Reflection on peer support at the outset

Sharing representations of the criteria, contributions and limitations

The COS project team’s reflection at the start of the project enabled it to share its representations and to define collectively the criteria for choosing the peer helpers who would intervene.

The criteria for being a peer helper

  • Being curious
  • Having a sense of humour
  • Empathy
  • Discretionary qualities
  • Good listening
  • To be willing to « give of oneself
  • Be available
  • Step back
  • Motivational ingredient: having been helped, therefore wanting to help
  • Wanting to be seen as a peer: evolution of the status of the assisted
  • To have a good knowledge of one’s own culture and country of origin in order to be questioned
  • Capacity for introspection

The gains of being a peer helper

  • Valuing one’s career, one’s path, one’s experience
  • Sharing experience, sharing conviviality
  • To take a step back from one’s own experience, to gain perspective on one’s own experience
  • Learn the ability to nuance, to reformulate
  • To allow for constructive criticism of the host society
  • Learning to mobilise a group
  • Mastery of the French language
  • To be a force of proposal
  • Facilitating communication, mediation
  • Being open to difference
  • Open your network and gain a network
  • Allows one to sublimate one’s failures (of one’s journey), resilience
  • Allows you to learn about yourself
  • Through the peer helper’s journey, one takes ownership of one’s own capacity to act = empowerment

Risks or limitations :

  • Being unsympathetic in certain situations
  • Being deaf
  • Being judgmental, having a critical eye on the person
  • Being confronted with racism, misogyny about the situation of the other/culture of the other
  • Risk of a single integration model and imposing one’s own integration model
  • Reliving painful stages for the peer carer
  • Being confronted with the violence of the other’s discourse, with their history
  • Over-identifying with the other’s journey
  • Not knowing how to express difficulties
  • Difficulty in dissociating from the other’s story
  • Feeling obliged to share
  • Feeling obliged, not daring to stop being a peer helper
  • Feeling responsible e.g. in translation in hospitals/schools
  • Taking responsibility as peer helpers
  • Beware of thinking you know without keeping up to date with new developments

Possible threats (to peer carers, professionals, the project...)

  • Preconceptions and prejudices that would reinforce the view of the foreigner
  • Feeding the feeling of persecution, racism
  • Conspiracy thinking
  • Loss of identity and reference points, of French culture
  • The group effect
  • Do not go beyond the stage of experimentation
  • Outcome requirements
  • Questioning working methods
  • « Jealousy », devaluation of the professional role
  • Very cultural view that does not take into account other cultural references
  • Generate conflicts within teams, within partners
  • Omnipresence of the peer helper, the peer helper indispensable for the professional/for the newcomer
  • Not enough funding

Definition of roles

Some of the participants were peer helpers, others had a dual role as business leaders and peer carers.

The missions have been defined and a contract of engagement signed

  1. Co-facilitating group times
  • Introduce the professions in the sector
  • Present the expectations of an employer
  • Present the labour law for this sector
  1. Accompanying the person individually
  • Helping to find internships
  • Participating in coaching, preparing for the job interview
  • Networking
  1. Participate in the assessment of the experience (strengths/limitations)
  2. Participate in dissemination events
  1. Co-facilitating group times
  • Sharing the experience of the integration process (brakes, levers)
  • Present your job(s) (assets, difficulties)
  1. Accompanying the person individually
  • Networking
  • Moral support
  • Support for administrative and business development activities
  1. Participate in the assessment of the experience (strengths/limitations)
  2. Participate in dissemination events


As for the partners, they have undertaken to act as co-facilitators on a voluntary basis during the 3 collective sessions.


« At the beginning, we had to understand the project first, so I made myself available for the meetings. I was there to give information to the refugees, to the peer helpers as well, and to the accompanying persons (CIP): to specify the procedures, to explain how to use a client portfolio, to network in order to find an internship, to give a presentation of the professions, training courses, the prerequisites to be able to go to training courses according to one’s project, to present what the catering industry is in France and to explain the differences, to give some keys on the pitfalls to avoid.“


« I came to present what the refugee food festival was all about.”