Supporting refugees in the integration process is key to enabling them to rebuild their lives and become productive members of their new host communities.
© UNHCR/Bruno Galan Ruiz
Τhe Occupational Therapy Program of the European University of Cyprus launched a pioneering program for refugees and asylum-seekers aiming at facilitating their integration in the local society. Following extensive consultations with the UNHCR office in Cyprus, the four-month program started in February 2019 as part of the clinical practice program of the University’s occupational therapy degree. It is implemented with the support of the UNHCR, the Social Welfare Services, the Cyprus Refugee Council, the Kofinou Reception Center and the Nicosia Municipality Multifunctional Foundation.
Occupational Therapy is a profession aiming at helping individuals to regain the ability that they lost, namely to engage in daily routine activities. When applied to refugees, the overarching objective is to help them overcome their trauma, develop their potential and rebuild their lives. The program consists of group and individual interventions implemented by students under the guidance of their clinical supervisors; and aims at enhancing the refugee-participants’ ability to participate in everyday activities by taking into account the challenges they face in adapting and integrating into the social, cultural and economic fabric of the host community.
The program has rolled out at four separate places in an effort to reach out and address the needs of different groups of the refugee community. At Kofinou Reception Center adults are encouraged to engage in groups with activities of their interest while children can take part in art and play groups to help them to acknowledge, manage and express their feelings, and strengthen their psycho-social skills.
At the University’s occupational therapy lab, adults and children with physical and mental disabilities take part in personalized assessments with a focus on enhancing their functional skills needed to become autonomous and self-sufficient. At the Nicosia Municipality Multifunctional Foundation, unemployed refugees and asylum-seekers, together with the University’s team explore ways to enhance their professional skills and improve their employability.
The last component of the program takes place at a shelter for unaccompanied teenagers who participate in group and sports activities as a means to develop new interests, enhance team spirit and a sense of belonging to a group. In another group at the shelter, the teenagers come together to improve their skills relating to a wide range of issues, such as personal hygiene and care, money management, meal preparation, use of technology, and any other skills that will help them in living independently once they become of age and have to leave the center.