The Network of Afghan Diaspora Organisations in Europe (NADOE), organized a two-day workshop for 14 unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan residing at the Red Cross protection centers in Belgium.
The workshop was focused on three main topics :
(i) conflict prevention/resolution
(iii) future/career orientation
The workshop included interactive sessions, case studies, lectures, and experience sharing by the guest speakers.
The workshop started by discussing the cultural differences between Afghanistan and Belgium.
The questions were what is allowed and normal to do in Afghanistan and things that we should consider in a Belgian context. The participants were invited to discuss the similarities and dissimilarities in cultures of both countries and how to adapt to cultural differences, particularly which aspects of the culture of origin should be preserved and get to know the best side of the Belgian culture. The participants shared their experiences with cultural shocks and how they dealt with them through interactive games. The NADOE facilitators tried to explain and provide some tips to
the participants on how to handle cultural shocks.
On the first day, the guest speaker, Wali Sediqi, who also arrived as an unaccompanied minor in Belgium many years ago and is currently an entrepreneur and business coach, gave an informal talk to the participants. He shared his personal experience, how he dealt with the cultural differences, how he dealt with the problems, and how he turned all these problems into success in his life. He also explained how many businesses he coached, he showed how unaccompanied minors could start their own business in the future and how to follow their dreams. In the end, he provided his contact to the participants and offered his help to them in case they wanted to have their own business in the future. The guest speaker also shared the personal part of his experience, and he gave tips to the participants on how to avoid problems, and conflicts and explain the consequences of being involved in conflicts.
The first day of the event continued with interactive sessions on self-awareness and self-
development. The participants were provided suggestions and tips on how to be aware of misconceptions brought to them by others and how to make decisions based on knowledge and experience, not based on other people’s prescriptions or to follow others without consideration. The session was concluded with an interactive game where statements were prepared by the organizers and the participants had the choice to agree or disagree.
Then the reasons for agreement and disagreement were justified by the participants and it was discussed as a group among all the participants.
The first day was concluded by giving a task to be completed in the evening by the participants and a final guest speaker, namely Anwar Mohammad who works himself as a social worker in a reception center for unaccompanied minors and who graduated from Kabul University right before arriving in Belgium. The homework was focused on the life goals of the participants in Afghanistan and in Belgium. NADOE facilitators asked them what they had in mind for their future when they used to live in Afghanistan and what they have in mind now in Belgium. How much have their life goals changed and what were the drivers behind the changes. The guest speaker shared his experience settling in Belgium as a refugee from Afghanistan and how he managed to overcome the hardships in the beginning when he arrived. The guest speaker who had experience in conflict management and resolutions provided tips and guidance on how to avoid conflicts and how not to get in involved in the problems. He also explained the differences in cultures, and the importance of having respect for female colleagues, classmates, teachers, and social assistants. He explained the place of women in society in Afghanistan and in Belgium. He told them that we have a lot of respect for women in Afghanistan as well as in Belgium. The guest speaker concluded by responding to the questions of the participants and he shared his contact in case the participants wanted to ask more questions in private.
The second day of the workshop focused on four important points including life goals, access to higher education, conflict resolution, and avoiding group pressure. The life goals session was aimed at explaining to the participants about self-development after being on move or having to migrate to a new society. The participants were guided on how to effectively follow their goals in Belgium and a number of institutions and organizations that support people in establishing themselves were given
as examples. It was also explained how they can shift or adapt their original goals to new goals or follow their original life goals in Belgium. These points were covered because research has shown that when migrants including regular migrants face difficulties in living happily in their new host country until they adapt to the new environment. We explained the concept of acculturation or explaining all contact between individuals of different cultures. The concept of acculturation was
explained to give them a perspective on the variations in beliefs and cultural anomalies while one moves to a new country.
Another topic that was covered in the first session of the second day was explaining to the participants about intrinsic and extrinsic goals in a very interactive way. They explained that intrinsic goals are those that involve personal growth, loving relationships, health, and community service. Extrinsic goals include financial success, physical attractiveness, and social fame and/or popularity. It was also explained to the participants that it is alright to put on hold some goals in order to achieve others, and how to prioritize the goals. The participants were provided with the example of life goal orientation and then provided with materials to draw their own life goals. It was very interesting to see how the participants had learned to depict meaningful life goals.
The last part of the first session was focused on introducing some organizations that help refugees and asylum seekers with integration, access to education, access to work, and access to student jobs.
One of the organizations introduced was the NGO Refugeestudent (www.refugeestudent.be) which focuses on guiding and facilitating refugees with professionalizing themselves and offering them a potential student job, volunteer work, or internship. Other organizations that help and support refugees to achieve their life goals were introduced by a guest speaker, Mariam Himat who works for many years guiding youngsters in pursuing their educational goals. Another guest speaker,
Idrees Iqbal shared his experience and life story from the time he was an asylum seeker until the moment he reached most of his goals, obtaining university degrees and doing his dream job.
The last part of the second day also extensively covered conflict and conflict resolution. The audience was asked about the downsides as well as the benefits of the conflict through a simulative and interactive session on conflict resolution, resolving disagreements, and not getting into others’ issues. The participants were provided with tips on how to manage and resolve conflicts and explained how to establish a collaborative approach and how to foster an open, honest, and inclusive environment. The session was followed by a role-play of a conflict scenario on how to avoid group pressure. The session was complemented by a case study prepared by the facilitators. The workshop was concluded with handing certificates and prepared gifts to the participants and sharing contact in case of future questions from the participants to the facilitators.
As discussed after the workshop, we observed the participants to be surprisingly participative. They contributed fully to the two-day workshop and grabbed the opportunity to learn more about the cultural differences and ask their questions. Through the anonymity of the interactive game, many of them could freely speak up their mind. They also opened up that in the past they have been in the situation where they were involved in conflicts and how they will prevent it in the future. In the first
day of the event, participants had vague ideas of settling and making a successful future career plan while on the last day of the event they all had a plan for their future career as well as a vision on how to reach that goal.
The participants indicated that they had learned about stress management, and how to use their time in the camp to reach their goals and focus on their studies. They also indicated that they would work together with other participants and in case of misunderstanding or disagreements, they will actively listen to others and find then make decisions. They also discussed how to sustain a positive and fruitful relationship with their classmates and people inside and outside the reception center, particularly those from other countries and ethnolinguistic groups, and how to take care of their physical and mental wellbeing.
We observed that these workshops can be beneficial for all unaccompanied minors in the reception centers and not only those involved in a conflict.
We also observed that it does good for them to be able to share what’s on their mind and exchange the cultural differences in which they all live through. They had a particular need to explore the differences in the group and this together with individuals from their own country of origin and individuals from Belgium with an understanding of their country of origin.