The Malta Migrant Befriending Programme (MMBP) aims to promote integration of asylum seekers and refugees into Maltese society. It has been accomplished by grouping asylum seekers/refugees, (referred to as befriendees), with long-term Maltese residents, (referred to as befrienders) during a number of group events developed and organised by the MMBP team.
This project is being funded through the Voluntary Organisation Project Scheme managed by the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector supported by the Ministry for Inclusion, Voluntary Organisations and Consume Rights (MIVC).
As an organisation, Hal Far Outreach always looks at the needs of the migrant population that we work with. Therefore, before launching our project a needs assessment was carried out with the beneficiaries of our other projects. After analysing the responses we received from the beneficiaries we designed a new project in line with the beneficiaries’ needs. The official recruitment and training started once the project was launched in March 2022. Once a number of persons showed interest, training sessions were set and delivered by the facilitators of the programme.
The programme has had an extensive training schedule for all participants involved as well as for the volunteers and staff of the programme. This involved training on the concepts of boundaries and safeguarding and how best to account for these in a befriending programme. During the training the participants were asked about their motivations and goals to join the programme as well as their concerns. This was an opportunity for the participants to open up and for us to address any concerns they may have.
The main activities of the programme are the group activities that bring all the participants together to facilitate connections. Once the pairings take place, the pairs will then be placed together during group activities. Due to the low number of COVID-19 cases up until now, all activities took place in person, and were not only well received, they were all a great success! The group events have created opportunities for the participants to come together to form friendships. It has proven beneficial for all to share their stories and cultures with one another. The group events have taken place all around Malta, and will continue as such, allowing the migrants to have new experiences with the rest of the group, while feeling a part of Maltese society. The group events have ranged from sports activities, to a clean-up, to workshops involving local artists and even cultural events.
The initial plan was to pair a befriender with a befriendee at the start of the programme, however this did not happen as participants were shy at the start. Having said that, the group activities provided an opportunity for them to open up and interact with all participants. When approached regarding pairing the participants felt a bit sceptical as they did not yet feel comfortable to meet on a one to one basis. Therefore, we decided to focus on the group activities and allow pairings to happen naturally over the course of the programme. What we saw happen was asylum seekers bringing along their friends to enjoy the programme with them, while also interacting with the other participants. This proved to us that they felt more comfortable in a group setting and therefore we proposed keeping the group together going forward. The idea is that the participants themselves plan activities for the group, with befriendees grouped together with befrienders so no one is left behind.