Local activities with migrants and minorities in Sweden

1. The groups

Migrants – we worked with women from Afghanistan (mothers aged over 30), who had arrived in Sweden seeking refugee status. They live with their families and children but lack competence in the Swedish language and have little knowledge of local networks. Some of the women have already taken part in local activities such as sports, however most of the women were new to the group. The group have different educational backgrounds, with 50% of the participants educated to secondary school level and 50% educated to primary school level. One of the 15 participants had had no formal education in Afghanistan.

All participants have joined SFI which is the Swedish language support system. While their attainment level is different, most of the participants understand some Swedish. In case there were language barriers, an intercultural mediator from Afghanistan with a high level of Swedish and English made sure the participants could understand.

Minorities – we worked with second-generation migrants from families originating all over the world who came to Sweden to find a job and seek a better life. We selected a mixed group of people between 30 – 50 years old. They are good at speaking English but lack competence in Swedish. They are mostly unemployed and searching for full time jobs to enable them to stay in Sweden. They joined our activities to help build their networks and provide free activities for their families. The educational level of the participants was higher than the previous group as they mostly had university degrees.

2 Particularities of the tailored learning program

The workshops were conducted both online and face to face. Participants were mostly happy to join face to face, but there were technical problems with the online versions and the participants did not have the same degree of motivation as those attending the workshops in person. The workshops were organised in collaboration with the Örkelljunga Municipality, in particular the education centre and NGOs such as Hello Youth and Integration För Alla, meaning it was not difficult to find participants and work with them in local activities.

Our programme was based on three elements: Warm-up and group dynamics; Main activities and Evaluation and reflection

Warm-up and group dynamics

Initial activities included building the group dynamic and levels of trust, before exploring the participants personal experiences. Non-formal activities included name games using theatre techniques. There was also the opportunity to discuss the meaning of their name and how this was associated with their life.

In addition, there were trust building activities where participants needed to look after each other and perform small tasks together in order to develop a relationship, which allowed the facilitator to understand the group dynamics better.

In order to motivate participants to join the workshops and keep them attending, we also organised social activities (such as going to a children’s playground together, playing laserdom and taking part in outdoor sports) as well as providing free coffee and snacks.

Main activities

Storytelling through digital tools: in this activity we used a digital game to inspire participants to tell stories. We used a dice – an actual dice as well as an online version – to help create stories. You can find the tool in the link. https://davebirss.com/storydice-creative-story-ideas/

Dixit Game: we used it to improve the ability of participants to talk about something from a real life experience. Using pictures as an aid, participants are able to talk about different life situations in this easy to play game.

River of life: this exercise can be used to outline someone’s life story, experiences and heritage, with the river acting as a guide for personal and professional growth. The activity started with a reflection on someone’s life and how this person makes a difference as an individual. Participants felt empowered, motivated and aware of their story’s uniqueness. There are several steps:

Step 1: Reflect

  • Think about the course of your life. Take a moment to consider the following questions:
  • If your life were a river, what shape would it take?
  • Where are the bends and turns, when your situation or perspective changed? Was the transition smooth or sudden?
  • Are there rocks or boulders – obstacles or life-altering moments – falling into your river?
  • Are there points at which it flows powerfully and purposefully or slows to a trickle?

Step 2: Frame

  • Take a blank piece of paper and begin to draw your river of life as per the previous reflecting questions. Label your approximate age and/or dates along the flow of your river.
  • Identify various key events in your life that shaped your story – the boulders in the river or places where the river changed course. If you were to divide your life journey into sections, where would the divisions occur? Name each section of your life river.

Step 3: Guide

  • Reflect about the people who have accompanied you along this river’s journey. Record these key relationships and losses in the appropriate places on your river of life. If you wish, you can also record thoughts and feelings attached to these relationships.
  • What relationships have been most significant at different moments in your life?
  • Who has shaped you the most, how and why?
  • Have there been significant losses of relationships along the way?
  • What groups or communities of people were the most important in your journey?

Step 4: Contextualise

  • Reflect on your life’s journey and trajectory. Using words and/or symbols, place life events in the appropriate locations on your diagram.
  • Are there times of significant pain or suffering or happiness and joy – your or others’- that shape the flow of your life river?
  • What was going on in the world – locally, regionally or globally – that might have affected the flow of your life river?

Step 5: Evaluate

  • Note what has been important to you.
  • What values, commitments, causes, or principles were most important to you at a given point in your life?
  • Towards what goals, if any, were your primary energies directed? Or metaphorically speaking, what purposes and ends helped to shape the flow of life waters at a given time in your experience?
  • As you finish depicting your river of life, review the whole diagram. Do its symbols and words seem to portray how you think and feel about the whole of your life? Are there some important elements left out? Make adjustments, if needed. Remember that no diagram can possibly capture all the shapes of your life.
3. Evaluation tools used

Personal reflection was done within the main activity. However, we also conducted an informal evaluation among the participants to assess the group’s feelings about the workshop.

Observations by the facilitator were valuable and helped to measure the impact of the workshop.

Lastly, participants gave personal feedback to each other after the main activities.

4. Successfully elements and obstacles

The workshop with our target groups was very effective and it was important for us to see its impact on the lives of the participants. Participants stayed and wanted to take part in other workshops which shows that they had a positive experience.

Communication by the participants improved between the beginning and end of the workshop, with the refugees, particularly, becoming more expressive by the end. Some participants volunteered to share their private and personal stories with others during the river of life activity, something that is uncommon in this group of people.

Our initial social activities and a good transition to the main activities ensured the participants were willing to join our workshop and engage actively in the activities, so there were few issues of social adjustment.