Breaking down cultural barriers for refugees

Encouraging cultural inclusion for refugees from Ukraine and beyond.

The challenge 

The Franc Ksaver Meško Library in Ormož serves a region of Slovenia that has been affected by the migration of many thousands of people fleeing poverty and war, including 20 Ukrainian mothers with children.

The library is working together with the Ormož Adult Education Centre to raise awareness and acceptance of the new arrivals among the local community – working to increase inclusion and reduce inequality and helping to encourage the involvement of refugees in the cultural and social life of the local community by offering them opportunities to develop their talents, hobbies, cultural and educational needs.

The initiative

The challenge team started out by establishing contact with local organisations that support refugees (including the Red Cross and local social workers and schools). 

Together with these organisations, they consulted with Ukrainian women about what they needed or wanted to do in their free time and tailored activities accordingly: a Ukrainian get-to-know-you evening, creative workshops, bilingual fairytale hours, a cooking workshop, literary evenings, exercise classes and a shadow puppet performance in Ukrainian. 

Newcomers have also been able to attend Slovenian language courses at the adult education centre as well as using the library’s computers and Wi-Fi connection to keep in touch with family members and to study online. 

Through these activities, the initiative has significantly improved refugees’ integration into the local community and has encouraged cooperation between local organisations.

What’s next?

Further activities for all ages are planned for 2023, in consultation with community representatives. The challenge team hopes to continue to encourage cultural integration even after the end of the project.

They have gathered basic information with instructions about how to arrange temporary residence, which will be published online and distributed as printed copies at key locations in the local community for future new arrivals.

The hope is that this initiative will significantly improve the quality of life for Ukrainian refugees and that it can provide inspiration for other communities across Europe and beyond.

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