PIER – Protection, Integration and Education for Refugees in Greece, Italy and Austria
The PIER Program supports cultural and socio-economic integration of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in three receiving countries: Austria, Greece and Italy. It encompasses different types of assistance aiming at their improved protection, education and integration, with particular focus on helping children, youth and young adults.
In Greece, a Youth Support Center (YSC) run by ARSIS Association for the Social Support of Youth in Thessaloniki provides assistance to children, youth and young adults from vulnerable families (most of them with refugee or migrant background) and additionally supports their family members on a variety of social issues. The assistance provided begins with individual needs assessments and includes needs-based social services and counselling (e.g. legal, social, psychological counselling, in-kind assistance, etc.), as well as educational measures and leisure time activities (such as regular language classes and after school support, creative workshops, excursions, etc.).
In Italy, young refugees and migrants accommodated in Caritas reception centers are supported in using the opportunities given by modern technology to facilitate their integration process and become more independent and active members of their local communities. Using the tablets and educational software provided within the PIER Program, specially trained staff offers Italian language and citizenship courses to the beneficiaries. Additionally the equipment is used to assist beneficiaries in improving their IT skills, job seeking online, finding information on educational opportunities, state institutions, NGOs and other support networks.
In Austria, nine Lerncafés provide after school support and leisure time activities for school aged children. The Lerncafés assist children from migrant and refugee families to improve their German language skills and provide support in other school subjects, both during the school year and within the summer program. Through additional leisure time activities, workshops and excursions, children learn to improve their social skills, to work and play in a team and to respect each other. In addition, children’s’ parents receive information about social and legal counselling measures.
All PIER activities are implemented with strong involvement of dedicated volunteers, who offer their time, enthusiasm and skills and act as tutors, teachers, companions and often also as role models. All the projects are embedded within the context of local communities and are implemented in cooperation with other NGOs, local authorities, schools, social workers, etc.
The PIER Program is implemented with the support of The Coca-Cola Foundation since January 2017. Because of its successes in the first year of implementation and the ongoing high demand for integration measures the PIER Program is prolonged until January 2019 as the PIER II Program.