Refugee peer education pilot project evaluation report

Peer educators (photo by Iman Tajik)

Today Scottish Refugee Council and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, North East Health Improvement Team are launching an evaluation report of the Refugee Peer Education for Health and Well-Being pilot project. The pilot commenced in May 2014 and ended in March 2015. Following this pilot, South and North West Health Improvement teams have joined in funding the project.

Dr Alison B Strang who completed the independent evaluation shares her perspective on the project.

I have really felt privileged to be part of the pilot of the ‘Peer Education for Health and Well being’ programme because to me it has been a very concrete example of genuine ‘joined-up’ thinking! My own work in Scotland has made me very concerned about the acute isolation that many refugees and asylum seekers experience.

How did it start?

Michelle Hunt, from North East Health Improvement teams says that “the idea for the project came about through a meeting over a coffee between staff from Health and the SRC.  One of those conversations when you put the world to rights in half an hour!  So back came a few scribbles on an A4 sheet about how we could support asylum seekers and refugees dispersed across the North East of Glasgow: an exciting and different approach, reaching out across the area, using peer education to engage, signpost and empower. A real asset-based approach!”

This conversation picked up on some of the findings from ‘Integration or isolation? Mapping social connections and well-being amongst refugees in Glasgow.’ (NHS, Greater Glasgow & Clyde Strang, A. & Quinn, N., 2014). The study confirmed that too many refugees and asylum seekers feel trapped in the ‘four walls’ of their accommodation. Although they can see the negative impact that this has on their mental health, they know very little about support services available to them.  We found that even those who did meet with others (usually from their own country of origin) knew very little about the resources available in Glasgow to support their health and wellbeing.

The Refugee Peer Education model

The ‘Peer Education for Health and Well being’ project addresses this issue very directly by supporting and equipping refugees or asylum seekers to build trusting relationships with each other and share knowledge with their peers. The project has been very practical providing a supportive context, good training and facilitation and formal and informal information about health and wellbeing and the diversity of resources available in Glasgow.

Peer educators are the best ambassadors about the project and I recommend you read Sogand’s post to find out more and learn about ways to support the project.

The main benefits for participants

It is clear that project participants are now more confident to address the health challenges of their own lives. In addition, many are living healthier lives because - as they say - for the first time they have found people to do things with.

It has been especially striking how those who have acted as volunteer Peer Educators have grown in skills and confidence. I know that most of those attending the New Scots’ conference this year, were deeply impressed by Peer Educators who spoke powerfully about the need to equip refugees and asylum seekers to help themselves and their communities. The pilot project has demonstrated that with the right support and input peers can enable each other to improve their health and well-being.

Find the full report on our website here.

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