About a year ago, when we were in the first year of Bachillerato*, we began this project. We were a group of 22 students who formed a team to develop a service-learning project. We were united in our desire to help in the integration of migrants. We began this adventure never imagining that our small grain of sand could win us the National Prize for Immigration and Coexistence 2020 for the project “Pamplona, open city”, awarded by the Spanish Network for Service-Learning.
From its beginning, the project was divided into three phases: learning, action and communication. We began with a training course about migration and refugee issues, guided by our Service-Learning teacher, Josemari Aymerich, and by Irene Beccarini, then a novice in the Society of the Sacred Heart. The material provided by the NGO Alboan** with its Change project was very useful for us; as with that we learned a lot about migration, the mourning of migrants and the sensations and feelings that arise in the people who live through this experience.
The second phase was to move on to action; we did not wish to stay at the level of theory and we wanted to have an influence on our surroundings, to make our city, Pamplona be a real place of welcome. To achieve this, we began to raise awareness among the students in our school. In particular we wanted to achieve this among our companions in 1st Year Bachillerato and with the students in 2nd year of ESO.*** We wanted them to put themselves into the shoes of a migrant, to realise the difficulties, fears and adversities that they have to go through and to evoke empathy among them.
We did not want to stop at just learning about migration theory, or promoting an awareness campaign in the school; we wanted to go a step further and get to know at first-hand the migrants living in our city. We got in touch with different associations, notably the SEI (Intercultural Social and Educational Service), a small organization which had just relocated to within walking distance of the school and which is dedicated to working with migrant adolescents. Our first contact with them was to go to a talk where they explained to us the weekly activities that they organize; they told us that every Friday they organized different activities depending on the interests of each young person in the association. We decided to join the Friday sports group; we met at the SEI headquarters and did different workshops related to sport and the values of group work. The activities were varied. We began with basketball and football games, and various other activities and we finished with a very enjoyable costume party. The importance of these activities lay in getting to know each other and building up relationships, even though we were very different people, and had had very different lives, but who shared the desire to get to know each other and to learn from each other.
Due to the emergence of Covid-19, we had to cancel a party that was going to take place in our school along with all the young people from the SEI Association. In spite of that, we still keep in touch through social networks.
All the participants in the “Pamplona, open city” project were surprised and grateful when we were informed that we were the winners of the National Immigration and Coexistence Award from among so many participants (330 projects had been presented). Without having foreseen this at the beginning, we started a new phase of the project: publicizing it. Since November 2020, it has had a great impact in communication media at local, national and international levels. We were especially thrilled to receive recognition from the Vatican, which published the news in its News Services. In addition, we were able to communicate our project personally to the highest political authorities in our region, Navarra, including its President, Maria Chivite. The fact of seeing that our small project and our great effort has been rewarded is motivating us to continue our work.
The Covid health emergency that is still present in our country, has not discouraged us from continuing to fight for integration and cooperation with the most vulnerable people; on the contrary, it has made us realize how fortunate we are and we will try to make these people to feel the same way. We will continue helping these organizations, which have afforded us so many ethical and moral values.
Feedback from people involved in the Project:
“This project has been a learning experience. I realized that I have received much more that I
have been able to give. Besides, I find it super nice and super admirable that even though they
have had to go through horrible situations and circumstances; they always have a smile on their
face, a desire to take on the world, and to develop a new future for themselves.”
-Leyre Arcega, Student in 2nd Bachillerato, in Sacred Heart College Pamplona FESB****.
“The SEI goes on Saturday outings to the mountains, and one day I decided to go with them.
I felt very welcomed and accepted by them all, and this feeling surprised me, since in theory it
was we were the ones who were supposed to welcome them. I realized that in reality we are all
equal, and if society here were like the people I met that day, then immigration would cease to be a problem.”
-Maite Cía. Student in 2nd Bachillerato, in Sacred Heart College Pamplona FESB
“This final phase helps us to make people aware of our desires and enthusiasm and to ensure
that Pamplona is really an open city.”
-Carmen Marcelino. Student in 2nd Bachillerato, in Sacred Heart College Pamplona FESB
“What remains with me is their way of looking at life and the happiness that they have and bring. I
think that we have a lot we can learn from them.”
-Maite Cía. Alumna de 2º Bachillerato in Sacred Heart College Pamplona FESB
“This has been a very cool course in the SEI, because we were able to organize the activities with the Sacred
Heart students who have made the space for participation into a space for integration.”
-Flor, Instructor in SE
“With Pamplona, open city, the encounter with migrants has served to welcome those who come from
outside and to break down many prejudices”.
-Josemari Aymerich, coordinator of the Learning-Service in Sacred Heart College Pamplona FESB
Students in 2nd Bachillerato,
Sacred Heart College Pamplona FESB
20th December 2020
(*Bachillerato–Two final years of Secondary Schooling (Baccalaureate) in Spain, ages 16 – 18)
(**NGO Alboan – a Jesuit Foundation for international cooperation, a Non-Governmental Organization in the Basque country and in Navarre, Spain)
(*** ESO- Education Secundaria Obligatoria / Obligatory Secondary Education, age 13)
(****FESB – Fondacion Educativa Sofia Barat-Sophie Barat Educational Foundation)