At the beginning of March 2019, Walsall for All took part in a joint learning exchange visit to Sicily to share best practice about integration. Kayon, Marie and Juraj were offered the opportunity to take part in the visit and have written postcards about their experiences.
A Postcard from Kayon Blake
I was recently offered the opportunity to participate in a joint cultural exchange for 3 days in Sicily, Italy focused on the Integration and Inclusion of migrants in Sicily. I attended as part of a joint Walsall Integration Partnership delegation with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The purpose of the visits was to share what the town of Walsall is learning from the new Integrated Communities Strategy – Walsall for All.
It was an amazing opportunity to visit, learn and experience first-hand how Palermo and Catania, two urban cities, in Sicily, Italy, have created programs to help migrants from various African countries as well as new residents, to integrate into Italian society and to create a welcoming and inclusive society that is geared towards helping everyone progress, not just migrants.
For me the experience was a positive one, that I will use to implement new language programmes, re-launch our Mend-It café and Pop-up Restaurant and utilize Mend-It as an incubator for new micro business as well as sell the unique patchwork bags and scarves created from different fabrics and textures at Mend-It that represents the diversity and multicultural environment that they were created in. However, the best thing about the whole experience was meeting the wonderful Italian people and learning from their insight and the friendships that were formed. Grazie, ciao!!
A postcard from Marie Smith, Watmos Community Homes
The purpose of the Sicily visit was to learn best practice from the Palermo and Catania projects and to implement any learning of their work into the Walsall for All Integrated Communities programme. It was very inspiring and refreshing to look at an issue from another perspective. I learnt that we have many things in common with newly arrived people and we can achieve life-changing outcomes if we all work together to a common purpose.
I found my visit to Sicily very thought-provoking, fascinating and above all inspiring. The people we met were highly committed to the work they do to integrate migrants into Italian life. I was particularly inspired by the mind-set of the Sicilians we met. The Mayor of Palermo has a refreshing approach to the groundbreaking work being done in Palermo and throughout the Island, namely that rescued people are welcomed as citizens of Palermo and not classed as migrants.
I learnt how to use ideas from the projects and ideas such as music, food, art and language to engage with newly arrived people and indigenous people. In addition how to focus our work on what we have in common rather than what divides us.
To work with existing providers, third sector who are already engaging with new communities so we can work together to deliver life-changing opportunities in Walsall.
A postcard from Juraj Modrak, Nash Dom CIC
Similarly to UK, the legislative process from economic migrant or political refugee to becoming a citizen is very long and may prevent early integration.
I found the two cities in Sicily, Palermo and Catania quite different in their social and economic approaches to migrants. I thought that despite more deprivation in Palermo, their leadership appeared to be more visible and publicly welcoming of migrants, with their Mayor leading from the front. The Palermo projects we visited were community focused and migrants themselves were involved in running these projects. I found it very interesting that despite little support from the local authority, there was a willingness to look for other sources of funding and support each other, this was particularly important in the projects such as Moltivolti.
I didn’t quite understand what the official approach to hate crime was and it appeared to me that communities were prompted to find their own advocates to resolve the issues on the ground level.
In Catania, we discussed the importance of making the funding processes transparent for community and voluntary sector groups and I gave examples of how our organisation learnt from existing community groups to build capacity, professionalism and influence.
What I liked most about Sicilian examples was the use of arts and music, often in conjunction with international projects. I thought it would be very interesting if we had more representatives from migrant communities taking part at our round-tables and more social case studies, but I am sure we could build these into our future partnership working.