Generation for Change CY Internship report by Katarzyna Jaskot
How Does Generation for Change CY use Empowerment in its Projects
Internship report by: Katarzyna Jaskot
Supervisor: Anja Kublitz
Aalborg University – MSc Global Refugee Studies
Copenhagen / Denmark – 16.12.2022
Table of Content
1. Introduction …………………………………………………………………………………………………… 2
1.1. Introduction to the Internship report ……………………………………………………………… 2
1.2. Report structure …………………………………………………………………………………………… 2
1.3. Reflection on the internship ………………………………………………………………………….. 2
2. Data collection and ethical consideration ………………………………………………………….. 3
3. Refugees in Cyprus …………………………………………………………………………………………. 4
4. Organisation Generation For Change CY (GFCCY) …………………………………………….. 5
5. Analytical discussion ………………………………………………………………………………………. 7
5.1. What is empowerment? ………………………………………………………………………………… 8
5.2. Empowerment from the organisation’s perspective …………………………………………. 9
5.3. Empowerment from participants’ perspective ……………………………………………….. 10
5.4. Participant observation………………………………………………………………………………… 12
6. Conclusion ……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 12
7. Bibliography ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 13
1.1. Introduction to the Internship report
Choosing an internship can be very important. It is an integral part of your academic path and can be a stepping stone for your career. Getting work experience can also assure you if that is what you want to do with your life in the future. Selecting a place where to do an internship is not an easy one. During our course, we get enough support and guidelines on choosing one. Beneficial was the Practitioners’seminars class, where invited professionals from critical organisations in the development and the humanitarian sector in Denmark shared their insights from their work. Listening to the stories helped me realise that I would like to start my work experience in the field in a small organisation. During a research period for a place of my internship, I came across the organisation Generation For Change Cy. When I saw their website and learned about their activities, I knew it would be a perfect fit.
1.2. Report structure
In this report, I will start by reflecting on my research question and how my work assignments influence the choice of my research question. Next, I will describe data collection and ethical considerations. Further, I will shortly explain the Cyprus refugee context. Afterwards, I will present an organisation I had the pleasure of being part of for the last three months – mainly the character of the organisation and the main objectives. Then I will dive into the analytical discussion using the concept of empowerment to address the research question. Finally, I will conclude with the main thoughts from the report.
1.3. Reflection on my internship
I did my internship at Generation For Change CY in Nicosia. I chose this small non-profit organisation because the area of its activities corresponds with my interest and the studies I’m pursuing. A background in development studies focused on forced migration gave me an in-depth understanding of the field, and how to address challenges we can encounter in the humanitarian sector. I aimed to put into practice the knowledge I have obtained during my studies.
One of the biggest challenges non-profit organisations like GFCCY face is the lack of sustainable funding. With the increasing need from marginalised groups for assistance in Cyprus, available resources run out quickly. They rely on donations but are never sure it will come on time. There is always a worry about how long the money will last. I hope this paper will help to spread the word about the organisation and, at the same time, contribute to advertising their activity to obtain funding.
Despite the short period of existence and the limited number of members, the organisation performs a wide range of activities. I was able to be involved and learn about every aspect of it. I worked on various projects and events during my internship. One of my first tasks was to work under the e-Learning programme. This programme aims to support the integration of migrants (asylum seekers, refugees, economic migrants) by developing their Greek and English language skills. Communication was a big part of my work. Not only with the students in the project but also trying to assist people who were coming to our office. The language barrier was the biggest problem I encountered working at the GFCCY, but we overcame these limitations with the help of technology and our volunteer translators.
Every Friday, with the help of volunteers, GFCCY prepares packages with the humanitarian aid programme Donation Drive. This occasion brings many people together and helps build a strong local community by reinforcing common values. The main reason I have decided to write a report about the work of my host organisation is the impact it has on society as a whole in Cyprus. At the same time, it is inspiring and impressive what a small group of people have done for the past two years.
In this report, I want to present the ways Generation For Change CY supports its projects’ receivers and determine whether and how the organisation uses empowerment to help migrants and refugees regain agency, independence and control over their lives.
2. Data collection and ethical consideration
I used qualitative methods in this report: semi-structured interviews and participant observation to help me analyse the research question. In two weeks, I conducted four interviews with two beneficiaries of the programmes (one with a student from an e-Learning program, the other with a student from an ICT class) and a volunteer and co-founder of the GFCCY. The aim was to get insight from a different perspective and position of my interlocutors in the organisation. One interview was online, the rest face-to-face. All the interviews were recorded, and the average time was ten minutes. I prepared an interview guide for each person before the interview but did not limit myself to it; I could do follow-up questions. I listened to each interview several times to catch essential information about the project and opinions. I made a note of the keywords and quotes that I needed for my analyses.
As a member of the organisation, I acquired knowledge about the organisation and its activity. I wanted to use what I observed from the inside, so I did a participant observation in the ICT skills class. Spradley claims that a participant observer enters a social event with two goals. To participate in situation-appropriate activities and watch the people, situation’s actions and physical aspects of the setting. He distinguishes five types of observation (complete, active, moderate, passive and nonparticipation) depending on the level of involvement (Spradley, 1980). My participation in the research I would consider moderate. It is essential to position yourself within the study. I had to balance between being inside and outside of the situation. The main goal of my observation was to see participants’ attitudes toward the course and their behaviour during the class. I also paid attention to people’s interactions during class to see if they were active or passive students. I took notes on the participants’ attendance in the class.
During qualitative data collection among underprivileged and vulnerable groups, it is necessary to take into account ethical considerations. My areas of interest were not of sensitive nature, and I aimed only to reach for the opinions of people involved in the projects. However, I decided not to disclose the names of my interlocutors apart from the organisation’s co-founder.
3. Refugee in Cyprus
The Republic of Cyprus is a small island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is located between three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa. The closest neighbours are Turkey from the North, Syria and Lebanon from the East, Israel from the South-East, and Egypt from the South. In 2004 RoC joined European Union and became the southern periphery of EU borders (Mainwaring, 2014). In recent years, Cyprus has seen a massive influx of displaced people due to political upheaval and conflicts in the region. From 2015 onwards, the number of refugees has been increasing. A vast number of asylum application has been coming from war-torn Syria. This growth accelerated in 2018, a notable increase – of 72% over the prior year. The country’s constrained reception infrastructure was put to the test in 2019 with a further jump of 65% (UNHCR, 2022). In 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of lodged asylum applications went down, increasing to almost double the following year. In the current year, until the end of June, there were already 12048 submitted applications. Considering the size of the island and its population, the Republic of Cyprus is currently in the leading position regarding the number of asylum applications per capita in EU member states (UNHCR, 2022).
The government of RoC is struggling with a tremendous amount of asylum seekers. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported prolonged waiting time for an asylum determination procedure (UNHCR, 2022). It is a complicated and overwhelming process that can take up to three years on average, increasing the difficulties faced by asylum seekers. Because of the forced nature of their escape and experiences, refugees, in contrast to migrants, frequently have particular needs that must be addressed for better integration into society. While the government has been working on a new integration strategy over the past few years, the first country integration plan, which was established for the 2010–2012 period, focused on integrating migrants generally (UNHCR, 2022). There is a lot to be done to improve Cyprus’s integration policy, and this is the biggest challenge of the national asylum system, according to the UNHCR.
4. Organisation Generation For Change CY (GFCCY)
Generation For Change CY is a small grass-root non-profit organisation that strives for a better, more inclusive society where everyone can have equal rights and opportunities in the Republic of Cyprus. The organisation’s creation was inspired by the “Black Lives Matter” movement happening worldwide in the summer of 2020. According to co-founder Etinosa Erevbenagie-Johnbull: “Myself and some other friends came together to give Black Lives Matter protest in Nicosia, and after we started to discuss the different ways we can continue work when it comes to bringing awareness on the injustice that different marginalised groups are facing in Cyprus, such as: black people, migrants, refugees or people of LGBTQ+ community, persons with disabilities or the poor, so we then created a group called Generation For Change CY”.
The crucial moment for the organisation was the winter of 2020. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Cyprus was on a harsh lockdown, and newly coming refugees were not allowed to apply for asylum and were not admitted to the Porunara refugee camp1. In effect, they were left homeless on the streets. What resulted was that many of them gathered in the parking lot outside of the Immigration Center in Nicosia. As Etinosa explains: “We as an organisation (…), we took some pictures, videos and uploaded them on social media and ask people to support with food, bedding, clothes. Many people started to contact us to support us, and that is how a lot of active, important members we met. (…). That was when we all met. We created then organisation’s Donation Drive, which is still running till today.”. That was a breaking point for the organisation’s objectives.
After the “parking lot event,” they established three pillars of their work. The first of the pillars of action is humanitarian aid, which is the distribution of material goods to vulnerable groups and people living under difficult circumstances. Under the branch of humanitarian assistance, the Donation Drive programme runs, which main goals are to support vulnerable families and individuals with food, hygiene essentials, clothes, and other basic items. They strive to deliver 30 packages every week. The Donation Drive project engages a lot of volunteers on different levels. The second pillar focuses on integration and empowering people from disadvantaged groups. Under this pillar, they provide language classes and employability programmes where people can obtain the knowledge and skills to help them find employment and better integrate into the host country. One of the most significant projects in the second pillar is e-Learning For Change. It is an online language course that provides free basic English and Greek classes. Programme e-Learning For Change aims to empower and assist non-English and non-Greek speaking refugees and migrants living in Cyprus to learn the language. The current e-Learning For Change semester offers six Greek and four English groups. When I started at the GFCCY, my first task was working on the e-Learning project. The semester was just starting, so I was assigned to register the students and create the classes. I was handling the project’s data and had to prepare information for advertising about how many students we have in the class and from which countries they come. The number is quite impressive. In the autumn of 2022, GFCCY enrolled 200 people in the class from around 35 different countries living in Cyprus.
Another very new and significant programme under this pillar is Employability Hub which aims to increase the employability and inclusion of disadvantaged groups in the Cypriot labour market. Within this programme, we organised an Information Communication Technology class (ICT skills course), a CV creation session, a preparation workshop for a job interview, Labour Rights seminar, and an introductory Greek class that will take place in person. The projects outlined above are all designed to help people enter and successfully navigate the labour market.
They also offer projects for children, like the Afterschool for Change. It is a safe intercultural space for children in age 7 to 14 years old to help them support the language learning process. As well as facilitate the development of their academic skills. On top of that, there are sports programmes and events like the basketball Hope team and the Yoga class for migrant and refugee women.
Lastly, the third pillar of the action is the initial one – raising awareness about societal issues. Interculturalism also expanded that branch, focusing on bringing people together from different groups and communities. The goal is to create more intercultural relations in Cyprus, where people can interact. Within that field, they organise events like Gathering for Understanding or movie nights where people from dissimilar backgrounds can meet together to share their experiences and discuss current issues.
Besides a few ongoing projects and organising events, GFCCY is also involved in activities outside the office. The most significant one is educational lectures at Universities or schools that aim to raise awareness about the problematic situation of migrants and asylum seekers in Cyprus, advertise the importance of civil society organisations and encourage young people to volunteer. One of the persons I interviewed became a volunteer after Etinosa’s presentations at the University
Officially organisation consist of six members (two full-time and four part-time). As part of the organisation, it is necessary to mention a wonderful group of volunteers and teachers-volunteers. Without their time and dedication, they would not be able to carry out these projects.
5. Analitycal disscusion
5.1. What is empowerment?
In this paper, I aim to answer how GFCCY uses empowerment in their projects. First of all, we have to find out what exactly empowerment is. It seems like there are no standard definitions for the concept. In 1999, Page and Czuba were doing a literature review of the idea of empowerment and stated that they could not find a clear definition of it. Many use the concept to get around the lack of a universally agreed-upon definition by using it very narrowly and relying solely on their particular scholarly field or program. Some people do not even define the term. As they wrote: “many have come to view “empowerment” as nothing more than the most recently popular buzz word to be thrown in to make sure old programs get new funding” (Page and Czuba, 1999). It seems like some organisations can overuse this word without fully understanding its meaning, or they have their interpretation of it.
The expression can have different meanings in different political and socio-cultural circumstances and is formed by beliefs and values. Most definitions indicate that empowerment is connected with gaining power and control over resources and decisions. The NGO movement mainly advocated that as part of their development policies in the 1980s. Many people only see empowerment in the context of power. If power is limited, empowerment must include a struggle for control (Jupp and Barahona, 2010).
Page and Czuba also point out power as a prominent indicator for explaining the concept of empowerment in the article “Empowerment. What is it?”. They see the empowerment process as achievable only if the power relation changes. To start demystifying the concept of empowerment, they believe that we must first have a general understanding of it to comprehend how and why we might focus on empowerment for specific initiatives and programs. For them, empowerment is a social process that makes us questions our assumption about power, success and achievement. As a common definition of empowerment, they suggest: “Empowerment is a multi-dimensional social process that helps people gain control over their own lives” (Page and Czuba, 1999).
The World Bank, Oxfam, and many other more radical NGOs have all embraced the term “empowerment,” yet few of these organisations have shared a standard definition. In 2007 Scrutton and Luttrell provided a list of different approaches to empowerment from an array of charity organisations and NGOs following a selection drawn from official records connected with these organisations (Scrutton and Luttrell, 2007). To embrace the idea of empowerment much more broadly, I will show some of the definitions here.
The World Bank Sourcebook defines the concept of empowerment as: “the expansion of assets and capabilities of poor people to participate in, negotiate with, influence, control, and hold accountable institutions that affect their lives” (Narayan-Parker, 2002). The book proposes an institutional definition of empowerment in the context of poverty reduction since powerlessness is deep-rooted in a culture of unequal institutional relations. In a broader sense, empowerment gives people more options and freedom to take action. It is significant for its inherent value and role in helping poor people experience more successful development (Narayan-Parker, 2002).
Oxfam, in their definition, links empowerment with the oppressions that people encounter: “Empowerment involves challenging the forms of oppression which compel millions of people to play a part in their society on terms which are inequitable, or in ways which deny their human rights.” (Jupp and Barahona, 2010).
As mentioned before, some organisations can decide on which definition they will apply in their organisation or just choose the best fit for the specific project. I deliberately chose these examples to explain the term because we consider the use of empowerment in NGOs like Generation For Change CY. I believe that each of these definitions can give us a small input and bring us closer to the universal one. The use of the description will help me better present the usage of empowerment in the GFCCY projects.
5.2. Empowerment from the organisation’s perspective
When I asked Etinosa about empowerment and how he thinks the organisation is using it. He replied with a typical Greek or English saying: “Give a man a fish, and he is going to eat for one day. Teach him how to fish; he won’t starve.”. These two simple sentences accurately express the scope of their activity. By the second phrase, you can easily explain what empowerment is for the GFCCY. The Donation Drive program focuses on bringing immediate relief to people, which in symbolic meaning is “giving fish”, but the rest of GFCCY’s work involves implementing empowerment by “teaching how to fish”. He continues to explain: “If we are able to provide the skills for those individuals who are vulnerable and marginalised, they are going to be able to stand on their own feet. They won’t necessarily need us anymore.”. “Stand on their own feet” refers to Page and Czuba’s suggested explanation of empowerment which is taking control over one’s own life. To do that, a person needs to have tools or opportunities which help them to take action. Unfortunately, some people are more disadvantaged than others, so organisations like GFCCY come forward to help and assist those in need. The organisation’s target is to provide opportunities to those with limited access and resources, such as asylum seekers or people from low socio-economic status.
A lot of people are coming to the GFCCY office to get help, especially in finding a job. They get informed that the organisation cannot provide them with the job itself, but it can teach them how to look for one. GFCCY does not want to make people dependent on help in every aspect of their life. They want to give people possibilities to help themselves, and the organisation’s role is only to assist at the beginning. To provide them with a slight push to take action for their life. GFCCY empowers people with skills and knowledge, and how they will use it is only up to them.
What is also notable is what Etinosa emphasises that people coming to our office feel that they are being heard. Employees and members of the organisation show them compassion and understanding. They treat them with dignity and respect, which is very important and influences participation in the organisation’s projects.
Etinosa also stresses the importance of sport in people’s lives and how it can improve a person’s physiological and sociological well-being. Doing recreational sports can also contribute to empowerment. Besides the Hope Team – male basketball group, and Yoga class for migrant and refugee women, GFCCY also organises sports events. The last one in November was an “Intercultural 3×3 Basketball Tournament”. The interviewed volunteer highlighted how good these kinds of events are and how they can bring people together: “people from all backgrounds can go there and play sports, and we can meet people that we won’t meet in the other way”. The same person adds that all the GFCCY projects contribute to beneficiaries’ empowerment by helping them acquire language skills and speed up integration with local communities and the whole society.
5.3. Empowerment from the participant’s perspective
The language barriers make it difficult for people to participate in the political process, the labour market, and everyday social interactions. Language knowledge is vital in navigating a new country. Learning the host country’s language enables migrants to become active members of society and allows them to integrate better. Acquiring basic skills that are now necessary for a workplace provides for inclusion into the labour market and enhances the chance for employment. The learning programmes like e-Learning For Change and Employability Hub give these opportunities. All programmes of GFCCY are free of charge and easily accessible. Both interviewed participants of the programmes appreciate that they could easily join the class and they could practise new skills.
When I asked them what empowerment means, the first participant replied that it means self-confidence, and the second participant – knowledge. They admitted that thanks to attending the classes, they gained knowledge and became more confident, which is their understanding of empowerment.
A participant in ICT class reflects on the prolonged waiting time of the asylum process and, as a consequence of it, the difficulty in obtaining a job. “My expectation is to get a job, but presently because of my status in Cyprus, it is kind of preparing myself. (…) but here they feel like there is a potential in us. They don’t want us just to sit and waste time, so they decided to come up with this program to use it to integrate us, to bring us to do stuff, to use our potential in us, to make us useful and productive to the community.” He is very grateful to the organisation for the opportunity and appreciates their efforts to invest in people’s potential.
5.4. Participants observations
During my observation at the ICT skills class, I noticed a high attendance of students. Most people showed up on time with a positive attitude and engagement. Their eagerness to learn was easy to spot. The participant in the ICT class I interviewed said that he was coming late at the beginning, but over time he became more interested and started coming ahead of time. He also enjoyed the other students’ company and, along with some of them, started meeting earlier to hang out. They enjoyed intercultural interactions, and everyone was helpful to each other. Completing the course and receiving the certificates gave them a lot of satisfaction.
Generation For Change CY is an organisation which strives for a better and more inclusive society where everyone can access equal opportunities. Most organisations’ activities aim to empower people by providing these chances. GFCCY believes in people’s potential and wants to give them tools to use it.
By presenting the concept of empowerment, I wanted to show the correct usage by the organisation and its implementations in their projects. To get a more significant picture and see how the organisation’s projects are seen from a different perspective, I conducted interviews with people taking various positions at the organisation. From inside the GFCCY, I interviewed co-founder Etinosa and a volunteer. From the outside were two participants of the programmes. I implemented the results with participant observation.
From my findings, most people are aware of what empowerment means. There are many definitions, but each of them has something in common. For my interlocutors, empowerment is a process that will contribute to the improvement of their life situation, and they also agreed that the GFCCY projects are a way to do that. Participants also understand that it is more beneficial for them to learn “how to fish” in the long run.
- Jupp, D., Ali, S. I., & Barahona, C. (2010). Measuring Empowerment. Ask them: Quantifying qualitative outcomes from people’s own analysis. Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).
- Mainwaring, C. (2014). Small states and nonmaterial power: Creating crises and shaping migration policies in Malta, Cyprus, and the European Union. Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies, 12(2), 103-122.
- Narayan-Parker, D. (Ed.). (2002). Empowerment and poverty reduction: A sourcebook. World Bank Publications.
- Page, N., & Czuba, C. E. (1999). Empowerment: What is it. Journal of extension, 37(5), 1-5.
- Scrutton, C., & Luttrell, C. (2007). The definition and operationalisation of empowerment in different development agencies. Consultado a, 28, 2010.
- Spradley, J. P. (2016). Participant observation. Waveland Press.
- The World Bank, (2021). Population total – Cyprus. The World Bank. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL?locations=CY
- UNHCR (2022) Integration, Reception capicity https://www.unhcr.org/cy/publications/