Objective and implementtation of the action


At the beginning the objective was ambitious: to facilitate the professional integration of refugees through peer support. The idea was to work with refugees who had already been through the integration system, using their experience to help newly arrived refugees.

The team also reflected on the opportunities created by this project and the possible contributions of peer support:

  • Innovate
  • Improving knowledge in general about employment, partners in the territory, for peer helpers
  • Doing together, creating a better world
  • Highlighting differences without masking them
  • To create moments of exchange and conviviality, to organise the institution
  • Develop cultural mediation, integrate the interculturality method into our practices
  • Strengthen the network for each party belonging to the peer support group (employer, newcomer, employee of the association …)
  • Promoting the peer support model, making it a real professional practice
  • Supporting the social worker’s discourse, having a peer helper as an ally to cross the integration steps
  • Bringing refugees closer to reality through peer support
  • Reassuring partners, including a peer helper, helps reduce apprehension, reinforces successful integration pathways

Team mobilised

The COS Foundation

The team consisted of six professionals from the COS Foundation who worked on the project part-time:

  • The Head of the Integration Unit
  • The AIR platform coordinator
  • 4 vocational counsellors (from the CPH, the CADA and the AIR platform)

The partners

As the reflection process progressed, several partners were mobilised:


  • A training centre: INFA


The INFA is a foundation recognised as being of public utility whose mission is professional training. It offers training in the following fields: hotel and catering/tourism, leisure, events/social, health, animation/digital arts, support, orientation.

Bastien Pouzou, in charge of development at the INFA Foundation, was asked to act as a « training expert », and he presented the different existing training courses.


  • An integration company: Envol 33


Envol 33 is an approved company for integration through economic activity. Its mission is to promote access to and return to employment for people in difficulty in the Gironde region by working in the catering industry. It employs 12 permanent employees and 18 employees on integration programmes.

Vincent Balzamo, who was asked to act as a « training expert », came in to share his expertise and skills in the field of training for the restaurant industry. He also had knowledge of a network of restaurant owners and the world of integration through economic activity and entrepreneurship. He was also an employer in the integration enterprise of several refugees involved in this project.


  • The Refugee Food festival


Refugee Food is a global project run by an association, which aims to raise awareness of the

the situation of refugees, to accelerate the professional integration of refugees in the catering industry, and

The aim of the project is to « work towards tasty, fair and sustainable food for all« . Initially a culinary festival born in 2016, the project has broadly diversified to become a global project responding to the various issues of reception and integration in France. Today, it brings together a salaried team and numerous volunteers throughout France.

Sandrine Rivoltela was asked to be an « initiative nugget »: she was the volunteer organiser of the refugee food festival in Bordeaux and co-founder of the Marie Curry project1 . She has a network of restaurant owners who are aware of the need to welcome and develop the skills of refugees, and has provided long-term support to participating refugees in their professional integration process. She herself has experience in pastry-making.


  • The University of Bordeaux


The University of Bordeaux, which was involved in the overall European project, provided support: the team used the monitoring and evaluation tools (logbook) proposed by Isabelle Rigoni, lecturer in sociology at the INSHEA and associate researcher at the Centre Emile Durkheim at the University of Bordeaux.


Peer helpers

5 peer helpers2 , former refugees, some already entrepreneurs, others not, were asked to participate:

  • Anna Gregoryan is a refugee of Armenian origin who owns a restaurant in Eysine near Bordeaux. She is both a refugee of Armenian origin and the owner of her own restaurant.

restaurant « Chez Anna » in Eysines. Anna is a dynamic person with lots of projects and

She has a rich intercultural experience and a journey of integration in France after a journey of exile and asylum. Humanist and generous, she helps other exiles in a volunteer group. She values her culture and the cultures of others through artistic expression and cooking, a source of sharing and conviviality.

  • A team leader in a street food restaurant, of Afghan origin:

Muhammadin Nazari, a refugee of Afghan origin, works as a team leader in a street food restaurant. He has plans to open his own restaurant. He volunteers with various refugees to help them in their journey and to learn about the host country environment. Muhammadin participated in the Food Refugee Festival on the 2020 edition at Garage Moderne. He is a passionate cook who likes to give pleasure by sharing his culinary traditions.

  • A creator of a catering business in Bordeaux, a refugee of Syrian origin:

Iyad Kallas, a refugee of Syrian origin, has been involved in various activities for several years (radio, participation in cultural events, Jamira project to support musicians in exile…. ) he opens his catering restaurant in Bordeaux and makes us discover the flavours of his country of origin. Committed, militant, humanist, he has been supporting new arrivals for a long time!


  • A pastry chef with plans to set up her own business, a refugee of Armenian origin:


Narine Lalayan, passionate about pastry, is of Armenian origin. She participated in the Food Refugee Festival, in the European ERASMUS KusKus programme, she sold dishes on the markets in Talence in association with another cook, she has experience and she wants to start her own business!


  • A manager in a restaurant, a refugee of Iranian origin:


Mahshid Mirghazanfari, a refugee of Iranian origin, was an air hostess in her country of origin. Unable to work here, she has held various positions in restaurants, and is now in charge of a restaurant. She is also a volunteer with the COS solidarity centre, thanks to her language skills. Dynamic, curious and with a taste for others, she would like to open her own tea room!

Course of action

The action took place in three phases:

A first phase of reflection and co-design

The action took place in three phases:

In parallel, COS conducted a dynamic workshop with COS teams on the issue of peer support and a questionnaire for refugee peer supporters to gather their views and experiences on the issue.

Group work with the job placement officers then made it possible to draw up a timetable for the project and to target potential partners in the catering/hospitality sector, chosen in the light of the various professional projects of the newcomers and the fairly high demand for guidance in this sector.

Finally, various meetings were held to explain the project and to recruit the expectations of each person, the

projections and possibilities for involvement in the project.

Thus from August to December 2020, the team worked on :

  • Set up the COS Foundation’s internal working group.
    • Via the development of the Solidarity Pole’s peer support experiences
    • Through the sharing of documentary resources3 and group work in a « dynamic workshop »: what does it mean to be a « peer helper »?
      • Strengths – assets to be a peer helper, gains to be a peer helper
      • Weaknesses-limitations-barriers to being a peer helper
      • Opportunities/risks (for the professionals, the project, the peer helper…)To appropriate and clarify the concept of peer support and the roles of each
    • Build a timetable for implementation.
    • Identify peer helpers (interviews on their background, their specificities, the experience they can share).

    • Identify refugees who could participate in the project (10 were interested. They were not selected on the basis of language level).

    • Identify possible partners (training, employers) in the catering/hospitality field, chosen in the light of the various professional projects of the new arrivals and a fairly high demand for guidance in the trades in this field.

    • Preparing group sessions for newcomer refugees.

On 4 December 2020, a time of reflexivity was organised within the COS Foundation team to evaluate the pathway, based on the tool proposed by the University researcher in the framework of the overall project.

A second phase of implementation

The second phase, from January to April 2021, is the phase of meetings and inclusion in the community

professional in the catering industry.

Three specific days were dedicated to the exchange of partners/CIPs/peer helpers/refugees:


        Three 2-hour sessions, involving 10 refugees, 4 IPCs, 5 peer helpers, 4 partners (training, employer) and interpreters.

        The selected refugees all had a project around cooking/restauranting.

        The objectives of the workshops were to :

  • To provide practical information on this field in a friendly atmosphere
  • promoting the expression of all.
  • To open up the horizon of possibilities and to include the person in a dynamic of active construction of his/her project with the field.
  • To provide individual support led by the integration officers with
  • partnership of the speakers in the group sessions.
  • To open up the viewpoint and strengthen the knowledge of each of the protagonists, whether they are IPCs, peer helpers, company managers, newcomers or trainers, through cooperation, listening and respect for each other’s knowledge and experience.

These workshops were designed to present and discuss


        The jobs4 in the catering and hotel industry and their specificities: necessary training, hours, constraints, required qualities, remuneration, needs of the territory, tasks and typical day…

        Valuation of one’s career path.

        Rights and duties in labour law.

        The business world (apprenticeship, sandwich courses, IAE, private, public, etc.)

        Pitfalls to avoid, possible obstacles and levers.

        Setting up a business.

A participatory assessment and evaluation phase

  • Reflexivity on the changes produced by the experience was organised on 4 December 2020 for the members of the COS team.
  • On 8 April 2021, an evaluation session with inclusion professionals, internal to the COS foundation was held to learn from the experience.
  • On 21 April 2022, a debriefing session was also held with peer helpers and partners.
  • On 21 June 2021, a closing event for the project took place, bringing together refugees, peer helpers, partners and the COS Foundation team.

The peer helpers received a certificate of participation from the COS Foundation.