Medecins du Monde
At the suburbs of Zagreb and with the view on the main landfill of the Croatian capital, our team wants to create with asylum seekers and their new neighbors an oasis of dialogue and tolerance. In a sea of fears, stereotypes, and garbage, our idea is to reappropriate together a small piece of “land” and come back to the basic essence of humanity. The land is a means of intercultural exchange and re-humanization/resilience for people who lost everything, including their own land.
District of Dugave, suburbs of Zagreb
Asylum seekers arriving in Croatia from Bosnia and Herzegovina are currently extremely vulnerable (physical exhaustion, loss of hope, learned helplessness, apathy, impaired self-esteem). It is thus urgent to ensure them access to quality mental health care before irreversible degradation of (health) state but also to enable them to live in a society where they will feel safe and welcome. That is why we want to connect them with neighbors and the local community. Another challenge that both the local community and asylum seekers are facing is the stolen land. The local community lives in front of the biggest landfill (and is at the same time afraid of foreigners) whereas asylum seekers have lost their land. Here, we want to highlight the common land as a point of contact for both groups.
Unfortunately, both Croatia and Europe are becoming more hateful societies for asylum seekers. Our idea is thus to build - at our level - a micro-society of intercultural exchanges that will give asylum seekers back the sense of identity, sense of belonging, and acceptance. We plan to connect them with a local population, which will be able to break their fear of the foreigners and recognize in them a neighbor you can count on and a human being not much different than you.
Apart from those actors, we aim to connect two other very different groups of people. Asylum seekers and their decision and policymakers. To ensure a long-term goal we plan to include a wider local community, mostly kindergarten and local school.
Initial idea is to recreate with asylum seekers and local neighbors a piece of land and convert it into a “transformative” garden with multiple purposes. In this shared land, mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), as well as educational and recreational activities, will be conducted. The land is located in front of the asylum seekers facility in Dugave district in the suburbs of Zagreb. Even though it is positioned towards the biggest landfill in the country it will be a green oasis of dialogue, tolerance, and return to the essence of humanity. Led by the mental health and social team of Médecins du Monde, gardening, (MHPSS) and art-therapy activities will be conducted, as well as courses that connect both groups' interests, mental health counseling sessions, personal moments of exchanges and gardening skills share. In addition, some simple wooden benches will be built to facilitate social interactions. Apart from offering land for people who lost their land, little by little, the idea is to involve local neighbors and decision-makers in this oasis (through visits and meetings in this place) - in order to influence higher level (migration) policies and create a more welcome and tolerant society. A publication on this garden oasis and people who made it will also be produced and shared online (as an online campaign for tolerance).
As a final result we shall see reduced prejudice and stereotypes about asylum seekers - leading to decreased discrimination through better, more humane, and sensitive (migration) policies. It will be achieved through personal contact with both policy makes and neighbors. Educating youth with different cultural dimensions will create the new, more aware generations. The end-stage for asylum seekers themselves will be stronger connections with each other (especially women and survivors of gender-based violence), much calmer and uplifting space to spend time, and possible counseling sessions. They will be able to grow their seeds, plants and herbs which will create a sense of fulfillment and identity that is being stolen and taken away from them.
Few levels of engagement are present in this initiative. With active participation/visits to our garden, local neighbors will work on their prejudice towards the asylum seekers. Through personal contacts, their perception will change and this new perspective will reach their outer circle of people - therefore creating a small scale social change. Throughout this, at medium term discrimination against asylum seekers will decrease. By allowing the decision makers the opportunity to actually meet the real people, asylum seekers will thus be given the power to influence policies and their lifes. Lastly, the educational purpose where social and political change opportunities will be given to the youngsters - the future political citizens who will be empowered to open the space of dialogue.
Médecins du Monde (foreign NGO registered locally) provides since 2016 medico-psychosocial healthcare/health mediation in two Croatian Asylum seekers facilities. In 2020, MDM conducted 1690 health consultations for asylum seekers, 424 psychosocial consultations, and accompanied 537 referrals specialist consultations. The team (doctor, nurse, 2 psychologists, 4 interpreters and 1 social worker/community worker) developed a great expertise for on-site, combined and integrated care provision to asylum seekers - and especially for detection/support of most vulnerable among them (survivors of GBV/trafficking/torture). MdM also published advocacy reports. Team is diverse (some were asylum seekers), led by enthusiasm and equality values.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Personnel costs (psychologist, community worker/social worker, interpreters) 18 000 EUR, Tools and material for activities (gardening, wood, painting, etc.) 3 500 EUR, Publication/ online campaign 3 500 EUR.
Feel free to contact us if you have a similar idea so we could create a network of local creative ideas promoting great changes in partnership with the most discriminated among us.