Urban Refugee Community Hubs

  • Indonesia


Same Skies

Date program started:

November 2014


Turn the difficult waiting time that refugees spend in transit into opportunities for them to regain a sense of empowerment and self-determination.


  • Displaced communities in transit resist limbo, take back responsibility and ownership of their lives, and fulfil their potential.
  • After 12 months of remote support, refugee groups are trained and equipped to independently and effectively run community hubs, where they volunteer to contribute to the assistance and protection of others.
  • They are able to design and deliver educational, vocational, recreational and social activities for refugee children, youth and adults.
  • They help their own people and build their confidence whatever their abilities, ages, genders, ethnicities and religions.
  • They ensure that community hubs are child-safe, and provide nurturing environments for learning and growth.

Targeted population:

Displaced communities in transit

Challenge addressed:

The loss of meaningful activities, sense of community, pride and prestige that refugees experience in transit countries:

  • Refugees, asylum seekers and stateless people can become stranded in “transit countries” for many years, living in limbo, without Government assistance, and limited access to basic human rights such as education, health care and livelihood.
  • This prolonged wait can impact profoundly on their physical and mental health. Symptoms of situational depression caused by a lack of meaningful engagement, uprooting from social networks, fears about the future, and trauma are recurrently observed phenomena.
  • Since refugees usually do not have work rights in transit countries, there is often a high degree of underutilized and disorganized skills in the community. By facilitating community hubs these capacities are harnessed to help refugee groups support their own people.

Program description:

  • Conduct community consultation workshops to help displaced communities identify, recognise and prioritise their needs, capacities and resources.
  • Form a group of refugee volunteers to design and plan community solutions that enable them to partner meaningfully in their own protection. Projects should develop as guided “bottom-up” initiatives.
  • Equip and train volunteers to mobilise, organise and utilise existing skills, knowledge and resources to implement solutions in a community hub.
  • Assist set-up of the community hub through seed funding, in-kind donations and establishment of monitoring and evaluation systems.
  • Involve refugee volunteers in all phases of project cycle management. Put them actively in charge of every step, instead of letting them “participate”. The main ideology is not to permanently base foreign staff on the ground, in order to stimulate ownership and responsibility and to prevent dependence.
  • Strengthen organisational and pedagogical capacities by remotely guiding and overseeing group exercises and practical tasks, as well as conducting regular intensive training and monitoring visits. Maintain regular communication, monitor internal challenges and mentor progress remotely, while volunteers continue to grow and improve.
  • Training should include standards of humanitarian action, leadership, project management, finance & budgeting, governance, strategic planning, cultural competency, gender & diversity, conflict resolution, communications, public relations, social media, web design, teacher training, behaviour management, child protection, first aid etc.
  • Maintain regular communication, monitor internal challenges and mentor progress remotely, while volunteers continue to grow and improve.
  • Once a group has reached a certain organisational and pedagogical level, activities have become well planned and on-going, and the community hub has become financially stable and independent, hand the project fully over to the refugee group. Handover and exit strategies have to be incorporated and communicated from the onset.

Tips for success:

  • Establishing mutual trust and respect is the basis for successful remote management. This is true in any context, but when working with people who have fled persecution, it is essential before any progress can be made. Trust goes both ways of course, so it is imperative to respect the volunteers and let them make their own decisions within agreed rules. They are often informed by different cultural contexts, so it is critical to listen and learn to understand. Imposing a rigid structure on them will not succeed.
  • Working with people who are often new to project management, it is also important to acknowledge that it will take time for them to define roles and responsibilities. Power struggles, personality clashes and tensions between different groups of people can emerge. It is thus important to continuously provide training in cultural competency, gender and diversity and conflict resolution, and to monitor and guide volunteers through their internal challenges with remote exercises and tasks.
  • Even though this approach is based on remote support and oversight strategies, it is important to regularly spend time in the field to build rapport and strong personal relationships.
  • Monitor new developments constantly and make adjustments, so that no matter what setbacks or unexpected scenarios arise, the community hub keeps moving forward towards its objectives.

Impact on targeted population:

  • Communities are lifted out of a state of inactivity, situational depression and trauma.
  • A Same Skies evaluation conducted in Feb. 2016 showed that the approach has been efficient and relevant to build organisational and pedagogical capacities across all indicators.
  • 50 refugee volunteers currently facilitate informal education for nearly 200 refugee children and 100 adults, support groups for vocational skills, community-based health activities, sports and social interaction, combined reaching a community of over 600 people.
  • None of the participants had previously accessed any form of education in Indonesia. The level of English, along with the children’s cognitive and social behaviour, has significantly improved. Before, the community had not participated in organised group activities; now they have access to arts, handicraft, tailoring, football, volleyball, badminton, taekwondo, as well as informal social interactions.

Impact on host community:

  • Through growing relationships and trust built with their landlords and neighbours, there are frequent examples of positive interaction and mutual understanding.
  • Local informal authorities have participated in special events, local community groups have been allowed to use spaces at the hub when they were not being used, and individuals from the host community have assisted in many practical ways.
  • Community hubs demonstrate to the host community in a very visual way that refugees are serious and passionate about contributing to the community and making themselves useful, irrespective of financial incentive.

Conditions required:

No particular conditions required

Staff required:

  • Part-time Project Manager (ideally to be available for a few hours every day) to remotely monitor organisational capacities, help plan new activities, and guide progress and internal challenges.
  • Part-time Teacher Trainer to remotely monitor pedagogical capacities of volunteer teachers and instructors and guide progress.
  • Team of trainers to conduct field visits every 2-6 months.

Time required for planning:

3-6 months

Time required for implementation:

Minimum 12 month


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Our impact

  • 3700

    refugees have better access to education and livelihood opportunities

  • 40

    countries in which our partner NGOs are implementing solutions

  • 490

    refugee children benefit from mathematics, english, art and sports classes

  • 700

    women can now support their families

  • 650

    refugees have access to critical healthcare and safety information

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