Integration4All - Aims
Integration4All is an informational platform and e-learning course including a variety of articles, videos, graphic illustrations, and interactive educational activities about employment in Greece. The platform is called Integration4All, because it is about you and us working together towards a common goal; the successful integration of recognized refugees and asylum seekers into the Greek labour market and society.
Integration4All seeks to provide a user-friendly summary of practical information along with a step-by-step programme with tools that foster education and improve decision making. By navigating through its five main sections, you will explore a variety of training and career paths, develop plans, and gain skills to strengthen your self-esteem, increase your career prospects and transform your lives in a meaningful way.
The platform works on your mobile phone, tablet or computer and it is available for free in both Greek and English.
IOM met Ali in the HELIOS integration learning center (ILC), located in the center of Athens, where he follows Greek language courses and attends employability sessions with the support of IOM and DRC staff. He has brought with him paper boxes full of handmade jewelry and colorful wall clocks, all crafted by himself.
“I started following creativity online seminars one year ago; YouTube videos have proved to be very helpful. The idea of crafting jewelry and wall clocks was very exciting. It still remains a very fulfilling everyday routine”, Ali admits.
Ali is a recognized refugee and he is currently living in an apartment in Athens, rented in the framework of the HELIOS project, with his wife and two daughters, eight and three years old. He came to Greece from Afghanistan in February 2016 and had been granted for asylum a few months ago.
After staying at an open accommodation facility in Attica, Ali enrolled in the EU-funded HELIOS project last winter. He found an apartment and, for the last four months, he is attending Greek language courses in the ILC. Ali is very shy and discrete to admit his Greek language skills; however, the progress is obvious, and our discussion was held in Greek.
“I am able to speak, read and write in Greek. It is a language I am really enjoying. My wife is also attending Greek language courses and we try to practice together at home. Now I am preparing myself for B1 exams”, Ali says.
In parallel and since mid-April 2020, Ali is attending job counseling sessions, conducted by IOM Greece in the framework of the HELIOS integration project.
“I was working for 13 years as a tailor and for three years I owned a small clothing business. I know the job really well”, he says. “Now with the support of IOM, I am looking for a job and I am interested in becoming an interpreter. It is very challenging, I acknowledge that, but I really want to find a job here. At the same time, though, I continue designing and creating jewels”, he says.
Ali is buying all the necessary materials from little shops in Athens. His products are made mainly from wood and resin, while all the colors are coming from China, ordered online. He promotes his artwork on the internet, through an e-shop, where a lot of Greek and foreign artists are hosted.
Through the HELIOS project, IOM aims at promoting the integration of beneficiaries of international protection into Greek society, through integration courses, accommodation, and employability support. HELIOS is implemented by IOM with the support of the European Commission.
If anyone told me a few years back that, right now, I would be looking for a job in tourism in a foreign country, as a refugee, I would laugh. But, that’s life, this is me and here I am. Shortly after I was granted asylum in Greece, my homeland Syria, sadly enough, belongs to my recent past. After investing time to learn good Greek with the support of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, I am in a position now to search for a job with the support of IOM HELIOS project staff. Job counsellors provided me with directions since day one; we sat down together and did my CV at the Integration Learning Center in Thessaloniki which operates in collaboration with Greek Council for Refugees. Ever since, I have been enjoying the support along an uneasy path, this of finding a job in my new home, Greece. My participation in job-day fairs and more specific practicing on interview related matters have enhanced my self – confidence.
Back in Aleppo (Syria) where I lived, my profession was not related to tourism. I studied to be a mechanical engineer and worked as one whereas now, due to the new reality, the order of things has changed. Still, a fresh start is always possible. I have never regretted my decision to learn the Greek language ahead of searching for work. I am now a B1 level speaker and ready to achieve more, language wise. HELIOS project combines employability with boosting language skills, providing the significant tools to other people who are in same position as myself.
Under HELIOS - Hellenic Integration Support for Beneficiaries of International Protection project, with the support of Directorate General Migration and Home Affairs of the European Commission (DG HOME)
My name is Cedrick Diyavova and I am 26 years old. I was born and raised in DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo), where I used to live with my family, my wife and my twin boys. About two years ago, me and my family found ourselves in the middle of political conflict and, following certain episodes in my hometown, I had to leave my city and my loved ones. I had to do so, since I was no longer feeling safe. Then, my journey began. I was on my own but hoping for the best. What kept me going was the hope of arriving someplace where I would be free to express myself, without endangering myself or my family.
After a lot of hardships, I arrived at the port of Lesvos in November 2018. I stayed at the camp of Moria for about 3 weeks before I was transferred to another location that was closer to Athens. Since then, I have been staying in organized facilities, through IOM’s Filoxenia program and taking language courses regularly. I participate in Greek and English classes, while I am also learning how to manage my time and priorities effectively. I want to make the most of the activities provided, and my goal is to combine them with my interests. My greatest passion is sculpture, especially using wood and metal. I also love ceramic sculpture and painting.
Sculpture has been my passion from a young age. Soon I realized that I was talented, that it was like a charisma, an innate gift. At first, I tried it for fun and as time went by, I was getting better and better. Now, my art has meaning. I want to convey messages through my creations: human dignity, freedom, living beings and nature. These themes are at the center of my art. When I use wood for my sculptures, I create minimal designs with inherent symbolism. Metal serves another purpose. I use it to make sculptures of birds, cats and dogs, eagles. I am inspired both from domestic animals and from endangered species.
This is my gift and my passion. I want to keep on working on it. Especially in Athens, where there are plenty of options and opportunities for me, both in quantity and in quality!
“My name is H.R. and I am 16 years old. I came to Greece from Pakistan six months ago and since then I am living in an open accommodation site for unaccompanied migrant children in the center of Athens. I have four brothers and two sisters. My older brother is currently staying in Italy. Sometime in the future, I want to go and live with him. My dream is to become a chef in a small Italian city. I love cooking. My favorite Pakistani food is briani – our local rice - and from western cuisine I love pasta. Every day from 08:00 am to 01:00 pm I go to school and then for at least two hours per day I am visiting Velos, a local community where I can practice my cooking skills. I also paint and skate. I really enjoy spending time in the kitchen, but the most important thing is that I feel really safe here. People in the shelter have opened their arms and now I can finally dream with my eyes open.”
The project is being implemented with funding from The Migrant and Refugee Fund (MRF) received through The Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB).
I am Nwanyen Marcel Kunped, 40 years old, born and raised in Cameroon. I reached Greece in 2017 and to be more exact Lesbos. Then, I was taken to Moria camp.
I became one of the many displaced people in my country due to the ongoing conflict in Cameroon's Anglophone regions that broke out in 2016. Before leaving my homeland, I was imprisoned for two (2) years merely because I was brought up mainly as an English -not French- speaker, thus I belonged to the Anglophone region of the country (following WWI and the Treaty of Versailles, Cameroon was divided between a French and a British League of Nations Mandate).
The feeling of cultural oppression was always with me. Although I had become a political activist fighting for the rights of English speakers in Cameroon, I could sense things were serious and the country had entered a dangerous path.
Thanks to my clean criminal record, when an English-speaking general freed me from jail realized I had been imprisoned because of my cultural background and pushed me to abandon the country immediately. Otherwise, he told me he feared I would be killed, and he would be held liable for freeing me. Thanks to that general, a military escort drove me to the border with Nigeria -so that no one would stop us on our way there; this is where my journey to Europe began. It was the November 1st, 2017. On Christmas Day that year, I arrived on Lesbos where I spent nearly a year. Then, I was transferred to Asprovalta and later on here, at the hotel where we are having the interview. In Thessaloniki I got the chance to meet IOM and its people. The overcrowded camp, the challenging, unhygienic conditions, could be left behind I felt like a human being again, earning back my self-esteem.
The best news reached me last May; Greece had recognized me as a refugee and granted me the asylum I had applied for. Now I am expecting to get my formal papers, my passport and issuing my VAT number.
Thinking of the past is part of who I am and the people I have left behind -three brothers I have no news of and a fiancée who is hiding in Cameroon. The staff of IOM are the ones I feel closest to me in the past months and want to thank them for their support. They are like brothers to me and I must admit they are spoiling us (the beneficiaries). In the years prior to the present crisis in Cameroon, I was working as a manager in big firms. Having two degrees in Financial History and Business Management, the posts were perfect for me. At present, as a refugee in Greece, what I am truly looking forward to is becoming a useful and productive citizen again. For now, the only high hope I have is to live a good and calm life hereafter.
“I was in a haze,” Saher tells IOM, his bright eyes depicting his intense emotions of the first days post his arrival in Greece. “It was all about unknown shapes and funny sounds. All was… Greek to me and Greece was a foreign land.” IOM met Saher at his compartment at the long-term accommodation site in Drama, inside his neat room.
Twenty-nine-year-old Saher has been through a lot in the past two years. Forced migration, solitude, seclusion. A young man who had suddenly become a stranger among strangers. He remained a Kurd from Iraq -his identity would never change- but his mother tongue, Sorani, was no longer useful because of the new norm in place. He and his family had migrated to Greece. Consequently, the Greek language had taken over and dominated his everyday life. But he did not know how to speak it, thus he could not communicate with people easily.
Everything was new to Saher and for the first eight months, he was lost, as if someone had pulled the rug from under his feet. “I could not speak, I had no friends -no chat time for me,” he remembers. It was about time he acted, he decided. The number one secret to his own life success was taking baby steps each day. No tutor by his side yet with the help of dozens of Modern Greek language online applications at first, he sensed he could break the ‘code’. “Ligo, ligo,” he says now in broken but fine Greek, which means ‘little by little’ referring to the progress he made.
Following the initial hiccups then came the thaw. After moving from place to place around Greece with his wife and their little boy, and before being transferred to IOM’s facility in Greece’s northern city of Drama, opportunity knocked and Saher took advantage of it. While in the city of Veria, he got the chance to attend night school classes in Greek for two months. That boosted his learning capacity, offered him potential, and paved the way for further improvement language-wise.
Thanks to his effort and devotion the funny shapes of Greek letters began making sense. The task has proved rather arduous, however, Saher chose a one-way ticket. He grew to love the Greek language and he even began helping his wife to learn it too. It was many times that he repeated “It is a beautiful language, I like it”, while we talked.
At a later stage, he realized that the volume of his notes was large. Their neat structure and the sufficient material at his disposal were enough to allow him to consider a crazy though an especially brilliant plan; that of creating his very own and the very first Greek-Sorani phrase book. One which would be sheer bliss to other Sorani speakers who would wish to learn Greek from scratch, the easy way. “I transliterated Greek letters, words, even whole sentences into Sorani so that a new learner would know how they are properly pronounced. I reached a point where a word’s meaning was not everything. What I wanted the most was to understand and learn the pronunciation of the new vocabulary. So, it was mainly out of necessity that I began with the transliteration scheme. And it worked out just fine. It is a useful tool that makes the learning process more fun and brings results faster.”
Challenges feed his mind while his persistence and perseverance earned him a trained ear in Greek. “I realized that accomplishing something is only a matter of strong will and proper goal setting. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Putting all my notes together was the first step that triggered my next move. Compiling a handbook was an unstoppable flashing light in my head. I became positively obsessed with the idea.” And day after day, it was taking shape. He allowed himself a new… best friend, his laptop -his notebook becoming the runner-up. First, he chose the right frame, then the theme fonts and he got down to serious business. Step number two -the most time-consuming part- was digitalizing his handwritten notes.
Saher shared his all-out effort with IOM staff working at the long-term accommodation site in Drama who in turn talked about it to their Solidarity Now colleagues, also active at the facility.
Not long after that, IOM and Solidarity Now personnel suggested to Saher to get his digitalized work promoted into a printed version. “Are they joking?” – “This was my thought at first but then I thought to myself that this was a great honor and an exceptional opportunity to realize a dream of mine. Up until then, seeing it printed had been wishful thinking. However, their proposal was for real and it could act as the springboard for other similar projects of mine in the future.” His next thoughts come unexpectedly but he is precise, using simple Greek language nevertheless exact and correct wording that leaves no room for misinterpretation. “When this ‘publication’ is over, my aim is to dive into the next language tool. The difference will be that instead of translating and transliterating from Greek into Sorani it will be Greek into Kurmanji as well Greek into Arabic. I hope I can make it,” he added.
Learning good Greek has been a major factor that played a role in his decision to live in Greece with his family. “Other Kurds tell me they will move to Germany or the Netherlands or that they dream of leaving Greece. Not me. Greece is beautiful, the people are kind, the weather is nice, and I feel it suits me as a country. So, why look for yet another new base? Discussing the matter with my wife we both come to the same conclusion: we wish to settle in Greece.”
Saher is now a recognized refugee and he is building his life in Greece. He has rented an apartment in Northern Greece, under the EU-funded project HELIOS.