations providing venues for WELCOME Clubs
- Establish WELCOME Clubs for learners to meet each week to practice their ‘host’ country language, located in community based organisations ranging from job centres to places of worship.
- Create a training programme for volunteer Club Leaders: coach and facilitate at the clubs with support from professional teachers and coaches
- Create the WELCOME Toolkit (with materials for volunteer Club Leaders and professional support staff)
- Develop a WELCOME network and website: linking the clubs into a network across the EU; repository for good & innovative practice
WELCOME targets those people who have only basic or no skills at all in their host country language who need to improve their host language to acquire information, services, employability and digital skills and, to integrate with the wider community. Some of these may be refugees traumatised through conflict and dangerous journeys to Europe, some recently arrived economic migrants unable to access the information and services they need and others may have lived in their host country for many years but only have a poor command of the language – for example, many older women who do not leave their immediate community.
We estimate there will be:
- 200 language learners taking part in the pilot
- 20 volunteer club leaders leading 20 clubs of c. 10-12 learners each
- 5 professional educators /coaches to support the clubs
- 100+ participants at promotion and information events (local and transnational)
- 10 people on the project advisory panel (min.2 people in each country)
- 500 recipients of the project’s e-newsletter and project updates
- 1000 unique visitors to the project website and/or joining project’s social media such as LinkdIn, Twitter and Facebook
Just as the current crisis witnessing the greatest movements of people across Europe since the second world war demands a cohesive, European response, so does creating some of solutions. An important feature of the project is to test and compare activities across partner countries of Czech Republic, England, Italy and Sweden to identify those that are transferrable, replicable and sustainable in different contexts and countries. Our website and online platform will be created and managed by the project’s French partner.