Intercultural families in which one of the spouses is waiting for a residence permit decision face many overlapping challenges. Side by Side project provides information, peer support activities and family mentoring, thus strengthening social networks for these families. The project also networks with and provides information for professionals who encounter intercultural families in residence permit process.
peer support groups spring 2019
Peer support group for couples waiting for a residence permit decision
English speaking peer support group for intercultural couples in which one spouse waits for residence permit decision. The group gathers weekly for eight times in the spring of 2019, starting 2nd of April.
Intercultural couples are those in which spouses are born in different countries. Intercultural couple in Finland can also be a union between two immigrants who are born in different countries. Where ever the couple lives, one spouse is living life abroad.
In peer support groups we talk about the well-being of the relationship and emotions during the residence permit procedure. We practice calming down and relaxation, sometimes going out for picnics or exercise. The groups lead by trained group leaders. Activities of the group are based on confidentiality.
What is the Side by Side Project?
The activities of Side by Side are targeted for intercultural families in which one of the spouses is waiting for a residence permit decision. In an intercultural family spouses are born in different countries and there are special issues in the relationship, because at least one partner is living his or her life abroad. An intercultural family in Finland can also be a union between two immigrants born in two different countries.
These families experience many overlapping challenges. Starting a family and integrating into a new country are major life changes. The ongoing residence permit process, possible traumatic experiences and insecurity over the future all affect the relationship. Insecurity can last for several years and burdens especially families with children or those expecting one.
Until now there has not been activities planned specifically for intercultural families expecting a residence permit decision. The project maps out the needs of the target group and tailors a family mentoring model accordingly.In addition to family mentoring there are peer support groups by trained group leaders meeting both face-to-face and via internet. The activities will strengthen social networks of the families. The people close to the family are also included in the activities, because they can be a source of support for the family in a difficult life situation. However, some intercultural families encounter negative attitudes in their close circles.
One of the project´s target groups is professionals working in for example municipalities, reception centres of asylum seekers and NGOs who need information on situations and needs of intercultural families. The project creates networks with and provides information for professionals.
SIDE by SIde Peer Support Groups
Peer support groups are relatively small, with 6-8 participants. Some of the groups will meet face to face, others via internet chat. There are groups for both couples and those who wish to participate in Finnish spouses groups, mens´ groups or groups in one´s mother tongue. Groups for parents and children can also be arranged.
Peer support activities are based on confidentiality, and anything discussed in the groups must be kept secret even after the activities are over. Peer group leaders are trained for the task and they sign an agreement of confidentiality. In its trainings the project will utilize both Familia´s own and partner organizations´ expertise (for example Veto-verkosto) on peer support leaders training.
The meeting schedule for the groups are planned in advance. Each meeting has a fixed topic which is relevant to the participants. The group leader ensures that the discussion remains constructive and everyone has an equal chance to participate in it. Talking in a group is always voluntary and no one is forced to share personal matters. Peer support activity gives participants support and tools to use in everyday life of intercultural family. The participant builds new contacts and networks.
Mentoring is about relationship between the mentor and the actor, where knowledge or experience is exchanged. The mentor can help and support the actor to evolve and achieve their goals. The mentoring relationship can be between two individuals, but also organizations, projects and other groups can benefit from mentoring. Mentoring is voluntary work based on trust and commitment of both parties.
In Side by Side project the family mentor is an “ordinary person”, and specific education or qualification is not required. The mentor should have experienced similar life situations and is able to support another person going through them.
The project in cooperation with its partners trains mentors for the task. The mentoring relationship has certain mutually agreed guidelines. The mentors will sign an agreement of confidentiality. The project staff is always available for mentors to discuss any challenging matters or situations arising during the mentoring relationship. The project staff will also arrange work counseling (työnohjaus) for peer support leaders and family mentors during the project. In work counseling it is possible to deal with challenging situations or emotions arising in the activities.
Side by Side Lectures and Discussion Events
The project will arrange lectures and discussion events about issues relevant to the target group, for example Finnish legislation, residence permit procedure, intercultural relationships, sexuality, mental health, traumatization and public services available.