Combating exclusion

A cross-national collaboration to help immigrants acquire a level of linguistic skill essential for functioning properly in their new home has recently been extended by the Kavli Trust.

Text and photos: Red Cross

This deal supports training provided by the Red Cross in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the UK for people who cannot speak the local language well enough to carry on an everyday conversation.

Regardless of whether new arrivals come through immigration, family reunion or work, learning the native tongue is crucial for both their quality of life and their social participation. People seldom neglect this deliberately, but some groups of immigrants – who may have lived many for years in their new homeland – fail to learn enough.

Activities

In recognition of this problem, the Red Cross has developed training activities which aim to raise newcomers to a linguistic level where they can participate in work, education and society.

A common denominator of these courses is that they supplement official language teaching provision, and function as a social arena. This allows participants to form networks in the local environment and helps to combat social exclusion.

That in turn boosts happiness and identity, and thereby improves health. Since both society and immigrants themselves benefit if the latter learn the language of their new homeland, the training also has a socio-economic value.

Integration

The Kavli Trust has contributed valuable integration funds in recent years, making it possible for the Red Cross to strengthen its work with newly arrived migrants. That has allowed its organisations in the four recipient countries to continue their work on boosting identity and solidarity in these societies.

These efforts are pursued through well structured integration activities and good follow-up of the individual participants and the Red Cross volunteers.

Programmes

So how have the grants made to the various countries been spent?

Norwegian Red Cross: Funds from the Kavli Trust have contributed directly to language training in Norwegian.  The Oslo and Bergen Red Cross societies have strengthened the quality of such training for the target groups and permitted positive follow-up of volunteers. Activity in Oslo doubled in 2016, for example, with 10 627 visits to the language training sessions. In addition, 420 volunteers were involved either as trainers, group leaders or through courses.

Danish Red Cross: Contact has been established with 8 000 refugees. Grants from the Kavli Trust have again financed language training for the target group. This funding has made it possible to offer courses and reading help in a number of locations, including 70 centres and 40 social cafes.

British Red Cross: Its projects have focused on young refugees from many countries. Participants in the Chrysalis programme take courses and workshops which strengthen necessary skills such as language and IT use. A 2016 evaluation of this scheme showed that 73 per cent of participants felt they had improved their capabilities since they started, and especially oral and written language understanding. Many of those who took part in the evaluation also reported that they now had a larger network and felt themselves to be more included.

Swedish Red Cross: It has reached 1 000 young people through its activities. Attention was concentrated on increased integration and improved health for children and adults. Serving as a support organisation for children and parents who had been affected by war, flight and traumatic experiences was particularly important. Forty-three reading help groups were in action at a number of local associations in 2016, primarily in Stockholm and Uppsala.