Putting refugees and asylum seekers at the heart of services and policies that support them
Often, people without lived experience of refugee issues design refugee services, but the AVAIL Project wants to change that.
Working together to design the project
An approach called co-production is central to the AVAIL project. Working together, refugees, asylum seekers and the British Red Cross create, design and implement activities and services. This helps people feel more engaged while making the services more relevant for other refugees or asylum seekers who use them.
The project name AVAIL stands for ‘Amplifying the Voices of Asylum seekers and refugees for Integration and Life skills’.
I have the privilege to bring change to my own life and the lives of the many who do not have a voice. I'm grateful to be part of a group that understands my situation because we all have a lot in common when it comes to our experiences.Isabella, Voices network ambassador, Glasgow
Supporting refugee integration across Europe
Run in the UK and three other countries with our Red Cross partners in Ireland, Latvia and Italy, AVAIL explores and shares information about how refugees can integrate with their new communities and countries. It will also test whether using co-production approaches leads to people feeling more positive and more included into their new communities.
AVAIL in the UK
The AVAIL project in the UK includes a wide range of activities:
- a life skills course given through peer education
- peer research
- a VOICES network through which refugees and asylum seekers speak out to change policy and practice
- Chatterbox, a unique opportunity for refugees to teach their own language.
Chatterbox: refugees become language teachers
Chatterbox is an innovative new service that employs refugees to teach their own languages to people who want to learn them. The AVAIL Project works with them to deliver over 1,000 hours of language tuition and practice to a wide variety of British learners.
Peer researchers with personal experience of being a refugee or asylum seeker work alongside the AVAIL researcher. Together, they develop research questions, interview participants and analyse the data.
Using the co-production approach, we make sure that refugees’ own interpretation of what integration means is reflected in the research. The research will explore the benefits, challenges and impact of using refugee and asylum seekers’ own experiences when designing projects to support them.
Refugees and asylum seekers are designing and delivering an orientation and life skills course for newly arrived asylum seekers in Newport, South Wales, using a peer educator model.
With help from AVAIL staff, the peer educators learn the skills they need to teach and guide attendees, using their lived experience to make the course more relevant.
Working with the researcher and the team made me more comfortable and confident due the support and encouragement from them at all times. I can say I am proud about my experience of volunteering on a large research project.Rajaa, AVAIL peer researcher, Newport
VOICES network: refugees and asylum seekers speak out
Across the UK, VOICES ambassadors in Scotland, Wales, Derby, Leicester and south-east England form the project’s VOICES network – which is expanding to London and Birmingham soon!
With training and support, VOICES ambassadors work together to speak out about issues that affect refugees and asylum seekers.
Sharing their own experiences, they advocate to change policy, use the media to change points of view and help the Red Cross improve our services through expert feedback.
We are voices for the voiceless. We speak for people who cannot speak for themselves.Godwin, Voices network ambassador, Wrexham
AVAIL in Ireland, Latvia and Italy
- Ireland and Latvia: the project will test if a community buddying programme will help new arrivals integrate into their communities.
- Italy: the project will harness the power of radio by establishing a radio station to highlight the challenges and issues affecting refugees and asylum seekers.
- Italy: a refugee football team in Milan helps people integrate into their community through sport, playing other Italian teams in local tournaments. The team support another team of disabled Italian players, helping to coach their players and play matches with members of both teams.
- Italy: a peer mentoring scheme will train mentors living in refugee reception centres to guide and advise other asylum seekers. This is done around cultural awareness and language learning, and through sharing practical skills such as cooking.
- All three countries: refugees will raise their voices, as they do in the UK, to help improve services, policy and attitudes.
The VOICES network is designed for refugees and asylum seekers to feel free to speak up and to be heard and helped, and for their lives to be protected.Emilia, Voices network ambassador, Glasgow