From the COS project team

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 :


  • Re-examine and analyse my professional practice, to better adjust our support strategies.
  • support strategies.
  • To develop a relationship of exchange and participation rather than a top-down aid relationship.
  • Enriching support, gaining a better understanding of the social and cultural patterns of newcomers,
  • Take into account/consider the intercultural dimension in the support
  • Strengthen intercultural mediation in the field of professional integration.

From the partners' point of view

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.

complain ».

« 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.

From a peer helper perspective

  • Substantive learning
  • Better knowledge of the COS Foundation and its activities

« 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 ».

From the refugees' perspective

« 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.

Shared lessons on peer support

Criteria for being a peer helper:


  • Posture: how the person can transmit and converse already with the IPC beyond practising the language, ability to understand the subject…It’s 30% language and 70% non verbal.
  • Interpersonal skills,
  • Shows ability to listen and be open,
  • The interest that is shown in the subject,
  • Transmission capacity,
  • Ability to interact,
  • Analytical skills,
  • Ability to pass on experience,
  • Calling on another reference system: being able to bridge the gap between their reference system and the reference system here.
  • Do not act alone, must transmit: be the shuttle, the intermediary, the « link maker
  • Accompanied by another professional: duo or team
  • Knowing how to speak in a group

« Peer support is more than help and mutual aid. It is the skill and ability to link the two shores ».