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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

ACCOMPANIMENT

The way in which beneficiaries are accompanied as they enter into new social and cultural contexts is key to the success of the Humanitarian Corridors project. The process of accompaniment involves at least three dimensions.

The first dimension involves supporting the beneficiaries as they navigate the bureaucratic process of attaining refugee status and in their striving for linguistic autonomy, the latter of which is furthered by their study of Italian and pursuit and acceptance of work opportunities and traineeships. Accompaniment toward these goals is part of a broader and more general accompaniment toward overall integration and autonomy with respect to all aspects of the host community, including language, work, and the need for housing. Ideally, this accompaniment culminates in the beneficiaries’ eventual ability to function independently from the assistance of Caritas, social workers, and volunteers.

Another key dimension of accompaniment relates to the social workers and volunteers, who must be accompanied on the path toward developing an awareness of what it means to welcome people coming from diverse cultures and extremely difficult social and political contexts. Consistent accompaniment supports a dialogue between the social workers and volunteers when their relationship with beneficiaries faces challenges arising from their attempts to understand cultural diversity, overcome linguistic misunderstandings, and cope with the problems of the beneficiaries. One of the most useful forms of accompaniment for social workers and volunteers is the psychological accompaniment that takes place through cultural mediation. This mediation allows the social workers and volunteers to share and analyze in a more integrated way the difficulties as well as positive aspects of their work in navigating through an encounter between cultures.

 

Finally, a third dimension of accompaniment concerns respect and support for and attention to the refugee’s journey of freedom. For example, accompaniment includes supporting social workers and volunteers in facing the sudden and unannounced departure of a particular beneficiary or beneficiaries, which may take place even before the project ends. In this case, it is important to accompany the social workers and volunteers toward an understanding that the departure is not the result of an inadequate welcoming, but rather a freely made decision by the refugee to migrate; in fact, a gesture of hope. This attitude will favor the ongoing development of humanly positive relationships between refugees and host communities and leave both refugees and host communities with good feelings about their experiences.

These dimensions highlight that accompanying the refugees’ journey with sympathy as they move toward their goal of real integration is the preferred method of welcoming. By following this method, all of the participants come to experience that integration is not simply about solving problems (housing, employment, etc.), but rather about the birth and formation of a common life in which each of them is fully recognized and accepted. In particular, for those who welcome refugee families, the intensive efforts of benevolence that are at the core of their activities become sustainable only if they are consistently framed and reawakened by an awareness of their human value and by the questions “Why am I doing this?” “For what?" (Schnyder vW, forthcoming).

In the preliminary findings arising from the research on Humanitarian Corridors we found that, in the first transitional phase especially, refugees need this type of accompaniment (Schnyder vW et al 2018, Sedmak, 2019), which combines professional expertise, daily engagement, and the support of a network of actively involved volunteers promoting dialogue among all the participants. The theme of accompaniment has emerged as an expression of the attempt to take the agency of poor people more seriously (Goizueta 1995, Berloffa et al. 2012). In the literature, accompaniment—that is, a process aimed at integral human development—has been identified as an important part of a real solution to the problems of migration and poverty (Farmer 2011; Reifenberg and Hlabse, forthcoming; Berloffa et al. 2012; Schnyder vW, 2018; Schnyder vW, forthcoming; Lamberty 2015; Sedmak, forthcoming).