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In every person there is a sun. Just let them shine.

Socrates

The Academia Program – Lesvos Greece

Refugees arriving to Lesvos Greece are in need of shelter, food, medical attention and help with their paperwork. They are also in need of more than just short-term assistance. At the Academia Program we have a vision of providing refugees with the tools they need to succeed, specifically with access to peer to peer non-formal education. We began the non-formal education program in mid 2019.

When Stand by me Lesvos (SBML) started in 2017 we were a group of local educators and business owners here in Lesvos who quickly saw the need for helping refugees in the long term and we rapidly built a safe place where using our skills as educators we could teach refugees English and Greek, a way to communicate, connect and improve their lives in a practical way. We are committed to working outside the camp structures and therefore all our activities have always taken place outside the now destroyed Moria camp. The coronavirus lockdown and the fire at Moria have reshuffled parts of this project, but we have a vision for the future:

  • Expanding our non-formal curriculum that prepares refugees to take the A1 language test
  • Coordinate with the organized network of non-formal language learning and continue to integrate other organizations doing similar work
  • Training volunteers, especially refugees and locals, to become non-formal teachers (a certified skill)

Some Background

Working with thousands of refugees over the past three years Stand by Me Lesvos can clearly say that refugees need a way to prepare for the taking the A1 test in any European language.
For example, women refugees arriving from Afghanistan are usually very motivated to learn, but don’t have the basic tools of reading and writing, having been prevented from going to school as girls. This is a challenge, how do you prepare a woman from Afghanistan who has not had access to schooling and is functionally illiterate to take a standardized European language test?

Stand by Me Lesvos has also met so many refugees who had incredible skill sets and we asked ourselves what is the best way to capitalize on this incredible wealth of knowledge already available to us?

Non-formal – Formal Education

Non-formal education is an alternative or complement to formal education as part of the process of lifelong education. Non-formal education is an important and effective tool in improving adult and youth literacy and alphabetization all over the world.
Non-formal education is often the first step in getting refugees to a baseline literacy level where they are able to begin the formal education of the European Language system. (It is also very important to help them communicate with locals and authorities inside Greece) But informal education from its very nature is not standardized and varies very much and as such is not recognized, so a certificate from Lesvos would mean nothing in Athens, or Berlin. This is a real issue that is negatively affecting the learning situation for refugees and is very frustrating for volunteers and teachers.

The Academia Program is working on the solution by giving structure to non-formal education. At SBML we have divided the informal education that prepares refugees to be able to later participate in formal education into 10 units. This is a curriculum, and has measurable outcomes and inputs. This also allows internal consistency so that two classes being taught by two different teachers are learning the same things.

When we created a non-formal learning curriculum in 2019 it was a powerful tool that SBML as an organization shared with other similar organizations – we created a network where we know exactly what refugees are learning. So a person, who completed units 0-5 in Lesvos, could now go to Athens and continue at a partner organization learning units 6-10 and not waste time starting at the bottom again. That person would then go on to start the formal learning much better prepared to succeed.

This organized network of non-formal language learning allowed us to integrate other organizations that are currently doing similar work. Being able to recognize that the certificate a refugee receives at one Language School and know exactly what they learned is extremely meaningful and would have a strong impact on the language learning process. Right now so many refugees are wasting their time, as what they learn at one place is then not recognized, and then they have to start the process from the beginning, which is very demoralizing. This is also a huge waste of resources and slows down the integration process.

The other part of this vision is to continue creating a serious non-formal education cooperation that is based on volunteers, specifically refugees and locals. Training volunteers who are refugees to become informal teachers and how to use the informal learning curriculum is a core component of this vision. We want to add value by training refugees into recognized informal education teachers; this is an incredible added value to language learning and to the refugees who would now have a strong certified skill set. SBML would also like to continue reaching out to retired teachers as part of our volunteer network, as they have the knowledge and skills to professionalize the volunteer training program and they also have the time to seriously build this cooperative.

Our plan is to fulfill this vision over the next two years. We are building networks with other organizations in Greece and within a Ersamus+ funded program. We are working to train volunteers to be informal teachers. We need € 3,900 per month to make this vision a reality.

About us. Stand by me Lesvos is a Greek organization; in Greek we have a word: Xenos. It is a word with many meanings ‘stranger’, ‘outsider’, ‘friend’ and ‘guest’. The deepest meaning of the word can be understood as ‘guest-friend’ and is a central part of how Greeks understand hospitality, it is part of how we at Stand By Me Lesvos see refugees; as guests, as friends, as people who maybe in transit, but where there is also a reciprocity, a give and take between the two.

Our Projects. Greece is known to be the cradle of democracy and self-determination. In antique times Greek philosophy focused on education and empowerment. We still believe in these universal values and want to share them with the refugees who arrive here. We feel committed to keep these ideas and ideals Greeks once gave to the world alive.

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