Soul Tech and EmpowerMIE: Empowering Migrant & Refugee Youth
After roughly six months without any organized in-person activities, we are ecstatic to see our young members and partners, and to be in cultural institutions again! We started the summer with a bang (we just went on our 100th cultural excursion!) and two new long-term projects: Soul Tech and EmpowerMIE. These differ somewhat from our usual activities, but they we’ve made sure to keep things creative and provide vital help to young migrants and refugees.
Over the years, we’ve noticed a major gap in knowledge and skills when it comes to computers and technology. Some of our young members are not familiar with things that most of us would consider basic knowledge today, such as email and Microsoft Office. This is why we launched Soul Tech, a project to help close this gap and provide young Soul Food members with the skills they need to not only meet basic requirements at school and work, but also to use computers as powerful creative tools.
We’ve started our Soul Tech sessions with questions and assessments to better understand everyone’s current level and what they’d like to learn. We are covering practical skills such as keyboard and email functions, but aim to take this project a step further. Some of our young members have creative aspirations, including in music and fashion. Our intention is to teach them enough of the basics so that we can then start with more creative computer functions. Our ambition is that one day they can use computers to make and record their own music, create their own designs and run their own businesses. Other young Soul Food members are interested in coding, so we are also working to develop connections that can help them in that area, once they master all the basics.
The second project we’ve started in tandem with Soul Tech is called EmpowerMIE. MIE is an acronym for “mineurs isolés étrangers,” or isolated foreign minors. This project was proposed to us by our partners, Kids Empowerment, who set out to create a phone application for unaccompanied minors by unaccompanied minors, to provide them with vital information. When unaccompanied minors arrive in France, they are often unaware of their legal rights and options, and do not know where to go for help. Most of them have smartphones, so the idea behind this project is to create something that is accessible to them and can ensure they are well-informed.
These unaccompanied minors have three administrative paths they can take: apply for asylum, benefit from their rights as minors in France or family reunification. Our young members are creating the content for the app, with help from the Kids Empowerment and Soul Food teams, by drawing storyboards that depict different aspects of these administrative processes and options, as well as important details that these minors need to be aware of, and digitizing them. They also help us understand what is the best way to communicate complicated legal rules and regulations to children and young people. Eventually the content will be translated into all of their native languages, to further ensure its effectiveness.
Soul Tech and EmpowerMIE are linked because they involve creative technological solutions. Both projects are collaborative and impactful. We’ve received funding from the Orange Foundation to help bring them to reality, which is a useful way to attach value to meaningful engagement. The fusion of these resources and contributing entities ensures that each Soul Tech and EmpowerMIE session is conducive to the creative solutions we strive to conceive and share with those who need them.