FotoMemoria / Anthropolis

Training experiences with refugees in Hungary

Working with refugees and asylum-seekers was a new experience in using the digital storytelling method. Our training team had to re-think all the training method we’ve been applying and entered a new field to discover by the method.
We realized that digital storytelling can only be successful, if it is appropriate to the context of the project, that it is adjusted to the special needs of participants, especially in a sensitive field as working with refugees and asylum-seekers, who are facing marginalisation, isolation and insecurity. The process of digital storytelling can provide them an opportunity to recall their memories, express their feelings in secure and supportive circumstances. It is a time-consuming process anyway, but time, especially in the preparatory phase is crucial in this field. It is to be conducted with experienced, cultural insider social workers who already have personal contact with the participants. The main source of difficulties in this process is not the lack of IT skills, but language barriers. Especially, if story telling is done in an intermediary language, the facilitator has to play a more active and intervening role, which might result in a digital story not only assisted but dominated by the concept of the facilitator. Working with refugees requires also high level of flexibility from the trainer. Participants in a refugee camp are linguistically, socially, culturally as diverse as probably no other group we have ever worked with before. Motivation of telling personal stories is very special too: at the beginning the participants’ motivation was not to tell and share their stories digitally, but to break the monotony of everyday life in the camp. As a result, the relationship between the trainers and the participants is closer, more intimate and even fragile than in a usual DST training. The actual physical circumstances always effect on the process of the DST training, and it’s also very special in a closed camp, where only the trainer is free to leave the camp any time he/she wants to. The trainer has to keep in mind, that he/she belongs to the majority society, which the refugees might have had bad experiences with. Digital storytelling is a great way to empower refugees, but it can be really effective as part of a structured social work system of organisations helping refugees.