Precious normality

“My fear of learning was slowly transformed into joy and gratitude”. These are the words of Mahmoud[1], who together with his wife participated in a Cultural Orientation Programme which was organized by JRS Malta, in collaboration with the Paolo Freire Institute between the months of May and August 2016. “At first I was afraid and not so convinced about the usefulness of this programme”, says Mahmoud. “But then I realized how important it is to learn English and get to know more about the country we are living in. I also made new friends, which is also something very important. I am sorry the programme has stopped and I would certainly love to have more of these kind of opportunities.”

This 12-week programme consisted of English language classes, computer lessons and a weekly session providing information on life in Malta. Originally intended for refugee families that had been reunified in Malta, we immediately realized that the need was much greater than that. As a result we extended the invitation to families that had been recently relocated to Malta from Greece and Italy. However, we were also contacted by women who, despite having arrived in Malta years ago, yearned for this opportunity to learn English and meet other people. This strong demand for these type of activities which bring people together in a learning environment caught us by surprise and made us painfully aware of the unmet needs of people who, despite their willingness to be part of a wider community, face untold obstacles on their way to integration. In a bid to remove some of these obstacles, JRS decided to provide child-minding support and transport at various pick-up points throughout the duration of this programme.

For many, another highlight of this initiative were the two culinary sessions and the cultural outings, organized with the collaboration of Heritage Malta. A number of families with children commented on the fact that the events gave them the opportunity to experience Malta in a fun and “different” way whilst socialising with other families outside a classroom or office setting. 

The programme finally came to a close with a dinner during which families prepared traditional dishes to share. All those present enthusiastically prepared, served and sampled each other’s food, while the children developed new friendships and livened up the evening with their favourite music and dance, thus providing yet another golden opportunity to instil a sense of “normality” into a life that is inevitably driven by the need to survive and secure one’s rights in the host country.


[1] Name changed to protect identity 


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