Last August, we visited the Refugee Network Center (RNC) in Malaysia and met one of the supporting NGOs; Same Skies. RNC was established through Same Skies Transformative Leadership in Action programme (which will be explained more below) and the NGO continues to provide support for RNC.
Same Skies is a team of who support refugees and asylum seekers. They have developed an approach called “Refugee-Led Action” – a community-based approach emphasising strengths, resilience, and access to human rights.
This approach is based on the conviction that initiatives aiming to support the community in their challenges are much more efficient when refugees take ownership of all steps throughout the project cycle, from conceiving, and designing, to implementing and evaluating.
They realised that conventional top-down solutions are rarely effective as these solutions often fail to bring together the project design and the actual needs of the refugees.
These types of solutions also den refugees’ rights of decision-making for their own lives. They are seen as vulnerable, and their potential is often not included in the solutions.
On the other side, Refugee-Led Action acknowledges their skills, ideas and expertise. Same Skies believes that refugees should be allowed and encouraged to embrace their ability to contribute to the society they live in.
Same Skies focuses on co-designing refugee-led solutions, meaning that they use a community-based approach to help refugees develop their own initiatives to address problems in their community.
This includes centres like Refugee Network Center, where refugees can share their skills and collaborate with members of their community. They also train, coach and mentor refugee leaders and volunteers at these centres to strengthen their capabilities and ensure sustainability.
Furthermore, Same Skies promotes Refugee-Led Action to drive a paradigm shift about refugees and refugee work. One of their programmes that enables this is Transformative Leadership in Action, where a team of participants from different backgrounds and expertise (including refugees) study and work together to co-design meaningful and sustainable solutions to challenges faced by refugee communities.
The way Same Skies works is that the team will first help refugee communities to identify and prioritise their needs. Then together they would discuss the best means to address these needs.
Same Skies will provide guidance in project management, conceptualising and implementing ideas and facilitate the realisation of the refugee-led initiatives.
Once established, Same Skies continues to offer support in the form of training on management and educational capacities, as well as ongoing individual mentoring and coaching for all team members involved.
When the NGO started in 2014, they supported the refugee community in Cisarua, Indonesia to establish and develop two educational initiatives; Refugee Learning Nest and Refugee Learning Center.
The team conducted workshops on topics including teacher training, child protection, financial management and first aid. They also guided the team on marketing and fundraising, so the centre could set up sustainable financial structures that they can continue to manage independently.
After two years of support, Same Skies handed over the management responsibilities completely to the refugee teams. Today, the centres offer education to over 300 students, young and old.
Over the years, Same Skies has supported other refugee communities and centres through various projects. Some of their recent projects include The Rohingya Women Empowerment Project (part of UNHCR’s Safe from the Start project, which aims to enhance community engagement in Sexual & Gender-Based Violence prevention and response through livelihoods programming) and the Refugee Collaboration Network (bringing together different refugee-led organisations in Kuala Lumpur to share experiences and best practices, and attend workshops on a variety of topics useful to support their initiatives).
Currently, Same Skies is planning for the next cohort of the Transformative Leadership in Action programme (an innovative learning programme for individuals who want to learn and practice how to create positive social impact).
Historically, refugees have been able and willing to contribute to the community they live in. They have survived the life-threatening danger, both within their homeland and during their journey to seek asylum, which proves how determined and resilient they truly are.
If given the opportunity, host countries will benefit from their contribution while they benefit from being granted to explore their potential and aspirations.
Through their programmes, Same Skies supports refugees to become more self-reliant and learn to create sustainable solutions for their own community.
It’s time for us to take on the shared responsibility of caring for each other and resolving social issues around the world. You can get involved in co-creating a tangible initiative with the refugee community and learn to create a positive impact by joining Transformative Leadership in Action.
Learn more about Same Skies by visiting their website.