Generally seen as one of the most impactful humanitarian crises of our time, large flows of refugees from the Mid-East and East are travelling into Europe. At the outer borders of the EU large temporary shelters have been put in place to address the first basic needs of the people: medical care and food, and take care of registration. The conditions in which this takes place are very poor.
Where authorities are talking, people take action and many citizens travel to these locations as volunteers; to welcome refugees and help to get the first needs addressed. As Otto Scharmer wrote recently in an article for the Huffington Post: “As Systems Collapse, Citizens rise”.
After their first registration, people travel on their own to their (temporary) destination country, awaiting the final decision of the government in the country they travel to. Upon arrival they have often traveled for 10 days and nights, through 11 countries and carry only few possessions. Due to the huge amount of people coming in, the time before a final decision for instance in Belgium on status is reached can take up to 3-4 months. In the meantime, they are free to move around but not allowed to work or apply for alternative housing. They must live in the shelter assigned to them.
We started our work some weeks ago. It’s easy to get deeply involved in all the personal stories from refugees, residents and the shelter staff.
Some of the refugees arrived as a family, some alone, leaving family behind or their family was killed in an act of war. Compared to the last wave of refugees around 2007, now the level of education is higher. Setting up a local shelter, welfare has to alleviate immediate needs, overcome language barriers and set up logistics in the shelter: food, registration, clothing, pocket money, helping people find their way to local shops, healthcare and so on. Local authorities face the problem of organizing the possibility to build shelters and provide housing. The local schools face the challenge of creating seats for the children, offering customized education and handling the tension the situation may cause with residents.
In his recent (2015) ‘A Force for Good, The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World’, psychologist Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., author of the New York Times bestseller Emotional Intelligence, describes the Dalai Lama’s approach to difficult situations; he can’t solve these complex problems, but he can offer all the fear, anger, suspicion and negative feelings a place in his love, compassion and forgiveness. This helps him to keep his cool in difficult circumstances.
Our approach is based on:
- Helping people to build capacity, so they can continue this journey on their own.
- The six needs of any human being: certainty, uncertainty/variety, significance, connection/ love, growth and contribution.
- The Cynefin framework of David Snowden, to get a good understanding of the complexity we are in today.
- Applying Art of Hosting practices of Participatory Leadership.