Children’s rights self-determined

The project in brief

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

With the help of workshops and regular meetings with volunteers, the participants independently acquire the specific knowledge and the necessary documents they need to realize their career aspirations. If they wish, they are trained as peers in a second step and thus enabled 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, the factor of professional training is crucial for their integration in Switzerland. Complicated work permit processes, long waiting times at the Office for Migration and a great lack of knowledge among training companies 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, sometimes more than 3 years pass until the final asylum decision. On the one hand, the young adults are expected to integrate, on the other hand, the canton of Bern puts these people on the waiting bench until the final asylum decision – this contradictory situation is addressed by the project “Kinderrechte selbstbestimmt” (KiS).

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


  • Young people find an apprenticeship or a financed place at university, or are able to realize their potential in working life, or have taken a significant step in that direction.
  • They can tell about relevant aspects of their life and argue convincingly, 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 favor of their rights have been achieved, or at least the raising of public awareness and better networking and cooperation between the already existing organizations and groups in this field.

The core of the project is the one-to-one accompaniment of the participants by volunteers of the Solidarity Network Bern. The latter are briefed and prepared at an info session, while the former set goals to work on with volunteers at a country school weekend. Afterwards, participants and volunteers meet for the first time at a kick-off event. From this moment the cooperation begins, which lasts for 8 months. The participants as well as the volunteers come together at regular intervals in regular meetings.

Country School Weekend
Tina, who accompanied the country school weekend as a volunteer, says about one participant: “A wonderful, fun-loving, young woman who is in the middle of life and pursues great goals- with this positive energy we started the semester and began to further shape the future step by step.”
Participants and employees of the Solidarity Network Bern travel together for a weekend in the mountains and deal intensively with topics related to work or education. Strengths, inclinations and resources are crystallized on the basis of exercises, in order to find out in a second step the concrete occupation or training desires. 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. In 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 the country school weekend. At the KickOff – event the participants meet the volunteers for the first time. Assignments are made in advance by project management and are based on shared hobbies, work experience, age or other interests. If questions arise or misunderstandings arise, the project management is available at any time. The project management is in active contact with the participants and volunteers via e-mail or Whatsapp.

Regulars’ tables
The regular meetings for the participants take place once a month. They offer the possibility to take up topics which could not be discussed conclusively in the country school weekend, or to take up further topics important for vocational training which have arisen since then. 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 is to be done in the regulars’ tables and workshops.
The volunteers also meet at their own regulars’ tables, but these are arranged as needed. They serve the exchange and the further education, among other things by inviting experts who can give information on a certain topic, if desired. The first regulars’ table of the volunteers takes place before the kick-off event, is organized in cooperation with the Kirchliche Kontaktstelle für Flüchtlingsfragen and lasts 5 hours. Together, the asylum procedure, the different types of permits, their implications for the world of work and careers as well as demands and opportunities on the part of the project management and employees of the Solidarity Network Bern, or, challenges and expectations of the accompaniment of the participants will be worked out. Translated with (free version)

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 the exchange to improve the contents of the project and on the other hand the concrete cooperation.

So far, concrete cooperation is taking place with the following partners: cfd (The feminist peace organization), Heitere Fahne (Inclusive catering business), Jobcaddie (support during or after apprenticeship), Struktouren (employment program for refugees with N permit) , Kirchliche Kontaktstelle für Flüchtlingsfragen (KKF) and Gastfamilienprojekt der Schweizerischen Flüchtlingshilfe (SFH).

Carola Schabert, SFH staff member, describes the project as follows: “The project Kinderrechte selbstbestimmt has pioneering character. It gives people the necessary tools for the application process and supports them in their professional integration – even without a secure residence status.”

For many participants, other agencies are involved on a selective basis. The project management 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 in the work and constantly kept up to date.

We can look back on a successful first semester. The setting works well. Both participants and volunteers gave consistently good feedback. All participants and slightly more than half of the volunteers intend to continue participating in the project. The country school weekend at the very beginning of the process allows the project management to build a good relationship with the participants and to get a good impression about the resources and deficits. By accompanying only one young person at a time and being able to focus completely on that person, volunteers are able to build a sustainable relationship. 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 Seam Barometer, 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 grade and type of school), the chances of finding an apprenticeship are 4.4 times lower for first-generation foreign youths than for youths 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 SRC 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 current potentials 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. Translated with (free version)

[1] see PDF Date: Integrationsbericht S. 35

In order to optimally support the young people in their process of finding a profession, we are always looking for volunteer helpers. Would you like to accompany young people in the process of finding a profession? Or maybe selectively help various young people write a motivational letter?
Then register in the contact form.