I’ve been volunteering to help arrange and run GutsToChange, a unique, apolitical, design-driven initiative to look at the current devastating migrant situation as an opportunity. The situation is without a doubt a crisis for the individuals and countries from which they flee. However, for European public services - it is also represent creative pressure to help us innovate for the future. Not only for migrants, but for every citizen.
GutsToChange gathered 100 private, public and voluntary change-makers at the Norwegian parliament. Looking to define opportunities for systemic change, my wonderful group focused on the journey for minor migrants, and their mental health in particular:
Here are four concrete strategies:
1. Develop a kit for ‘Child Mental Health in a Box’
It is always better to prevent than cure. This is particularly true when we’re welcoming traumatised children and youth. Helping them deal with what they’ve experienced and grow into safe and trusting adults is a very good investment. However, our public services are strained and it’s hard to do the right thing under pressure. Let’s develop a Child Mental Health kit that help helpers help, with simple, tried and tested methods to prevent harming these minors for life.
2. Empower children to tell their story
As with patients in healthcare and vicitims in crime, it adds to these migrants’ burden to tell their painful story again and again. Fragmented and uncoordinated public services however make this happen. Let’s rather give them simple (digital) tools to keep and share their story. And, let’s help them develop their future story and avoid becoming “the migrant” forever, but rather kickstart the future self they dream of.
3. Give every minor migrant a mentor
In Norway, there’s been a great desire to volunteer to help migrants. Also, we know our public services are hard to navigate – even for native adults, so definitely for foreign children. Let’s make it easier for people to contribute, and create a service that gives every minor migrant a mentor (“fadder”) from day one, to guide them safely into our society.
4. Help minor migrants understand, learn and navigate
Children are in so many ways better than us adults. They are curious, playful and open. And being a migrant in a pressed public system involves a lot of waiting. Combining the two, let’s make the most out of the waiting, and empower them with (digital) tools to understand, learn, navigate and connect with peers on their way. They can start learning how our society works, and contribute by guiding others.