ECEPAA

My name is Elena Di Martino and I’ve participated to the short-term training held in Silves (Portugal) at the beginning of September.
During the first week of September, NGOs and school boards gathered from Italy, Poland, Portugal,
Spain and Belgium in the area of Silves, Portugal in a short-term training to discuss how and why
the ethnic, religious or socioeconomic differences in health behaviors are important when it
comes to deal with complex and heterogeneous environment: schools. This is my first work
experience and I was very impressed by the organization and punctuality the professionals
showed during the training, I felt very welcomed in the host country and the dynamism and
enthusiasm every activity was carried out with, made my experience indeed pleasing and
enjoyable.
We practiced all sort of activities, such as presentations, group and team tasks, we also managed
to visit the beautiful city of Silves in the breaks between the different activities.

I would like to start talking about the straight forward message I got from this very special training,
this is that the Whole-school approach recognizes that all school aspects can impact students’
health and learning, aiming at promoting individual and organizational changes through the
acknowledgement that the two are tightly linked, the project was introduced by Gabriele Sospiro,
coordinator of the project.
Firstly, I deeply admired that the solution the WAY project presents is the provision of specific
health education and the promotion of programmed and services, which revolve around the
development of new approaches and practices based on existing and emerging research. I
appreciated how professionals of all kinds gathered together and with their own experience
managed to enlighten this project a through a 360 degree analysis. My favourite activities for sure
include the group tasks.


We were 60 participants and were splitted into 4 groups in order to work on 4 different topics
such as self-esteem, parents’ role, initial integration and health services.So the first day each
group focused on two topics and the second day everybody completed the two remaining ones.
During these activities, the trainers analysed the topic they were assigned to and tried to
introduce the trainees to it. I found it very useful how the trainers encouraged and stimulated
every single trainee to speak up and share with everybody else their personal experience and how
it could relate to the topic we were analysing, it was really interesting to exchange different
opinions with people of different cultures and lifestyles.
During the teamwork, all participants were involved accordingly to their job, specialisation and
personal experience. At the end of each session the main aim was to find a practical solution to all
of the the hotspots that were presented by bringing together everybody’s experience in order to
build a collective knowledge.

My favourite part was with no doubt the one regarding parents involvement. I found my personal
opinion very similar to the one exposed by the trainers. These are the main points that were
analysed during the team working: the idea revolves around the attempts and difficulties that are
met to involve families from a migrant background in health promotions, this is a direct
consequence of the fact that for many migrant issues related to school, health, and well-being of
children in the environment are not considered a priority and are ultimately pushed into the
background, perhaps due to the parents’ stigma towards the welcoming culture.
I loved that the topic was also analyzed on a genre basis; women in most of these families are not
involved in the decision-making, they do not speak the language nor understand the local
language. This is why project proposes as a practical solution the implementation of special
education programs and activities within school for migrant students and parents for the purpose
of smooth social integration to help them in creating identity, gaining autonomy, developing skills,
and facilitating in this way, interpersonal communication and social adjustment.
Finally, on the last day the WAY paper was presented. The scientific review, led by Veronica
Velasco, psychology professor at the University of Bicocca in Milan, aimed to evaluate the
effectiveness of a whole-school approach to promote educational performance and well- being
among youth with migrant background. I personally really appreciated this scientific analysis, by
observing real data, I felt like we were finally able to put together the pieces of the puzzle we had
been building for the past three days.

Via UNSPLASH / CDC

Overall , this training made me understand how well-implemented whole-school interventions
have a positive impact on a range of mental health, social, emotional, and educational outcomes.
These obviously, include an increase in mental health literacy, social and emotional competences,
positive mental health and social and emotional well-being and prosocial behavior, as well as a
decrease in mental health symptoms and problems such as depression, anxiety and substance use,
anti-social behavior, violence and bullying.
Of course, I strongly believe that the recommendations made in this short-term training require
the transformation of traditional education systems and teaching practices in schools, but that
these hints and tips happen to be a great start for society and migration . As suggested in these
recommendations, a combination of legislation, advocacy, policy development, education and
training, the provision of multi-level support and intersectoral collaboration will therefore be
required to help schools adopt this approach and to implement it in the everyday life of the school
in the long term.

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