On the 9th of July, 2019, a meeting was held on our unaccompanied youth refugees (UYRs) project. The aim was to provide participants with in-depth information and to work on the strategies and challenges of the project. In line with United Way’s values, the Amsterdam office was able to bring together for the first time three key partners: donors, operational partners, and refugees.

In a friendly atmosphere, we sat down to a welcoming and presentation speech of United Way the Netherlands and its three projects. Followed by an in-depth explanation of the unaccompanied youth refugee project by our project coordinator, who has experienced first-hand the challenges of life in Amsterdam as a young refugee from Syria. Throughout his speech, it became clear that experience is crucial to foster a deeper understanding of the needs of these youngsters and how best to reach them, and in order for this project to be implemented smoothly. Indeed, the real challenge is to motivate the project participants to ensure a commitment to the job or internship we plan on placing them in at the end of the program.

Following this was a presentation from our marvellous host and partner, Humanitas, on their experience with youth empowerment. Humanitas is one of the leading social services and community building organisations in the Netherlands and has a great deal of knowledge in helping youngsters get out of difficult situations. Thereafter, the Regenboog group shared their expertise on supporting unaccompanied minors in Amsterdam and shared an insightful video on their one-on-one mentoring system. Their approach prevents social exclusion by making sure mentors offer a few hours of time per week to their mentee to do activities together.

A group discussion was then held to receive input on the identification of the target group and strategies to reach them. Thanks to the marvellous participation of our partners we received many amazing ideas. They emphasized the importance of social media, peer groups and associations working closely with these refugees in order to reach our target groups and let them know about our program. Consequently, word-of-mouth will help identify potential participants. It was agreed that close mentoring was indispensable to foster commitment and prevent dropouts. Another important factor to maintain participant motivation throughout was to ensure that the project was subdivided into smaller achievable milestones with increasing responsibility, and ideally financial reward. Furthermore, two working days a week were deemed to be the minimum to ensure significant progress. A more tailor-made approach will provide flexibility to address practical issues linked to availability. There should be a port of call within each company where the participants can raise any issues encountered during their placement. Intercultural awareness was seen as essential in the good development of the project. It was agreed that cultural awareness is generally part and parcel of large Dutch companies.

Thanks to the years of experience of our partners, we can say that the meeting was a great success overall. We left with many new ideas and the motivation to implement them!

Many thanks to all participants for their enthusiastic participation and wonderful insights and ideas!

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