Vocational training means self-determination – Our Greek partner is engaged in promoting integration
Anyone fleeing war or violence in their homeland, while finding a safe haven, still often has a long way to go before they find a new home. The work of Our Greek partner is proving how refugees can be integrated in the host country.
Sama, for example, who left Iran with her husband, wants to stay in Greece. The country, the climate and the culture remind them of their homeland. In Iran, she learned clothing design and embroidered impressive images and patterns on fabrics. In Athens, however, she found no work at first. “When I arrived, I immediately looked for a job, but it was very difficult. I didn’t know the language and had no contacts. So, I could embroider but not sell anything. Then I tried to work for a business. But I would have had to work long hours for very little money. I couldn’t do that”.
Vocational Training Centre for Refugee Women
She eventually came into contact with wortundtat partner Hellenic Ministries. There she heard about the vocational training centre where women learn how to use sewing machines. Training is a silver lining for them. She became familiar with fabrics and needle and thread. She found it easy to learn how to use a sewing machine and quickly picked up new skills. With this knowledge, in Autumn 2022, she was able to get a job at Rainlab, a social enterprise that gives refugee women the opportunity to gain a foothold on the first rung of the Greek job market.
Recent news from our project in Greece
Help for Ukraine refugees: What happens with your donations
We had asked for support for the work of our partners in the Republic of Moldova, Greece and Germany. Read here how we were able to help until the beginning of April 2022.
„With training, I don’t have to rely anymore on charity“
Sama can now decide for herself what groceries she wants to buy or what she wants to wear.
A new home is in sight
Sama: “Working at Rainlab is great for me. The Hellenic Ministries Vocational Training Centre helped me get started. I can now put what I’ve learned into practice. And I’m in a great work environment. The working atmosphere with colleagues is cordial. I felt it the first time I entered the company”. Slowly, Sama’s haven, Athens, has become her new home. “I love Greece. It’s like a second home for me”, she says.
The training and the opportunity to work gives Sama more than an income: “For a refugee woman like me, it means everything to be able to work! With the money I earn, I feel strong and independent. I’m no longer dependent on charity. No longer do other people decide what I need as a refugee”.
At the moment, Sama lives with her husband in only one room. The other rooms of the flat are shared with other people. “Soon we will be able to rent our own flat and have some privacy and peace and quiet”, she says.
The factors making integration hard
In countries that take in many refugees – be it Greece or Germany – it becomes clear in similar places what makes the integration of refugees into society and the labour market difficult. These factors include, for example:
- Lengthy asylum procedures and the resulting legal uncertainty as to whether people are allowed to work at all.
- Language difficulties that lead to people not being able to communicate with employers or customers.
- Lack of information about the job market, or
- A negative attitude expressed by the host society towards refugees.
„I can make a difference with my skills“ – A job changed the life of Mahnaz
Mahnaz from Afghanistan is in a comparable situation. She has also gained access to a job in Greece through the Hellenic Ministries Vocational Training Centre. She didn’t know how to sew and was initially on her own in Athens. The opportunity to learn and find a job at Rainlab, using the skills they have learned, has changed their lives. She says, “When I came here, I had a good feeling. A job shows me that I’m able to make a difference with my skills”.
Mahnaz (left) says that, in addition to sewing, she has also learned kindness and other positive things. “Besides, now I can take care of myself and help my family,” she says.
The Vocational Training Centre builds self-value and self-confidence
In this way, the vocational training centre does more than just teach trade and craft skills that enable entry into job market, moreover it also imparts other aptitudes that are needed, like punctuality or commitment. Participants experience that they are appreciated; they realise that they are useful with their skills and gain self-confidence.
When integration wins
Refugees and host societies benefit when integration succeeds, for example because:
- People with a steady income can lead a self-determined life enjoying dignity and independence.
- Social cohesion in society usually increases as soon as locals and people from other nations get to know each other at work.
- Consequences of the shortage of skilled workers may be mitigated by workers from abroad.
Mahnaz and Sama produce high-quality bags, scrunchies and other accessories at Rainlab. The social enterprise employs women who are in difficult life situations and is focusing on sustainable manufacturing.