Young people forced to leave and to leave everything they had: they have come a long way, they bring with them a baggage of fears, violence, mistrust, uncertainty about the future. They need to find protection and meet people they can count on. This was the aim of the Ragazzi Harraga project, which offered school, training, housing and work experience to 400 young migrants who have arrived alone in Palermo between 2017 and 2019.
In order to give continuity to its interventions, since 2020 the project ”SAAMA” is active. SAAMA, in the Mandinka language spoken in Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal, means “Tomorrow”: the new project for young migrants who arrived alone in Italy, in most cases when they were still minors, refers to a future built on rights and dignity. A legacy left by the recently concluded Ragazzi Harraga project, which in SAAMA has found its logical continuation.
SAAMA is also the acronym for ”Strategie di Accompagnamento all’Autonomia per Minori Accolti” (Strategies for Accompanying welcome minor to Autonomy): it is led by the lead association SEND together with an alliance of 13 public and private subjects, among which CESIE and is implemented in the metropolitan areas and small urban centres of the district of the Juvenile Court of Palermo, which includes the provinces of Agrigento and Trapani.
SAAMA grows on the shoulders of previous interventions that have made social inclusion for foreign minors an innovative and replicable model, so that tomorrow and the future of societies may be welcoming and based on the sharing and security of the rights of each person. To do this, SAAMA will once again rely on a consolidated recipe, which aims to enhance the skills of young people through the strengthening of an educating community, which knows how to activate social change within the framework of the fight against discrimination and the promotion of rights; defining individual paths that enhance the resources and skills of migrant minors; entering and remaining in the labour market as a strategy for accompanying autonomy.
Labour market inclusion:
In terms of labour market inclusion, both projects address various levels of actions fostering the inclusion of unaccompanied minors into the labour market. This includes:
Offering 3 months long internships paid by the projects, in which young people can learn important skills on the job, training with experienced employers, who benefit from their help, without having to reimburse them, thus not taking any ”risk”. After this experience, each person follows a coaching programme, aimed at enhancing personal skills through a personalized through a process of personalized training, based on interventions systematization and review of knowledge of systematization and revisiting of the acquaintances. Orientation and training to the active search of the job and business scouting and search of the work for the definition of a plan of active search of the job and the assistance in the contact with the company, the dissemination of the CV, the search of vacancies, the evaluation of professional profiles sought by companies.
 Note: This part of the intervention has unfortunately been discontinued in SAAMA.
Welcoming enterprises network:
Since everyday racism is still one of the biggest hurdles to young migrant’s labour market inclusion, SAAMA is working on a network of welcoming employers, who have collaborated with the projects in the past or expressed their openness to fairly employing migrant workers.
The learning path participants went through during the workshops (see below for more information on the workshops) was complemented by the creation of a skills portfolio, clearly representing their soft skills, such as time management, working in groups, capacity to follow the rules, responsibility and many more, thus helping them reflect on how much they already can do and certifying these skills in the frame of the projects. The certificates have been perceived as useful additions to their curriculums.
Even though the projects did not foresee any specific activities in relation to digital skills, there have been some improvements in terms of digital competences. On the one hand, some of the workshops, such as photo and video (see below), enabled participants with elevated skills in terms of taking photos and videos as well as processing them, which led to overall improved digital skills. On the other hand, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has constricted some of the workshops (such as storytelling) to go online, conducted via Zoom, which automatically resulted in participants learning how to manage tools of digital collaboration, but also the Office package to create word documents and PowerPoint presentations.
Community engagement and Unity in Diversity:
Both projects implemented a series of workshops, in which local and foreign youngsters got the chance to get to know each other, exchange their experiences as well as learn and grow together. Workshops were offered cyclically, every year since 2017 and between once and twice a year with a single duration of 3-5 months.
The workshops include:
Dance and movement workshop
In this workshop, participants learned to express themselves through their bodies. The group further experimented with different forms of movement and dances from different cultural origin, as presented by the participants of the group.
The groups learned how to act and put a play together, enacting societal phenomena, such as interculturality and racism. This fostered a better connection to and awareness of their bodies, being a helpful tool to recognise and manage their own emotions and the frustrations all of us have to cope with in sometimes in life.
Photo and video workshop
Participants in these workshops the basics on taking photos and creating videos, including a story line and making interviews, resulting in a final video that they made of all the workshops and their lives in Palermo. You can watch one of them clicking here (in Italian and other languages).
Rights and living together workshop
In this workshop, participants discussed ways of active participation in society, learned about their own and rights of other vulnerable groups and participated in local demonstrations, such the one organised by LIBERA ob the 21st of March, which is the official day of remembrance of the innocent victims of mafias. They further participated in other local societal initiatives, such as an participatory event on the future of Palermo’s transport system organised by the University and City of Palermo.
The intercultural workshops put concepts, such as culture, stereotypes and prejudices and religion into discussion. Participants discovered and learned about these and how they are connected to their own identity during the workshop. The interreligious dialogue was accompanied by a visit to both, a church and a mosque, presenting the opportunity to discuss with the a nun/priest and an imam. The workshop was concluded with the organising of the Intercultural festival, preparing contents and activities for the local community. One group also created a video on ”the intercultural Palermo” – the city through their eyes, which you can watch here (in Italian, English subtitles available).
Story telling workshop
Participants experimented with different forms of story telling (movement, through words and pictures) and thus were empowered to tell their story and to share it with the other members.
To get an impression of all the different workshops, you can watch the video created at the end of Ragazzi Harraga (in Italian, automatic subtitles available).
During these workshops, young people did not only learn specific skills related to the topic of each workshop, but also got the chance the exchange their experiences and thoughts with people from different cultures, thus creating a greater understanding of diversity and creating bonds beyond the lifetime of the activities. This is notably the one most mentioned feedback that has been voiced afterwards: That the most valued element of their experience was to discover new culture, but also new things about their own culture, create bridges to other people and find more similarities as they initially expect would be there.
Each cycle of workshops is further concluded with an” Intercultural festival”, in which participants present their performance or products or simply, what they have learned during the learning path to friends and parents as well as the local community at large resulting in a group as diverse as our participants. Afterwards, there are always shared moments and new connections created over food and music with a lot of dancing and laughter, thus setting a concrete positive example for unity in diversity and how easy and enriching it can be to create a community made of different cultures.
A second important contribution to community engagement is the Training courses for operator, social workers in Palermo and Marsala, which aims at transferring the good practices, experimented in Palermo, to other parts of Sicily. It further presents an opportunity for the participating teachers and social workers to learn about and discuss concepts, such as culture and cultural sensitivity, intercultural competences, how the media depict migration and how this influences our unconscious perceptions etc. In this way, they are creating a major awareness and are optimally equipped to work with people with migratory background.
Finally, the project SAAMA has seen a couple of sessions, held in local secondary schools, in which unaccompanied minors and facilitators from CESIE guided a discussion about migration and the above-mentioned concepts, always with the objective to create major awareness through all age groups of society and open the dialogue of how we want to live together in a diverse society.