Finn Church Aid teaches young refugees to code in Greece – aiming for over 700 participants

The coding workshops aim to facilitate the employment of young people with refugee or Greek background, and to increase dialogue between different groups in Greece. The pilot stage carried out in early summer garnered excellent results.

In November, Finn Church Aid starts workshops in Greece together with Greek NGO GFOSS – Open Technologies Alliance, aimed at young refugees and Greeks, teaching skills such as the basics of programming, robotics, image editing and other IT skills. The workshops, called Code and Create, are aimed at young people aged 15 to 24.

“Greece has the highest youth unemployment rate in Europe, and gaining access to the job market is challenging both for young Greeks and especially for young people with refugee background. Many refugees between 15 and 24 years of age have arrived in Greece alone, and they lack both networks and compulsory education. They are very vulnerable,” says FCA’s Greece Country Director Antti Toivanen.

The coding workshops were piloted in May and June, with 40 young people with Greek or refugee background participated in workshops organised by Finn Church Aid and and local partner organisation GFOSS.

“The experiences from the pilot were excellent, and the young people were excited to learn new skills. The workshops became real meeting places where many young Greeks and refugees got to know each other for the first time and even became friends.”

The workshops particularly aim to reach young people with no other way to learn skills that can be a great help in life and in succeeding at work. The participants are not required to have previous experience of programming, all that is needed is the basics of English and a motivated attitude.

The project is meant to continue until next summer. The target is to have 700 young people take part in the workshops. The participants are selected based on applications.

“Finn Church Aid has lots of experience of making use of Finnish education know-how in countries with challenging circumstances. Our aim is to offer the young person participating in the workshops better opportunities for further education or employment,” says Toivanen.

The workshops are led by GFOSS who have expertise in open source and open data. The curriculum is honed together with Finnish pedagogues to be learner-centered, and different learning models are employed in the classes.

“In the current refugee situation facing Greece and the whole Europe, we think it’s important to find new ways to support integration and interaction between people. Learning to code is a smart way to bring young people together,” says Toivanen.

There are currently about 20,000 refugees and asylum seekers under the age of 18 in Greece. Many of them have no access to a Greek school or other education. In a country which is struggling with a financial crisis which shows no signs of abating, even those born in Greece have found it hard to find employment or education opportunities. Over 47 percent of young Greeks are unemployed.