Pre-departure orientation must include management of expectations – both on the part of host communities and on the part of those sponsored.
The enthusiasm of all involved in resettlement and complementary pathways is something to celebrate. That enthusiasm should, however, be well-informed. For example, those hosting may mistakenly assume that they can “solve” everything for those hosted and, in turn, those hosted may arrive with the same misplaced assumption. Those hosting may mistakenly assume that those hosted will be excited by the prospect of beginning a new chapter. In turn, those hosted may mistakenly take it for granted that hosts understand that being forced to leave one country for another can be deeply traumatic. Misplaced assumptions can lead to bewilderment and disappointment. However, with appropriate preparation, a much more realistic set of assumptions can operate, providing a much stronger foundation for a successful outcomes
Countries of Departure
A rapidly changing political situation may have a direct impact on the viability of transferring program participants from one country to another.
“The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley.” Carefully-constructed plans may not survive external disruption. Political unrest, regime change and rising fuel prices are just a few factors which may require program implementers to be agile. Building in alternatives from the outset may therefore be a smart move.
Increased refugee flows from a country or region in crisis may shift attention – and resources – from existing sponsorship programs.
As evidenced by the response to the crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine, an outpouring of goodwill towards refugees fleeing a particular country or region may motivate governments, communities and individuals to host those clearly in need. Whilst such targeted action is to be applauded, this can have unintended consequences for other sponsorship programs. Accommodation for refugees, already in short supply, may be exhausted. Volunteers, preparing to host or support integration, may prefer not to wait for planned arrivals which are months away and, instead, focus on those arriving now. Private donors may re-allocate resources for longer term projects to initiatives perceived as more urgent. Governments may view new pathways as too great a burden for a state already engaged in responding to an immediate crisis.
For those engaged in developing sponsorship programs, this poses a real challenge. How can medium- and long-term programs be future-proofed against such developments?
Identification and Matching
In seeking to understand the precise circumstance of every candidate’s case, care should be taken in framing questions which may seem intrusive, too risky to answer or re-surface trauma.
Successful outcomes for participants in a program depend, in part, on their suitability for participation being carefully assessed and on being matched with the right host and pathway. Fundamental to that process is having sufficient knowledge and understanding of each candidate’s circumstances to make an effective assessment. However, comprehensive questioning does not come without its pitfalls. Each candidate will carry the scars of whatever experience has caused them to be displaced. For some, fear will be a constant companion. For others, disclosures regarding their personal circumstances may be deeply traumatic. Great care should therefore be taken in constructing an interview framework and in training staff engaged in the identification and matching process to take account of these considerations.
Post Arrival Support
To maximise the potential for successful outcomes, targeted support may be needed to address cultural gaps.
University corridors are still a relatively new phenomenon in France.
In order to ensure that students selected for the programme don’t end up failing academically on arrival, the selection process is typically demanding in terms of academic standards. Despite this, an attainment gap was noted during the first months of the project, primarily because students are not familiar with the pedagogical approach of French universities.
In order to facilitate the integration of students into Master’s programmes, it is therefore a good idea to strengthen mentoring as soon as they arrive. This could be done either by setting up a tutoring system that which permits existing students to transfer knowledge about their experience to incoming students, or by providing targeted pedagogical content.
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