Self-determination of children’s rights

The project in brief

The pilot project “Self-determination of Children’s Rights” supports young people with precarious residence status (N or F ID) in their search for a financed vocational training or university spot, internship or apprenticeship. The project is financially supported by Glückskette Schweiz.

With the help of workshops and regular meetings with volunteers, the participants acquire the specific knowledge and the necessary documents they need to realize their career aspirations independently. If they wish, they are trained as peers at the end of their time in the programme in order to to pass on the knowledge they have acquired to young people in the same situation, to support them on their way and to serve as role models for them.

The young adults, aged 15 to 25, are guided in their search for vocational training within one semester. One semester has already been conducted and a second one started in November 2018.

I would like to support young people in finding a career.

Many employers do not want to give apprenticeships to young people with precarious or no residence status because they fear that the apprentices will have to leave the country overnight before they have even completed their apprenticeship. However, for refugees who have not (yet) been recognized, professional training is crucial for their integration in Switzerland. Complicated work permit processes, long waiting times at the Bureau for Migration and a great lack of knowledge among workplaces offering apprenticeships regarding the options for residence permits N and F are hurdles that young asylum seekers have to contend with when looking for an apprenticeship. Furthermore, it can take over 3 years until there is a final asylum decision. On the one hand, the young adults are expected to integrate, on the other hand, the canton of Berne makes them wait until the final asylum decision – the project “Kinderrechte selbstbestimmt” (KiS) addresses this contradictory situation.

Vocational integration of young people with precarious or no residence status has been achieved, or at least supported.


  • Young people find an apprenticeship or financed vocational training, or are able to realize their career potential, or have taken a significant step in that direction.
  • They can communicate relevant aspects of their life and argue convincingly, they have acquired the relevant knowledge to improve their situation, or to cope better, and at best can pass this knowledge on to others. They are networked with each other and with the stakeholders that are important to them.
  • Systemic changes in favour of their rights have been achieved, or at least the raising of public awareness. and Networking and cooperation between the already existing organizations and groups in this field is improved.

The one-to-one accompaniment of the participants by volunteers of the Solidarity Network Berne is a core component of the project. The volunteers are briefed and trained at an info session, while the participants establish goals to work on with the support of volunteers during a weekend retreat. Afterwards, participants and volunteers meet for the first time at a kick-off event. Thereafter the cooperation begins, which lasts for 8 months. The participants as well as the volunteers come together at regularly for meetings.

Weekend Retreat
Tina, who accompanied the retreat weekend as a volunteer, says about a participant: “A wonderful, fun-loving, young woman who is in the thick of life and pursues formidable goals- we started the semester with this positive energy and we have begun to shape the future one step at a time.”
Participants and employees of the Solidarity Network Berne travel together for a weekend in the mountains and focus intensively on topics related to career and work or vocational and higher education. Exercises and activities identify strengths, predispositions and capabilites in order to establish the next step toward a desired concrete occupation or vocational training. The goal of the weekend is that each participant can formulate a career aspiration and think about the intermediate steps to achieve this goal. Finally, participants will work out specifically what they would like to work on with the volunteers during the semester.

One-to-one accompaniment by volunteers and project accompaniment
Mujtaba writes in the feedback sheet when asked what the volunteer helped him with: “With preparing the documents. Registering for school. She guided me in the right direction to my goals.”
Each participant is individually accompanied by a volunteer for the entire duration of the project. They meet about once a week and work on the individual goals that the participants have worked out for themselves during weekend retreat. At the Kick OPff event the participants meet the volunteers for the first time. Assignments are made in advance by the project coordinator and are based on shared hobbies, work experience, age or other interests. If questions arise or misunderstandings arise, the project coordinator is available at any time. The project coordinator is in active contact with the participants and volunteers via e-mail or Whatsapp.

Regular Meetings
The regular meetings for the participants take place once a month. They offer the possibility to follow up on topics which could not be discussed conclusively during the weekend, retreat or to take up new topics important for vocational training which have arisen. Furthermore, it serves to bring the group together so that participants can share experiences, encourage each other, and be prepared to inspire and share their experiences with new participants as a peer in the next semester. This should be done during the regular meetings and workshops.
The volunteers also have their own regular meetings, but these are arranged as needed. They promote the exchange and the further education, among others, by inviting experts who can give information on a certain topic, if desired. The first regular meeting of the volunteers takes place before the kick-off event; it is organized in cooperation with the Kirchliche Kontaktstelle für Flüchtlingsfragen (Church contact point for refugee questions) and lasts 5 hours. The following topis will be covered: the asylum process, the different types of permits and their implications for the world of work and careers. The demands andopportunities on the part of the project coordinator and employees of the Solidarity Network Berne, or, challenges and expectations of the accompaniment of the participants will also be discussed.

An essential part of the project is networking. Partnerships are forged with other projects and specialized agencies that also address this issue. This serves on the one hand to improve information exchange and on the other hand the concrete cooperation.

So far, we have the following partners: cfd (The feminist peace organization), Heitere Fahne (social catering business), Jobcaddie (support during or after apprenticeship), Struktouren (employment program for refugees with N permit) , Kirchliche Kontaktstelle für Flüchtlingsfragen (church infopoint for refugee questions, KKF) and Gastfamilienprojekt ( der Schweizerischen Flüchtlingshilfe (Host family project of the Swiss Refugee Council, SFH).

Carola Schabert, SFH staff member, describes the project as follows: “The project Kinderrechte selbstbestimmt has a pioneering character. It gives people the necessary tools for the application process and supports them in their professional integration – despite not having a secure residence status.”

For many participants, other agencies are involved on a selective basis. The project coordinator is very keen to coordinate with all the agencies involved in order to avoid duplication of effort. Social services, vocational schools and other agencies are involved and are constantly kept up to date.

We can look back on a successful first semester. The setting works well. Both participants and volunteers consistently gave good feedback. All participants and slightly more than half of the volunteers intend to continue participating in the project. The weekend retreat at the very beginning of the process allows the project coordinator to build a good relationship with the participants and to get a clear impression regarding resources and deficits. Since the volunteers only accompanyione young person at a time and are able to focus completely on that person, volunteers are able to build a stable relationship with the participant. Due to the overwhelming number of interested volunteers, we were able to increase the number of participants from 14 to 20.

According to the official governmental survey of employers and youth (Nahtstellenbarometer), 73% of apprenticeship seekers nationwide had a signed apprenticeship contract or a firm verbal commitment in April 2018 (see PDF file:Nahtstellenenbarometerp. 21). However, with the same formal qualifications (school marks and type of school), the chances of finding an apprenticeship are 4.4 times lower for first-generation foreign youth than for youth with two Swiss parents[1]. This results in a success rate of 16.6%.

However, the target group of this project is adolescents and young adults, whose educational level, residence status and other key prerequisites additionally reduce the chances of success compared to first-generation peers (e.g. EU citizens). Of 14 participants in the first semester, two found apprenticeships during the semester (success rate: 14.9%), so we can clearly state that even the most difficult success indicator of this project can be evaluated positively. Of the remaining 14 participants, two were able to start an internship, one the tenth year of school and one the Swiss Red Cross nursing course (success rate 2: 29.8%). Thus, it can be said that a total of 44.7% of the participants of the first semester were able to realize their potential in professional life. Two months after the end of the first semester, one person received a verbal promise that he would be able to start an apprenticeship in the summer of 2019 in the company where the volunteer who accompanied him works at.

[1] see PDF Date: Integrationsbericht S. 35

In order to best support the young people in their process of finding a profession, we are always looking for volunteers. Would you like to accompany young people in the process of finding a profession? Or maybe help various young people write a cover letter?
Then fill out the contact form.