Private Refugee Sponsorship Groups as Sites of Adult Learning
P R I VAT E R E F U G E E SPONSORSHIP GROUPS AS SITES O F A D U LT LEARNING LESSONS FOR LINC INSTRUCTORS AND OTHERS I N T H E S E T T L E M E N T C O M M U N I T Y. K ATA R I N A O H L SS O N SOME BACKGROUND
Professor at Seneca, previously a LINC instructor. Left LINC to pursue my Masters. Masters program 2015-2017: Adult Learning and Global Change from UBC (Canada), Linkoping University (Sweden), University of Western Cape (South Africa), and Australian Catholic University ( Australia). What about my audience? LINC instructors? Settlement community members? Anyone currently or previously in a Private Refugee Sponsorship Group?
WHAT IS A PRIVATE REFUGEE SPONSORSHIP GROUP? Private refugee sponsorship does not rely on public resources, but rather taps the energy and funds of faith communities, ethnic groups, families and other benevolent associations. These organizations typically fund-raise or use their personal income to provide for and support the sponsored individual or family for 1 year in Canada. (Refugee Sponsorship Training Program , 2016, p. 1)
PRIVATE SPONSORSHIP GROUPS AS A SUCCESS STORY. Only 30% of privately sponsored refugees will need government assistance in their second year in Canada, 69% of government-sponsored refugees are still on social assistance at the end of that second year (Friscolanti, 2017). Effective because refugees tap into their sponsors social and cultural capital. They are able to use that network.
WHY RESEARCH LEARNING IN THESE GROUPS? ACADEMIC REASONS PERSONAL REASONS There are indications that countries such as the UK, Italy, and Germany are all looking at
including a private sponsorship option into their own systems (Panetta, 2016). Ive always learned a lot from my refugee and immigrant students and was curious about the sponsors experience.
The program doesnt work without the civic engagement of Canadians and so I believe its worth researching the sponsors experience. Also found teaching LINC an emotionally draining experience and was interested if that was at all reflected in
the sponsors experience. THE AIM RESEARCH QUESTIONS 1. Whether private refugee sponsorship groups were indeed sites of learning for sponsors. 2. How the groups were organized and how their organization affected the sponsors learning. 3. What types of learning the sponsors experienced. 4. If the learning the sponsors experienced was transferable to
other areas of their life. GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE INTERVIEWED SPONSORS 8 sponsors in total (through snowball sampling) 7 women and 1 man. Between the ages of 40-70 One was in communications, two in management, one in HR, one stayat-home mom, two retirees and a professional artist. No previous settlement experience except one who had been a settlement counselor for 5 years in the 1980s.
5/8 were lead sponsors. Sponsorship groups ranged in size from 5-13 sponsors. WHAT WAS THE EXPERIENCE LIKE? All 8 said a version of Positive but challenging JULIE: Our family has enriched my life, but it is a lot of work. I found it emotionally draining. I find it emotionally draining. Um. We always feel like were not doing enough. NATALIE: I would not be able to do this if I was working. Its hard.
ANNE: I actually took a break from going to school because it was so much work. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO DO THIS? JULIE: It was very much an act of citizenship for me and felt I needed to demonstrate to my kids the kind of place that I think the world should be. And this was a very concrete way to do it.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO DO THIS? NATALIE: I just think it is beyond being Canadian. Its just we had extra money. What are we going to do with it? Buy another car? Like to me, its like global citizenship. Its what you do. Its what you should do. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO DO
THIS? VERA: I think it was humanisticyou need to help. You need to help. WOULD THEY DO IT AGAIN? 4 = Yes, 100% 4 = yes, but.. Not as lead After some recovery time
Only if there was another international crisis After some time WAS IT A SITE OF LEARNING? Yes, but there was a range from Amy: I think that I learned so much To Vera: I think I have learned a little bit. WHY THE RANGE IN
LEARNING? S O W H AT D I D THE SPONSORS LEARN? CULTURAL LEARNING
JULIE: Our kids used to make a joke about this that we would plan to go over for an hour and we wouldnt be back for four hours because as soon as you arrive the food starts to come out andso that I think thats a Canadian timing cultural thing versus the Syrian way of things. Just stop by whenever you like and well bring out the food. You know? But, you know were just much more scheduled.
CATHY: I knew that the mother wore a hijab. I was a little unprepared for how they dressed. They dress like westerners with a hijab. When we were sorting clothes, we were pulling out the sort of undefined, long dresses that wouldnt show your body and she (the mother) came in tight jeans. And they were very much aware of brands and wanting those. VERA: They invited me for a baby shower and I went and I dont know I was wearing a top with a little bit open and not on purpose.so my girlfriend said, You cant go like that! She put pins and I went and it was just women only and it was
like a rented condo party room and all the ladies there were I would say undressed. Undressed with the jewelry and I have to say beautiful. NATALIE: We all pitched in and painted their house and they were laughing. The women had never painted before. Even though they are more liberal, like they would say that in Syria a woman would never do this type of work. A man would never cook. (So I learned) just like certain things that are cultural differences here
and um attitudes towards mens and womens roles. LESSONS FOR LINC Making sure that we make time and space for cross-cultural learning in our classrooms. A lot of time is spent teaching about Canada and Canadian cultural norms. Including, YMCA guest speakers, etc. Time also needs to be spent on giving our students the communication tools they need to explain their culture to Canadians. Even guest speakers about this could be useful. How do other Muslim Canadians
explain Ramadan to Canadians, for example. They need to learn from each other the best way to do that. We can provide the time and space for them to practice. Even at low levels. Perhaps with the help of higher level LINC students who share the same culture. LEARNING WHAT IT MEANS TO BE REFUGEE
JULIE: Were so in love with our country that we cant imagine that anybody wouldnt love it like we do. And you kind of go. Wait, wait, wait. You know they didnt ask to come here. They fled a war. They dont want to be here. They want to go home and they cant. That sort of sucks. ANNE: It (cultural issues) was an eye-opener and also how your health affects your ability to integrate was not something I had thought a lot about before. So, um, they,
like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) was a factor in their ability to adjust to things. Which again, when I say out loud its not surprising, but when youre actually interacting with somebody its like you kind of forget. VERA: They want us to know that before they were refugees they were middle class with comfortable lives, very comfortable lives. They would not have come here if not for the war. DANIEL: Refugee? Right, refugee. Its not just a concept.
Not just a U.N thing. LESSONS FOR LINC They want to tell their story. But its a different story from our immigrant students. Its an important narrative and in my experience it takes two forms for the (newly arrived) refugees I have taught: A desire to tell their escape OR A desire to tell what they left behind. In PBLA binders, we have an about me section, and I think a lot of us do ask students to
write a life story or some life narrative. This is not without problems, of course (a form of surveillance?). However, if they have a desire to tell their story then we can help them craft it in such a way that is authentic but only includes what they want people to know. We work hard to create LINC classrooms that are safe spaces for our students, so its a good place for them to both craft this narrative and then practice it orally. LEARNING ABOUT THE REFUGEESPONSOR
R E L AT I O N S H I P & POWER Natalie: I guess the other thing too um which has been a big learning experience for us is that theyre adults and that we can give advice but we cant. Its difficult.stupid example; they were taking Uber all the time. Im trying to tell them, like thats expensive. Thats out of your budget, but I cant tell them dont take it. Its their decision and its like kind of like understand that they are independent people and you
theres only so much you can guide themIve never had a relationship like this. Julie: You get really invested. You really want them to do well. At the end of the day, they are adults and they get to make their own choices. So, its a difficult balancing act. Anne: They wanted a car. We were very confused by that. Why would you want to spend your money on
that? Its going to be so expensive and it will eat up you, you know. But it was very important to them. Anne: So we had raised more money than that minimum that was required. So that one of the discussions was related to whether we give them the extra money or save for something else. We did talk. Like we did have these conversations like well, do we just give the money to them or do we put it in an education fund for the kids. Like then we had these discussions like we shouldnt be telling them what to do with the money. Its their money. They can
decide what they want to do with the money. Ultimately, we gave them the money and they bought a car. But we had this weird vote and so a portion of the money is going to an education fund (Anne laughs). Daniel: Adults taking care of adults. Capable adults and capable adults. Its not like you are taking care of your aging parents or that you are somehow masters of some wardsWe had a lot of people (in the group) who recognized that we have to be really careful not to
create a dynamic that is not healthy. Amy: Theres a little dance LESSONS FOR LINC We know as teachers that power exists even when are helping. Brookfield (2001) teaches us that adult educators can also fall into this trap- When we place students into a circle for discussion is that beneficial or is that surveillance?
In order to guard against this, we learn to be reflective of our practices. For some sponsors, this was their first experience of this kind of power relationship and it was difficult. I would suggest that this is one area where ESL teachers, especially LINC instructors, would be very useful in a sponsorship group. We can help to ensure that the group has a healthy power relationship. If you know of groups that need help, VOLUNTEER! You have expertise to share!
LEARNING ABOUT THE SYSTEM Amy: I learned about the process and how it works to sponsor a familyIts bureaucratic and um slow and I think not as seamless as we thought it might be. CATHY: (the settlement organizations helped) marginally. It helped one person to know she was being
um right in her point of view but it really didnt help how we were to proceed. ANNE: It felt like the agencies didnt really coordinate and talk to each other and that some of the ways that they approached helping just seemed like ridiculous. NATALIE: One of the best things is Im part of a Facebook group and that has been amazing in terms of help. Because the group is filled with other sponsors, so if I had issues, I could asklike stupid things
like I had to find a dentist that, um, would take their sort of health coverage, and I asked on there and things I dont have experience with or dont know. Ive found that is a better resource to ask other sponsors than actual organizations because they give you more the real. What their experience has been. SUSAN: One of our younger volunteers, shes on a Facebook page with another group and.that contact has been good. LESSONS FOR LINC & THE SETTLEMENT
COMMUNITY ALL the sponsors spoke at length about how difficult it was to understand the system, to find the community supports that they were told were out there, and to access things like LINC. Most relied heavily on other sponsorship groups rather than on the professional settlement community. If this is what the sponsors feel about the system and they have economic, language and cultural capital, we can only
imagine what the refugees feel about the system. We need to look critically at our organizations and ask where are the weaknesses. We need to think carefully about the entry points, about the front line, and how they can be better supported to do their very important work. TYING THIS RESEARC
H TO THE RESEARC H OF OTHERS This was a very tiny study of only 8 sponsors, yet many of my findings echo other studies. Derwing and Mulder (2003) who studied
PRSGs during the Kosovar refugee crisis in 1999, found that there were often cultural-misunderstandings between sponsors and refugees. They also found that sponsors thought that the support from the professional settlement community was inadequate. TYING THIS
RESEARC H TO THE RESEARC H OF OTHERS Lamba & Krahn (2003) want to challenge the false perception that refugees are passive in their own resettlement.
Beiser (2009) points out that a power imbalance can happen when you label one the helper and one the helped. Lanpheir (2003) goes further and would like to see sponsors think of themselves as partners rather than sponsors. I agree with this. The sponsors I interviewed were also learners with the refugees being their teachers- this points to a very active role for the refugee and supports the idea of a partnership.
A change in name could also help with issues of power within the group. MORE RESEARCH NEEDS TO BE DONE This was a small study. But we know that there will be another refugee crisis whether from climate change, political instability, or armed conflict. More research is needed into examining the experience
of all those involved in a PRSG: the refugees, the sponsors, and the settlement community. This could provide helpful insights into our current model and help other countries thinking of adapting our system. FINAL THOUGHTS. The fact is that the Canadian sponsors saved lives. Saved entire families from active conflict zones. None of the interviewed sponsors took on this challenging work
for their own personal gain. They are among the very best examples of what can happen when individual citizens take local action to tackle global issues. Their own learning was simply a positive by-product of their life-saving response. THANK YOU QUESTIONS? H T T P : / / L I U . D I VA - P O RTA L . O R G / S M A S H / G E T / D I V A 2 : 1 1 1 6 0 2 4 / F U L LT E X T 0 1 . P D F
CITATIONS FOR THIS PRESENTION Beiser, M. (2009). Resettling Refugess and Safeguarding their Mental Health: Lessons Learned from the Canadian refugee Resettlment Project . Transcultural Psychiatry , pp. 539-583. Brookfield, S. (2001). Unmasking Power: Foucault and Adult Learning. CJSAE, 1-23. Centre for Refugee Studies and Joint Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement . (2001). A report on the experience of sponsors of Kosovar refugees in Ontario. Toronto, Canada: York University . Derwing, T. M., & Mulder, M. (2003, Spring). The Kosovar Sponsoring Experience in Northern Alberta .
Journal of International Migration and Integration , pp. 217-237. Lanphier, M. (2003, Spring). Sponsorship: Organizational, Sponsor, and Refugee Perspectives . Journal of International Migration and Integration , pp. 237-256. Lifeline Syria . (2016, 09 20). Our Work. Retrieved from Lifeline Syria: http://lifelinesyria.ca/ourwork/ Refugee Sponsorship Training Program . (2016, 09 13). The Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program. Retrieved from RSTP: http://www.rstp.ca/en/refugee-sponsorship/the-private-sponsorshipofrefugees-program/# The Government of Canada. (2017, 06 11). Guide to the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program. Retrieved from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/publications/ref-sponsor/section-2.asp#a2.1
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