Project Reconnect: Helping refugees to rebuild their lives in Germany
March 2018. Samer* is one of thousands of refugees who have been supported throughout 2016-2017 by Project Reconnect. The initiative helps refugees, among other things, to learn German, to find their way around Germany, to continue their education or to find work.
The non-profit research institute RTI International, which supported Project Reconnect with monitoring and evaluation, shared Samer’s story together with many other stories and insights in the Project Reconnect Final Report in September 2017. The executive summary of this report is available below this post.
The grantee organizations have since completed their deployments and the Chromebooks are in use in a great variety of service offers for refugees such as literacy classes and German language courses, in preparatory professional training programs, in refugee homes, libraries or Internet Cafe-type settings for study and research.
The Project Reconnect team would like to thank all grantees, staff, and volunteers for the innovative and creative use of Chromebooks in their work with refugees. Likewise a big thank you to the team from Google.org, Google Germany and the numerous Google Volunteers who supported Project Reconnect with their expertise and involvement.
Post by Sybille Fleischmann, Project Lead, NetHope - Project Reconnect
Project Reconnect Final Report
submitted by RTI International September 2017
The International Rescue Committee estimates that over 65 million people around the world have been forced from their homes because of war, natural disasters, and famine. Over half of refugees worldwide are young children. In the last six years, the Syrian war and other crises have caused the largest exodus of people since the Second World War. Over 12 million Syrians alone have had to leave their homes to other parts of Syria, neighboring countries, and beyond. Since January 2015, more than 2.4 million refugees have arrived as asylum seekers on the shores of Europe to escape conflict, persecution, or hardship, most of them coming from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Albania, Pakistan, Nigeria, Kosovo, Eritrea, and Iran.
Project Reconnect was a bold and ambitious effort conceived by Google Germany, Google.org, and NetHope in late 2015. The project emerged during a time of crisis, triggered by the dramatic influx of refugees and asylum seekers into Germany. By the end of 2015, the number of new refugees arriving in Germany reached an unprecedented high in the recent history of the nation - nearly 200,000 individuals per month.
Originally designed as a one-year initiative, Project Reconnect aimed to help refugees as they rebuild their lives in Germany by facilitating access to online education, language learning, culture learning, and information resources. To achieve this goal, NetHope with Google.org support, made 25,000 Chromebooks available for organizations serving the refugee community in Germany. By the end of the project, which was ultimately extended to August 2017, NetHope granted 30 to 3,500 Chromebook devices to 50 organizations. 24,952 Chromebooks were distributed. 48 devices continue to be used for testing and support by the Project Reconnect team, Google engineering team, and partners. Grantee organizations made Chromebooks accessible at over 1,000 locations across all 16 federal states of Germany, e.g., in education facilities, public libraries, and refugee homes.
The logistical and programmatic effort to launch and manage a grants program of this scale and to deploy 25,000 Chromebook devices all over Germany within this timeframe was tremendous. Grantee organizations and Chromebook locations faced at times almost insurmountable barriers due to gaps in adequate connectivity options, trained personnel, refugee-relevant online content, offline Chromebook functionality, and proven programmatic guidance. Yet, over the course of the project, NetHope, grantee organizations, and participants at the Chromebook locations learned many valuable lessons and gained significant capacity in the deployment of technology, and its programmatic integration with refugee work.
A great enabler was the versatility with which Chromebooks enriched the grantee organizations’ refugee work – in education, information, counselling, communication, and leisure activities; as well as provided specific opportunities for women and children, especially unaccompanied minors. As an emergency intervention, Project Reconnect was neither designed as an education project, nor an employment intervention for refugees. Instead, the project aimed to help refugees as they rebuild their lives by facilitating access to online education and information resources. There is no doubt that Project Reconnect has been able to achieve just that – for thousands of refugees across Germany.
* Name changed to protect identity