We interview Bàrbara Bort, Coordinator of Acull project in Punt de Referència
By Marta Bach
What word would define the Acull project?
Without doubt it is warmth.
Youth who participate in the Acull project have different challenges than young people who, when reaching the age of 18, have a secure situation thanks to the support of their family. In our case, they do not have family members in the territory who can support them during emancipation, although, in most cases, they maintain very close ties with their family. The challenges they must face are not only related to being young and not having their family close by, but also due to their migrant status and all it entails: learning a new language, a new culture, building new friendships. They need a support network and help with the documents, training, legal, administrative, and work areas.
I have overseen the project for the last 4 years. I joined Punt de Referència in the GR 16-18 group mentoring project and, after a while, I was offered to take on a new group of Referents; later, I started the Acull project. I was very excited because it is a program that makes a lot of sense and there is a great lack of initiatives like this one; and, at the same time, many young people and volunteers in the territory can be enriched by such experiences. Additionally, being able to continue in a job that blended work with young people and volunteers seemed attractive to me.
On one hand, Punt de Referència is an association and does not depend on a commission from an administration or any private company. On the other, there is no alike project, perhaps similar, but not with the same dimensions. We provide accompaniment with a significant educational presence and high involvement between the project technician and the family or welcoming person, where the youngster is the focus of the relationship. A triangular bond is created between the family, the young person and the technician who accompanies and monitors both relationships.
The Acull project was created in 2002, five years after the foundation of Punt de Referència. The original intention, which remains intact, is to discriminate positively the group of young migrants who, having turned 18, must emancipate without having their family close by. In these twenty-one years, sixty young people have gone through the project, and we hope to be able to continue offering this opportunity to many more.
In recent months and, especially after the pandemic, we have noticed a decrease in the number of families interested in taking in a young person in their home for 9 months. We think it may be due to fatigue after the situation experienced, to uncertainty in the current context with the war in Ukraine, and subsequent economic crisis. We refuse to believe that there is a crisis of values behind it. We are convinced that if enough people really knew about Acull, they would probably overcome the obstacles that prevent families from reaching us; we would then have more welcoming homes to offer to youth who are waiting. We now have 5 youngsters who wish to be taken in by a family, to build new bonds and receive the emotional support that a family’s warmth can provide.
Does one have to be very special to take in your home a young person for 9 months?
No, certainly not. It is true that the most important thing is motivation to include a person from another origin and with a generational distance into your family dynamics and cohabitation. And above all, you need to be emotionally available to establish new bonds. Recently, a welcoming family summarized it as: you must have “space at home and in the heart”.In practice, all you need is a free room, a location in the metropolitan area of Barcelona and enough time to share at least one meal a day with the hosted person.
Naturally, what they value most are the bonds! During these years, we have estimated that approximately 70% of the bonds created are maintained over time, until today. They also highly value the fact that, through language immersion, they improve their linguistic competence and thus have better opportunities to access the labour market, training and contact with the community. Finally, they value the emotional and useful support they receive, both from the family and Punt de Referència!
Bàrbara, if you had to convince a person or a family to be part of the Acull project, what would you tell them?
I would tell them about the people who have participated in it before and how much they value it as a very enriching experience. Everything has been much easier than they expected and having the support of Punt de Referència has given them peace of mind and security. They knew they were not alone.
The truth is that I have wonderful memories of the foster homes I have accompanied during these four years, and it is difficult for me to single out one. I have learned something from all of them and they have helped me as a person. The most significant thing has been watching the bonds grow, with a variety of forms they take and regardless of how long they last. All of them are meaningful and have reminded me again that people are stronger when they walk together.