Our goal is to empower migrants to become an engaged part of the civil society and to create a safe space where migrants and locals can meet each other, gain better mutual understanding, improve intercultural dialogue and develop stronger inclusive communities. Volunteer Buddy tandems and community events facilitate personal interactions and mutual support and educational activities increase participants’ capacities in intercultural communication, civic participation and community building.
Brno, Southern Moravia, Czech Republic
Almost 10% of the population of Brno come from a different country. However, large portion of the majority population has no or very limited personal experience with foreigners and the general perception of migrants is often very negative. Migrants have little opportunity to create meaningful connections with locals and to participate in public life due to social and cultural barriers. Some would like to contribute for example through volunteer work, but organizations are not ready or willing to accept them as volunteers. Their voices are not heard in the public discourse and the current status quo only further feeds negative stereotyping and rise of xenophobia and racism in the society and leaves migrants excluded from an engagement in civil activities and participation in public sphere.
The project seeks to strengthen the foundations for amicable societal interactions that reflect diversity and create a safe environment for all. There are three project target groups:
● migrants residing in the region, including especially vulnerable groups such as Muslim women,
● locals already involved or looking to get involved in community-based initiatives and volunteer activities,
● general public in the region.
We expect to interest ca. 60 people that will eventually create 15-20 active Buddy tandems (one local and one migrant that meet regularly). Ca. 100 people including current Buddies will attend the educational activities and ca. 120 people will attend the community events. We expect to reach out to around 70 000 public from the region through the website and social media.
1) Initial phase: the core team (including current Buddies and volunteers) co-creates supporting teaching materials, communication strategy, prepares the recruitment and educational activities
2) Recruitment of local and migrant participants (Buddies), creation of Buddy tandems
3) Workshops: to facilitate better orientation and communication based on Buddies’ needs (language support, intercultural and non-violent communication, how to actively participate in Brno)
4) Community events: to provide space for Buddies to meet with others and the community; we will support their active participation in organization of the events and provide mini-grants to plan and organize their own events
5) Ongoing individual support: mentoring and supporting Buddy tandems in involvement in volunteering
Migrants can better navigate life in the city and local communities; they have a better knowledge of Czech and can use it in practical situations, which fosters their confidence and self-reliance. Their social capital has increased; they have more and stronger connections in the local society and they have a Buddy to turn to if needed. Locals learn about different cultures and how to guide someone through their language and society. Both groups gain new competencies in communication (intercultural and NVC), volunteering and civic participation; they are motivated and ready to engage more in their communities. People get to know each other through the Buddy tandems and the public events and the mutual prejudices are mitigated. There are more positive images of migrants in the public spaces.
The project strives to overcome the language and cultural barriers that migrants face, and to facilitate civic participation through local community activities and volunteering (for the migrants and locals as well). It will provide them with information, skills, and support needed for the organization of their own community events, and thus provide an opportunity to become active community actors, not just recipients of help. The project further promotes volunteer work as a means of caring for one’s city and engagement in the local society. Therefore, the project improves opportunities for social and intercultural engagement, meeting of people from different backgrounds, and fosters a sense of belonging, civic engagement, solidarity and responsibility for the quality of life in the city.
We want to help build an inclusive and cohesive society where mutual support, respect, and solidarity are the norm rather than an oddity. It is important for us to create a safe space where everyone (both Czechs and newcomers) can participate and promote positive changes at a local level that can later be applied on a larger scale. We know what it feels like to start a new life in a new country and we understand the importance of an individual support, empowerment, and friendly connections. The tools and activities of the public bodies are not sufficient or inclusive enough; migrants often cannot reach the support they need and they cannot engage in the society. We believe in strengthening the communities from the bottom up and we see that our activities do help and make a positive impact.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Personnel costs (project & financial management, coordination of Buddy tandems, educational, community activities x 14 months): 30,000
PR (incl. online & offline materials): 6,500
Educational activities (trainers, rent, creation and realization of training on NVC (24hrs): 5,400
Creation of audiovisual/teaching materials: 2,000
Community activities (incl. 600 EUR for mini-grants): 2,000
Materials, IT equipment: 1,800
Services (graphic design, printing,translations): 1,000
Any feedback is welcome! We would also like to address the barriers to migrants’ participation in the public sector – local public bodies, advisory committees etc. Do you have any advice on how to build coalitions to foster such participation and overcome the reluctance of public institutions?
We have established and created an amazing community of people connected to the buddy program. People were joining the events throughout the whole project: and there was always an opportunity to join or take part in. Incomers to Brno now have the opportunity to engage in a community of people who are meeting together and also there are methodic materials for them: as for learning the Czech language or how to be active in their new community.
The outlook for the future is that the buddy program now has a stable community around it. Through the implementation of this project, our biggest challenge and lesson was the unpredictability and non-stability environment which the pandemic of COVID brought upon us: but it was a very valuable lesson as we have learned the need to be flexible and able to adapt to fast changes urged. We are very proud of establishing the volunteer group in organizational core as we have been blessed by amazing and active individuals who were giving their best towards project outcomes.
Our biggest challenge: online functioning was solved by getting more education in the field of online facilitation and learning: as we are very thankful for the opportunity provided by MitOst and Horizontal school. We would like to encourage everyone who is hesitating to establish and implement their projects in their own local community to not be scared and to have an attitude that everything can be solved, even though the process might be hard.
After a huge success that first campaign was, the team of the buddy program was facing a difficult decision: will the events be organized online or offline? The biggest challenge was to make participants feel comfortable and safe: but how to tackle this challenge when the pandemic was unpredictable, also with the restrictions? The team chose the harder and a bit more time-consuming way: to create community events and all workshops in two variants: one offline and the other online: so that it will be possible to adjust them according to the needs of target groups. In the end, events in autumn 2021 were organized in person, but following strict precautions: everyone got tested with antigen tests before coming into the common room, face masks were mandatory throughout the whole program as well. Unfortunately, the reach was lower: new volunteers who registered were almost half as in the first campaign. Nonetheless, even with a smaller amount of people, the buddy program had so much fun: we had non-violent communication workshops, movie clubs, workshops with pottery, community engagement workshops and so on! Let the pictures speak for themselves :)
Our main activities started in the midst of the pandemic of COVID-19. We had to adjust all of our meetings and workshops that were organized in person into the online form, which was challenging. First, we had to rethink all of the structures we have used before, and honestly: none of us had any experience in it! Thankfully, we had support from MitOst and also an opportunity to be part of Horizontal school workshops about online learning. That gave us the knowledge, inputs, and courage to do everything online. The whole team started to work with tools such as Miro and ZOOM, and also we have created an online campaign.
The first campaign, with the new program visual, was a success: though online and lockdown was very real, there were so many new applications coming! The volunteers also created a video (with a help of a professional) for promotion. Participants had the opportunity to meet online and talk to people in the middle of the big lockdown, which was the Czech Republic faced for almost 3 months. The result of the first kick-off online campaign and workshops were almost 25 new tandems: which means 50 people got engaged with the program.
NESEHNUTÍ is an environmental, social, and independent organization established in Brno. Program Together towards diversity is aiming their activities on the inclusion of incomers to the Czech Republic, especially on a local level in Brno. The local challenge that we are solving is the community engagement and inclusion of foreigners into Brno. Buddy program is aiming to create tandems between Czech volunteers and incomers and they create a unique duo: where Czech volunteer is helping foreigner to learn the Czech language, but not only that: this program helps foreigners to create new connections with locals. Each of the team members contributes to the project: Hana with her long years of experience with project management, Vendula who was one of the people who established the buddy program, or Dany, who worked on community projects with the Syrian community in Brno. But buddy program is not only for people from NESEHNUTÍ: without volunteer group that is running it all of the activities would not be possible. So special thanks go to Tereza, Eva, David, Neptune, Kris, Silvie, and Daniel, amazing volunteers we had an opportunity to work with.
Oh, and in the top picture, you can see how happy we were when we realized there is this year full of fun waiting for us!