Now that my travel time and budget have been exhausted, I offer these lessons learned and thoughts to ponder, which I will take with me to Solve at MIT next week (May 8-10 solve.mit.edu). You can read more in the report I sent a link for in my previous post. Or contact me, and I’d be happy to share more of my personal observations and the stories behind these thoughts with you!
1. The language challenge is huge. Not many teenage refugees in Europe are fluent in English.
2. Volunteers are hard to find and hard to keep. Several people indicated interest in rPartners, but never responded to my follow-ups. Volunteers in the field, and paid staff as well, experience a very high turnover rate.
3. Creating a website doesn’t guarantee it will be found and used. There are many, many websites, Facebook groups, and apps for Refugees already, not all of which are being used or are functional.
4. Motivation is low, among teenagers in European refugee camps, for online learning. There is not enough awareness of the benefits of continued learning nor the content that is available.
Challenges aside, I am convinced that there are students out there who would benefit from an online mentor who could be a constant presence in their lives; I met a couple of them myself, and workers in the field told me about others. Finding them and connecting them to a solid online relationship is tricky. It may be that rPartners would be a good place for people who meet by chance to stay connected and stay focused on lifelong learning. There are many English-speaking refugees in African camps, from what I have been told. That needs further study…