Alef: an integration pathway for refugee women and girls

Melissa Network, with the support of Mercy Corps and the Municipality of Athens, has created and implemented Alef, a community-based integration pathway. The title is the root of the alpha, a letter common in various alphabets including Arabic, Farsi, Greek and English, and stands for the first steps in a new place, for what brings us together and connects us all. Alef aims to bring young refugee women out of the camps and provide them with a basic navigation tool for the new life in a new place. It is based on a holistic approach to integration, providing a full cycle of activities, from literacy (including Greek, English and other languages) to psycho-social support, skills and creativity, self-care and childcare, information and advocacy. Furthermore, it attempts to create a sense of community and a solid frame of reference, after their long and arduous journeys and the hardships they have persevered. The approach is based on building trust and solidarity, and focuses on hope and resilience. It helps them find a compass and develop a life strategy in the host society. The program has become very popular with long waiting lists, with a daily turnover of 100+ participants and over 250 girls and women participants (as well as over 100 children) since its inception. All groups are ethnically mixed, promoting intercultural communication and understanding.