The working conference on refugees and immigrants brought together 37 professionals from 19 countries, including Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Germany, Malta, Northern Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Lithuania, Romania, Poland, Ukraine, Netherlands, Switzerland, Slovakia, Georgia, and Denmark. These professionals, who have extensive experience in working with refugees and immigrants across various fields, were invited to participate in the conference.
Aside from attending seminars on diverse topics, the participants also had the opportunity to visit an activity center for Ukrainian refugees in Gdynia. During the visit, they explored the center’s charity shop and received a presentation on the range of activities carried out there.
The conference had several objectives, which included exchanging experiences and identifying challenges in the respective fields of the participants, developing recommendations and tools to enhance the YMCA’s work with refugees, and fostering collaboration on joint projects. The intention is to present the conference’s outcomes at the 50th anniversary of YMCA Europe in Berlin, scheduled for June 28 to July 2, 2023.
Representing the YMCAThessaloniki at the conference were Ms. Alexiou, a refugee program worker, and Ms. Tarrafeta, a member of the YMCA European Working Group, as well as an employee and former manager of refugee programs. YMCA Thessaloniki proposed leading the “education” domain due to their expertise with programs such as React, React For Life, DIA-Drasi, and Helios. In their workshop, Ms. Alexiou collaborated with Ms. Monika Ciok-Giertuga from YMCA Northern Ireland and Ms. Daniela Mainenti from YMCA Italy, who served as the secretary. The seminar focused on YMCA Th.’s practical experiences, addressing how they handled various challenges that arose during their programs and facilitating the exchange of insights among all participants.
At the conclusion of the conference, Mr. Adam Rychlik, Technical Assistant of YMCA Europe Secretariat and Mission in Poland, expressed his appreciation for the participants’ involvement and highlighted the value of sharing personal experiences in dealing with refugees. He emphasized that the presented practices were not just success stories, but real-life situations that cannot be replicated through simulations or theoretical discussions.
Mr. Ed Eggink, Chairman of the working group and organizer of the event, shared his satisfaction with the conference’s achievements. He highlighted the sharing of experiences among practitioners from different countries, the establishment of new connections, and the extension of personal networks for future collaboration. He also expressed gratitude to all 37 participants from 19 European countries for their active involvement and looked forward to continued cooperation with YMCA Thessaloniki in the YMCA Europe Working Group on Refugees.