The Befriend Programme – Experience Fostering mutual integration and exchange

On Saturday 24th February, Kopin (VO/0200) hosted the awarding ceremony for all the participants to the Befriend Programme, which has been conducted between September2017 and January 2018.

The programme has seen nine Maltese nationals and long term residents being coupled with nine Third Country Nationals in order to create one-to-one relationships promoting cultural exchange and mutual learning. During Befriend, five group activities had been organised, for the whole group of 18 participants to meet up and enjoy outings, workshops and activities that would foster the team’s spirit and encourage exchange, learning and friendships. Alongside this, participants were invited to hold regular one-to-one meetings, in order to foster the pairs’ exchange and encourage dialogue.

The initiative is part of the project entitled “Building capacity for local volunteer initiatives and promoting welcoming communities”, which has been financed by the Voluntary Organisation Projects Scheme (VOPs) managed by the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector (MCVS) on behalf of the Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Sport and Voluntary Organisations.

Besides the Befriend Programme, the project allowed Kopin to provide free arts and crafts sessions to migrant children residing in Hal Far, as well as origami sessions for a mixed group of Maltese and migrant children over a period of nine months. Alongside this, Kopin has also offered a range of training opportunities to volunteers taking part in the activities, in order to improve their skills and capacities.

The closing ceremony, held on Saturday 24th February at the Osbourne Hotel in Valletta, aimed at recognising the efforts made by the participants in committing to the programme and following it with enthusiasm. Moreover, it was an opportunity for the group to meet once again and possibly follow up on their developed friendships. The outcomes of the programme have been shared with relevant actors and stakeholders in the field of migration and integration.

Befriend initiatives have proven to have positive effects on the inclusion of different vulnerable groups. This was already evidenced during a pilot initiative conducted in 2013 jointly by Kopin and UNHCR Malta, which had involved both Maltese and asylum seeking women.

During the final event, the participants confirmed their great satisfaction with the activities and the opportunity to meet so many people from different countries.

Kopin hopes that the relationships will last over time and that the groups will remain united to continue fostering intercultural dialogue and inclusion in Malta.