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Governance and citizenship

Buddy projects - 01.08.2022

Everyone needs a buddy: fostering migrant integration in Mechelen, Belgium, through mentoring
Buddy programmes are an excellent way to integrate immigrants into a new society. A buddy is someone from the host community who spends a few hours a month with a newcomer in the city. 

There are many possibilities: a buddy can help a refugee learn a language, finish school, find a job or accommodation, or you can just hang out with them. A buddy programme is an opportunity to discover other cultures, contribute to an inclusive society and even develop lasting friendships. 

Belgian cities have many excellent examples of buddy programmes, that serve as best practices for the integration and inclusion of newcomers. In particular, the IncluCities partner city Mechelen has been running several different buddy mentoring projects. 

Mechelen started the buddy project Samen Inburgeren (Dutch for "Integrate Together") in 2012. A native of Mechelen becomes a buddy of a newcomer in the city. They are matched on the basis of common interests and, during the pandemic, communicated via WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom or Google chat. During a six-month period, the buddies meet regularly. Together they practise Dutch, discover the city and learn about each other's cultures.

Buddy projects can also be designed for specific activities and needs in mind. Mechelen also runs a jogging buddy project called 'Samen Lopen' and a school buddies project for migrant and refugee children.

Different localities can pioneer best practices that can be shared elsewhere, especially within the IncluCities network. As such, Mechelen's buddy programme approach is replicated in Capaci, a town in Sicily, under the name "Tutti Capaci".
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