Happy New Year! Thanks for taking the time to share all those initiatives and help us understand more about your context. It’s very interesting to learn, thank you.
Your community sounds like a reservoir of resources. Do you see community pride emerge as people work together to respond to the new arrivals? Human displacement is a global story, but communities reconfigure resources and respond at a local level.
If the community will be engaging refugees for the foreseeable future, perhaps it’s worth a survey to discover and map relevant formal and informal community resources? Asset Based Community Development might give you some ideas: http://www.abcdinstitute.org/toolkit/index.html
If there’s no caseworkers, meeting as a group of community members/ services/ stakeholders /volunteers could increase collaborative and strategic work. Even quarterly is a start. Does the house have a communication book to hand over key information?
If most people have applied for asylum and are waiting, do they move on to a larger city when they are granted protection? Or do they stay in the village? The skills needed and gained is another thing we consider when working with someone wants to move to another state of Australia, or has arrived from another state to Tasmania (secondary migration).
Just for interest, this page has some information about the Australian Cultural Orientation Program: https://www.dss.gov.au/our-responsibilities/settlement-and-multicultural-affairs/programs-policy/a-multicultural-australia/the-australian-cultural-orientation-ausco-programme
Do you know what’s covered in the German integration course, and how it’s delivered? That would be interesting to review with your occupational therapy eyes!
Has there been any evaluation asking people after one year later what was most helpful, what wasn’t and what information / skills are needed now?
Maybe there is a need and opportunity to offer an elective session of tailored for a cohort of the population that have specific needs such as people living with chronic health conditions or disability?
Or an elective session about a specific life role or skill, such as a program that will increase the confidence of a landlord renting a flat out to the family?
If you can make a package of information that’s relevant beyond your village, record it using a mobile phone and upload it online. As one example, SBS Radio makes a settlement podcast: http://www.sbs.com.au/radio/settlement-guide
Anyone can make a free Soundcloud Channel and upload 3 hours worth of audio recordings made on their mobile: https://soundcloud.com/upload
This could help volunteers think about ways of making their job more efficient/ repetitive.
It’s great the kids are in school as soon as possible. Most settlement services in Australia include some type of program where young people can come and study with volunteer tutors in either their language or other school studies. Often the parents have high hopes and expectations for youth but are unable to help with homework.
Investing in youth leads to gains to the community over the lifespan. And the displaced population is very young. (UNHCR statistics indicate that more than half of the worlds displaced people are less than 18 years old: http://www.unhcr.org/en-au/figures-at-a-glance.html)
This Youth Settlement Framework helps highlight the needs of young people which can otherwise be overlooked even whilst playing an important (and complex and sometimes fraught) role acting as language support for parents: http://www.myan.org.au/file/file/MYAN_Youth_Settlement_Framework_April.pdf
Thinking of the Eritrean couple with good English, is translating and interpreting a profession in Germany? (Is there an accreditation body to certify language skills? Is there professional development about the role of an interpreter, ethics in interpreting etc.? Do courts, hospitals, schools, doctors, police etc use interpreters when needed and the right language is available?) It could be a win-win for their career as well as the local services.
If interpreting is not a viable career pathway, could they be commissioned to record the interpretation of a key service and safety messages for others who will arrive in the future? This only needs small, once-only funding for each piece of work from the hospital, school, police, or lawyers etc. This could build a local work history to strengthen future job applications. Or could they offer telephone and Skype interpreting for neighbouring villages?
I’ve found that sometimes established community members people fear interacting with new people who have many needs. So containing engagement with a little structure can make people feel safe enough to get involved. Shared occupations provide a natural structure. I've worked with volunteers who like supervising someone’s driving practice because it's a structured way of volunteering a specific time for a specific task.
As another example, this Welcome Dinner Project helps people get outside their comfort zones by providing that social structure and support. https://www.joiningthedots.org/the-welcome-dinner-project
Another simple tool to help people interact is “More Than One Story” game which can be downloaded free to play on a smart phone with one or more people in a group.
Hope some of that is helpful to explore. And I hope that you keep talking about your efforts, your learning and reflections throughout 2017 – please keep up the good work and stay in touch!