Constructing pathways to guide people from vulnerable environments into the labour market is a voluminous abstract to get one’s mind around. Thus, the examples of best practice exhibited by PROBENS, Associació per a l’Estudi i la Promoció del Benestar Social – the Barcelona hosts of the Erasmus+ CoRe-Relief visit in November 2021, were wonderful to experience. Each choice piece which was shared with us was interwoven with inclusive thinking – looking to the past as well as to the future.
We met on Saturday morning in the PROBENS office which is located in ‘la Raval’. The history of this neighbourhood, on the other side of La Rambla, we were told, is one which continues similarly today. Centuries ago, newcomers to town were sent to be quarantined in la Raval till deemed fit for inclusion into town, thus it had a vibrant immigrant feel to it then, and it still does today.
PROBENS facilitated small group formation through a playful exercise, to enable deeper connections within our working group, before heading off to the metro to travel to the best practice venue of the IN/OUT Hostel. Upon alighting at the Baixador de Vallvidrera stop, we noted we were now in a lush reserve saved from suburban sprawl. It was explained decades ago legislation was set in place to curb further construction in the area, and it is now considered Barcelona’s lungs.
We undertook a 10 minute aerobic hike up a curvy incline, with stunning views along the way, to reach the hostel’s terrace outside of their cafe. On the terrace we met with and were given information by a programme director from Icaria Iniciativas Sociales. This non-profit organization oversees not only the training of the employees for the hostel, we learnt they also have three other concepts in place which provide training for sheltered communities. It was very beautiful to note, the programme director deferred to one of the staff of the InOut, as she was considered the true expert on the training and working life enabled through their initiatives. This member of staff was our guide for a tour of the grounds of the hostel, and the obvious pride and knowledge she showed in her work gave evidence to an example of a best practice.
As the Erasmus+ participants were sitting together enjoying our lunch served by the attentive InOut staff, our venue provided a feast for the eye and the imagination. Antique memorabilia with reinvented positioning was all about us. A revamped take on an austere portrait painting positioned on the ceiling comes to mind, as does a tableau of a table ready for high tea – suspended from the wall at a 90° angle from what one would expect. What could be seen and felt was this was a place which respected the background of what each had to share and curated the parts to work in a way which created paths forward for each.
That evening we were invited along to the Teatre Joventut in Barcelona’s southwestern Ajuntament de l’Hospitalet. Powerful interwoven stories of women of Central and South American origin helped the audience to empathise with their need to voice their feminist rights and beliefs in their homelands. In the audience question and answer session following the performance, we learnt this is the third group of immigrant women the theatre has worked with. Previously, Afghani and Kurdish women had workshopped their shared experiences into performances to help audiences to better understand factors which have forced women to leave lands which they love to seek and find refuge in Barcelona.
When PROBENS has visitors they often book tours of the city with the group Hidden City Tours, whose programmes allow tourists a view of Barcelona through the eyes of people who previously have been homeless. With Covid, the tours have not been running for over a year now. Nevertheless, our PROBENS host treated us to a Sunday late morning/early afternoon tour which ended at the Maritime Museum’s Norai Raval Cafe. Just before lunch we met with Juan, a guide for Hidden City Tours, and we were able to listen to his process of going from a homeless drug user, to becoming a Hidden City tour guide. Juan explained, the key to keeping away from drugs and other poor choices is to be involved and busy.
On Monday, in a classroom of the Associació de Mestres Rosa Sensat, we met Solidança Association leaders. We learnt of the working methods of their clothing reimagination and electronics reuse projects which involve professional training for labour market jobs involved in the green economy. It was explained to us just how important it is to collaborate with the far-off local community leaders, as well. For when a recycling truck arrives to a distant community, to be cost effective, the residents of that community need to be ready and to see this as their chance to be environmental allies.
The Gala performance in the grand Liceu Opera house was an impressive highlight. SIFU, who also provide best practice training giving opportunities to people with challenges, were the hosts for the evening. The focus was on performing arts as a means to reach people who might otherwise not be/feel included as a contributing member of the community around them. Throughout the performance testamental videos were shown providing the audience a lens to better understand the community effort employed to overcome adversity. To promote the evening they were encouraging people to think of talent without borders- #TalentoSinBarreras. This was certainly what was presented.
Another SIFU best practice was visited on Tuesday morning, too. The caring, thoughtful training practices and the practical application of that training was evidence of what Barcelona is doing to enable greater individual and community ownership of each person’s existence and involvement in society.
Erasmus+ CORE RElief (COmplex Reintegration of Employees with changed working abilities to REal LiFe)
TENENET o.z. – Slovakia (coordinator)
Asociacija “Iniciatyvu tinklas” – Lithuania
Experience Workshop ay – Finland
Nevelok Haza Egyesulet – Hungary
Volkhochschule Bildungsinstitut – Belgium
Asociación para el Estudio y Promoción del Bienestar Social – Spain