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Best practices for supporting refugees in guiding and scouting organisations

Stories from the field

08. Reflection part

03. Best practices

07. Beyond Europe

05. Videos

06. Resources

02. Guides and Scouts' stories

04. Maps

01. Stories from the field


Andrea's story

Leoniee's story

Lamin's story

01 Stories from the field

Part I

I am Lamin from Gambia and I was born in 1996. I left my country at the age of 19 and I travel through Senegal, Mali, Burkina faso, Nigeria and Libya, a country where I face difficult pain, harassment and pison. Life at that moment was not easy at all but now I'm here in Italy and I’m thankful for it. I have been living in Italy for seven years in a city called Ferrara. At the beginning I lived in a reception centre with other 10 guys coming from different countries of west Africa. We shared the house and we had to get along and to respect some rules! As part of this reception project, I was going to language school to learn how to communicate with people; I think it was very important and it helped me a lot to become more indipendent. I also got the middle school diploma! I also was given the opportunity to do an internship in a Supermarket in the City Center of Ferrara. I worked hard and I learned how to run the storage of the supermarket, after they moved me to the counter, which is a role of more responsibility.it was a great experience working in that place and I also made friendship with some colleagues. During the time of the project, I was part of the football team with other guys who were part of the project with me and in other reception centers, for three years we took part in the local tournament and we went to practices every week. We had fun, but also sometimes the other teams or their supporters were rude and offensive with us and we had to be patient and to not react!

Lamin's story

Part II

Living with people that you don’t know and having to respect many many rules is not always easy, but I wanted to get the best out of the project and I use that time to learn the language and a job, so I have a good memory of the centre! Probably it is not the same for everyone, because everyone is different and we approach life in diverse ways. When the reception project ended, I found a house for myself where I now live with some friends. It was not easy to find a place for us, because house owners still have some prejudices when they see foreigners and we had to view many houses before we found one. Now I'm Working in a Welding company where I learned a lot of new things and skills. I started with an internship but now they offered me a contract! This is the road of my life, I feel happy to share my experience. During the way to find my destiny it was not easy but here I'm today!!!

Lamins' story

Back in 2016, amidts the so called “refugee’s crisis”, I spent two weeks in Preševo, a village in Serbia at the border with Macedonia, volunteering with a Swiss organization that was running a reception tent outside of a UNHCR’s official camp (the United Nation Refugees’ Agency). The village and the camp were on what is known as “Western Balkans route” which migrants and refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries were taking to reach the heart of Europe. People were arriving there and continuing their journey either by train or by foot and we saw families with children, families with elderly, teenagers and young adults. Not everyone had access to the official camp, just some people with a special permit could get inside and access the services there while waiting for the train to Sarajevo or Belgrade. All the others had to wait outside and that is why some organizations set up tents and cabins to host and support people on the move. The services outside the official camp were fulfilling basic needs, toilets, beds to rest, a warm meal and a safe space for children to play. Together with the other volunteers, we were rotating in order to have the tent always open to welcome people, but what I discovered was that the arrival of people was depending on the opening or closure of the border of Macedonia, which depended on political reasons more than humanitarian reasons. Some days, just a few people, irregularly crossing the borders by foot or by car (most probably with smugglers), were arriving in Preševo, while other days, when the train was arriving, hundreds of people were suddenly there and the situation was hectic. I don’t think I was fully prepared for what I witnessed there, what I had seen on the news was actually right in front of me. People were tired, exhausted by the long journey and worried by the uncertainty of what was coming next. I have to say that at times I felt overwhelmed by the situation, but the support of other volunteers and the moment of just chatting with people or drawing with children were fundamental to keep me balanced and motivated.

Volunteering in Serbia

Leoniee's story

Train Station Preševo

An image that I still have impressed in my memory is the departure of the train, there was not a fixed time but just rumors of when it was supposed to come, therefore the wait was long and nerve-wracking. Some people choose to wait in the station, but it was a full Balkan winter (around 0° or less at night) and the only thing we could do, as volunteers, was to hand out some hot tea. When the train was finally there, it was a race to find seats and space inside it, because there were much more people than space and not everyone managed to get the train at the first attempt.Once the train left, everything was silent and it was literally the quiet after the storm. We cleaned up the spaces and we got ready to welcome more people, who didn’t manage to get on the train helped us, creating a heterogeneous group of people with different life’s experiences.

Part II

Leoniee's story

My name is Andrea, I am 29 years old now, but I was about 25 when I was fatally attracted by a social work experience. I left my previous job in the marketing & sales sector, despite it being quite stable in the long term, to launch myself rather enthusiastically within a new adventure, hoping for it to be an enriching one from a personal and professional perspective. I applied for one of the hundreds of volunteering projects which are issued in Italy every year and which address the 18-30-year-olds, financed by the national Youth ministry and run by local entities such as associations, municipalities, cultural institutions, etc. The one which drew my attention was to take place in the medium-sized town of Ferrara and was hosted by a local cooperative, which dealt with welcoming asylum-seekers and refugees. I had no social background at all, I came from a humanistic study path, so I had no clues whether I would fit that post or, even less, whether I could be useful to the people hosted by the cooperative. Which was exactly what I was looking for, perhaps quite selfishly: my aim was managing to feel that what you do as a job, what occupies the most of your day turns useful to somebody. In my previous work experiences - I have to say - I had come across these themes and issues, to which I had felt a sort of impetus. will just recall a little anecdote to make this clearer. I was on a traineeship as a European radio journalist in a regional radio station in the West of France. It was 2015, exactly when what the main-stream medium called the ‘refugee crisis’ had burst out after the shocking picture of the 3-year-old Syrian Aylan Kurdi, drowned off the Turkish coast after the sinking of the boat which should have led him to Europe. The EU countries, pushed by the Southern ones, Italy, Spain, Malta and Greece, above all, had been fighting to adopt a common strategy to welcome refugees, overcoming the Dublin Agreement and making the system more fair and balanced among the European Union. A sort of voluntary distribution system could eventually be adopted and in those autumnal days the first bus with refugees and asylum seekers coming from the Southern borders of Europe were about to arrive on the outskirts of Nantes, the city where I lived and worked for the radio.

Working as social worker in Italy

Andrea's story

I did not wait long to decide that I should be there to cover the event, the arrival of the first asylum-seekers whose lives had been hang upon EU governments’ rivalries and power fights for months. I did not know exactly where the arrival of the buses was and how I could reach it. I rapidly checked buslines, but none would bring me exactly to the spot by the time of the arrival. So I took the first bus which went towards the Southern suburbs of the city and from there I walked for about an hour, just to be there. I do not even know why. It is the very same urgency that led me to Ferrara. The project I had applied for was multi-faceted and, in practice, it was more so than in the description that had drawn me there. I was the chain ring among a lot of social employees who were in charge of refugee and asylum-seeker reception structures and I was responsible for health questions (first-arrival health checks, vaccinations, TBC screening, etc.) and for integration projects. The latter was the part which I enjoyed the most: I was quite free to operate and decide what kind of projects I could put into practice, following my inspirations and according to my network on the territory. I first organised a body-expression lab with a dancer from Ferrara in a local ‘essay’ theatre, then I was gradually introduced into a still existing project of musical expression. In a well-known local music school, a bunch of asylum-seekers attended weekly percussion and drums class with a drum teacher: the result was a Summer tournée which I had to plan logistically and a warm flow of Pan-Mediterranean rhythms (Italy, Northern Africa, etc.). I found all this amazing. But how were the same things to be perceived by those who attended these ‘integration’ and ‘socialisation’ projects? Attendance at such labs was fluctuating, the classes’ starting and ending times were seldom respected, and understandably, when some of the asylum-seekers found a job, it ended at all. The ideal and the good proposal which stood behind the labs were completely far from being shared by participants themselves. ‘Why should I come, if it is not paid?’ wondered some of them, naively but concretely.

Part II

Andrea's story

What struck me the most was that I was exactly there to be helpful, but my idea of helpfulness was completely different from the one held by those people I was supposed to help. My naiveté hit against this wall and prevented me from understanding how tough the reality was. How could I think that somebody whose basic needs are far from being fulfilled (legal documents, job, food, housing, family, social links etc.) would benefit from expressing themselves artistically? Of course some people found joy in the labs, despite it being just a leisure activity. This was the first brick which fell from the ideal magnificent building I had built around the ‘welcoming refugees’ sector. In September 2018, after one year as a volunteer, I got employed by the same cooperative and I ended up administrating my own reception structures in a small village: three reception flats, hosting 11, 4 and 3 refugees and asylum-seekers. During my daily routine, I tried to cope with a myriad of different legal and sanitary appointments, new arrivals, etc. and I came across the hope and the frustration of the guests. The sense of powerlessness in front of the more and more demanding requests of the guests and the approximate internal organisation of the cooperative were the last and fatal hits that convinced me to change job.

Part III

Andrea's story

Scouts and Guides of France


Swiss Federation

02 Guides and Scouts stories

Scouting on site at refugee camp, accompanying children to local Scout groups when they change communitiesCollaboration with: local refugee centers, foundations, sponsors

  • Pro's: Easier access through on-site contact, contact with parents, spontaneity
  • Con's: Constant change, sometimes closure of the camps

Project Pfasyl

Collecting material for refugees

Call to collect sporting material during an annual scouting event with about 500 participants • Collaboration with: a local camp for refugees • Pro's: Small action, integration in an already existing event, little effort • Con's: The center does maybe not require material, a prior clarification is worthwhile

How to include refugees in scouting The experience of Swiss Federation

Unaccompanied minors at Summer Camp

Scout groups invite unaccompanied children/young adults to join their summer camp• Collaboration with: Local camps for unaccompanied minors• Pro's:Mutual enrichment, intercultural exchange, breaking down barriers• Con's: Possible intercultural misunderstandings, assumption of camp and material costs

How to include refugees in scouting Part II

The CNGEI migrants and refugees working group was born in 2019. The Group first focused on understanding what the knowledge of the topic was within the Association and how local groups were working on the subject. For this reason, we submitted a questionnaire to all local groups with the aim of finding out whether they had addressed the topic through structured activities, starting from units’ needs and educational objectives. The questionnaire showed that in most cases the subject was addressed in an unplanned way, for example because the local group had come into contact with a local association that deals with migrants, or through the personal initiative of an adult leader. Generally, it has not been possible to structure a program of joint activities with these associations due to the difficulty of maintaining constant link and communication with them, while it was recognised that a more constant connection could have helped not only to develop activities together, but also to potentially welcome and integrate young people into Scouting. Leaders highlighted how it’s important to start from awareness and better understanding of the migration phenomenon; they believe it is fundamental to discuss and "live" the subject within their own groups and units, as the request coming from young people goes in that direction.

The Italian working group on migrants and refugees

They believe that raising awareness and going beyond what media are telling is key: we assume to know what's happening when a dangerous sea crossing or an event across the Balkan Route reaches newspapers or TV, but mostly ignore the implications of the phenomenon on our society and how it relates to our everyday lives. Starting from this feedback, the working group organised an online webinar titled "Near and far: Scouting and migration". With this webinar, we wanted to give leaders some tools to better understand the topic and to talk about it with young people from different age groups. We pulled together articles, videos, websites and started to have a look at best practices from other organisations, not only to provide informative material, but also to spark interesting ideas. The webinar was very well received and we hope the content will be used as inspiration for activities with both adults and young people, but also that this could be a first step towards more structured activities and long term programmes.

The Italian working group on migrants and refugeesPart II

Testimony of a scouts and guides compagnons team about their international solidarity projects with migrants (Lorient)

In the summer of 2018, Lise, Akiloë, Maëlys and Noémie, four young Scouts et Guides de France Compagnons (senior branch) from Lorient (France) decided to carry out a solidarity project towards migrants at the French-Italian and French-British borders.In the Scouts et Guides of France, the Compagnons (17-21 years old) can carry out an international solidarity project in France or abroad during their second year. In 2016-2017, when Lise, Akiloë, Maëlys and Noémie were preparing their project, the crossing of the Mediterranean Sea and the Balkans by thousands of migrants from the Middle East, North Africa or sub-Saharan Africa made the headlines and were at the heart of the political debates. Struck by this context, the team decided to carry out its project in France and Italy in partnership with associations helping refugees and migrants.Lise, Akiloë, Maëlys and Noémie then learn that a twinning between Italian (from AGESCI) and French Scout units is planned for the summer of 2018, and aims at understanding the different migration issues at stake at the French-Italian border, between Menton and Ventimille. The four young women decided to join this initiative and then to pursue their project in Calais, a city in northern France where hundreds of migrants were waiting to cross the Channel and reach Britain.

Testimony of a scouts and guides compagnons team Part II

During three weeks, Lise, Akiloë, Maëlys and Noémie supported the Italian Red Cross (in Ventimille) and Utopia56 (in Calais), two associations helping migrants, by serving meals and hygiene kits, taking care of children by playing with them, making inventories and sorting donations of material, etc. Above all, they forged very strong links with certain migrants who, in confidence, told them their story and their migration journey.This experience marked Lise, Akiloë, Maëlys and Noémie, and helped them to better understand the issue of refugees and migrants’ integration in their country. "What is striking is that it is happening next door to us! This project reinforced my idea that there was no need to go far from home to experience international solidarity", says Lise. By supporting associations that are experts on the subject, they also became aware of the means needed to bring a semblance of dignity to the people living in the camps: "being useful does not necessarily mean being in contact with the migrants, but it also means taking care of the logistical aspects, such as sorting and inventorying donations" explains Lise. They also realised how divisive the subject was in French society, receiving negative or even hateful reactions to publications on social networks. Since the Compactiv team's project in 2018, the situation at the French-Italian border or in Calais has changed little. So, every year, other SGDF Compagnons teams take over from Lise, Akiloë, Maëlys and Noémie and provide moral support to migrants arrived in France.

Testimony of a scouts and guides compagnons team -Part III

These projects in partnership with migrant and refugee aid associations are one of the initiatives supported by the Scouts et Guides of France in terms of inclusion, but there are others. For example, every summer, the SGDF organises discovery camps aimed at introducing Scouting and Guiding to young people living in socially, economically, or emotionally precarious situations, and through which dozens of young people who have recently arrived in France were able to experience scouting for the first time. Several young people with a migration background who participated to a discovery camp in 2020 have even decided to become Scout Leaders for the 2021 discovery camps. A great example of integration through scouting and guiding!These projects illustrate two convictions held by the Scouts et Guides de France: • Scouting and Guiding enable young people to get involved in their community for causes that are important to them, e.g. solidarity with migrants and refugees. • Scouting and Guiding are safe and caring spaces for migrant and refugee children and adults. In few words, Scouting and Guiding leave no one behind!

Part I

Supporting refugees in units

Welcoming refugee and asylum seeking members to guiding

No Hate Speech Movement – Council of Europe Youth Department

Resources to talk to children about their experiences of being a refugee

Pfasyl project to support integration of refugee children through scouting

Frequently asked questions by leaders supporting refugees in their groups


Progetto Ponti e non muri – AGESCI, Italy

Pfadfinder*innen für Vielfalt und Barrierefreiheit – gegen Hass, Hetze und Rassismus/Auf die Plätze gegen Hetze – VCP Germany

#ScoutsAcogen – ASDE, Spain

Project Karibu (welcoming refugee children into scouts/guides groups)


* you can find all the resources on WECONNECT

Best Practices of Guides and Scouts supporting refugees*

So far, 60000 pieces of clothing sorted and packed in 12 days!

Just another volunteer at Dortmund’s main refugee welcome centre

To help. Because we made a promise. On our Honour.


“Scouts Welcome Refugees” an der Stad

Youth led activity day for refugees

Activities with Save the Children

In the shoes of the migrants

Diversity Suitcase

Diversity toolkit for scouting and guiding

A toolkit on diversity in scouting



Part II


Best Practices of Guides and Scouts supporting refugees*

Balkan Route

West Africa Route

Migartion routes to Europe

  • Refugees have the right to be protected
  • My desperate journey with a human smuggler
  • Refugees want empowerment, not handouts
  • Don’t feel sorry for refugees - believe in them
  • What does it mean to be a refugee?


* you can find all this resources on WECONNECT

  • Dialogue for peace
  • Advocacy toolkit
  • Little Amal, a young refugee, embarks on a remarkable journey
  • International Day of Living Together in Peace
  • ECRE - Asylum Information Database
  • Amnesty International
  • UNHCR Europe

Places to go for further reading or activities*

  • Norwegian Refugee Council "These 10 countries receive the most refugees"
  • Poor nations hosting most refugees worldwide
  • Amnesty International "Global Refugee Crisis – by the numbers"

To have a complete picture, it is important to know that, despite what one might think, Europe doesn't host the greatest numebr of refugees worldwide.To know more:

We chose to focus on the situation of Refugees in Europe, as it is the region where we live and actively participate as guides and scouts.

Beyonde Europe

You can find at this link a padlet with some questions which will help us steer the live discussion.Please leave there you comments and thoughts!

Drawing from the stories from the field, the guides and scouts' best practices, and the videos: how could you apply what you learned to your organisation?

Reflection Part

Claire, Ilaria, Martin

Thanks!The joint working group on Refugees and Human Rights