The professionals interviewed mentioned learning in terms of knowledge and understanding of the concept of peer support:
“I learnt this new concept which is a real resource: to solicit the know-how and know-how of peers to accompany them. We were already doing it more or less indirectly, but I learned that it could be institutionalised as a professional method.
…but also of professional posture:
“Now, in my diagnoses, I approach things differently: I am more into exchange and discovery, into curiosity about the other; and I explain from the start that there are peer-helper refugees. I more easily involve a peer helper in certain meetings or a workshop to get this perspective different: when it is necessary to work on the reality principle, to give infirmations, advice, so that they hear the views of people who have gone through the same kind of difficulty.
“I do it more systematically, or talk about codes.
“Integrate a peer helper in the reflection in workshops, or a collective or pedagogical event to optimise, according to the expectations and needs of the people supported, to use his or her expertise. In any case, I have learned that there is one thing not to do: exclude the peer helper and the refugee.
Reference is also made to the awareness of the limits of volunteering:
“I learned the limits of volunteering: missing a day’s work for peer helpers, refugees, that’s something! The remuneration also creates availability.”
“The peer helper is the equivalent of a bridge between another culture and us; the peer helper will really make the link: he is able to understand the worlds, he makes the link between two worlds.”
Collection of impact on counsellors’ professional practice :
The “learning” mentioned is related to the profile of the refugees and the relationships:
“I have found that refugees generally expect help but not that they will be helped.
“There is a lot of humility, respect, that touched me”.
“To be uncomplicated in the exchange, to say things simply, they are able to receive precise information for them, not to put too many gloves on either
The partners were also able to learn from each other:
“I learned things about training that I didn’t know”.
“The danger is to be too prescriptive (in relation to the person’s project)
“We should have tutors at the professionals’ premises to welcome them: immersion courses in the form of a project to put them in a professional situation, training on the part ‘how to build a business in France’ (market research, administration, etc.) to understand that we don’t all have the skills but that we can be supported.
“I discovered the concept, the idea that a refugee could help a newcomer again, it’s a great idea because who better than a refugee to know the route?
What also emerges is that the refugees themselves may not have been clear about their plans at the outset: the action seems to have helped to clarify whether the plans were indeed those, rather than helping to get the ball rolling, in employment or in business creation.
“I learned about the training pathway (alternation, working in parallel with studies…), before I didn’t know, now I can advise on this“.
“I learnt about mediation: how it works, what kind of support there is.
“During my refugee journey I used to go to the COS just to deliver the mail, there I learned
what accompaniment they do”.
“I learned a lot of things, how to design a good strategy, in any field.
“It was great.
“I thought the training was 8 months, but it’s 2 years.
“Now I know what I buy to eat, I know the ingredients, I have learned recipes and I know how to cook like here.
“Someone who increases your knowledge is a good thing.
“I realised the big difference between there and here.
“It opened my mind, it was the COS that guided me, I didn’t know anything about French cuisine, only I didn’t know.
“At the moment I’m working as a temp, but now that I’ve heard the stories of others, I know it’s possible.
“This project is a good thing, like when I was hungry and a lady gave me food and shelter. I was ashamed but it gives you hope the way she treated me well, this project is the same, you think back and it was good.
Criteria for being a peer helper:
“Peer support is more than help and mutual aid. It is the skill and ability to link the two shores”.