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CRITICAL REVIEW: WOMEN ON THE MOVE: EVALUATING A REFUGEE MENTORING PILOT PROJECT
The research on improving how refugee women settle in their new environment was conducted by Sharon Bond. The researcher chose the city of Hume in Melbourne, Australia as the ideal place for the study since there was considerable number of refugees in the area. The research evaluates the mentorship program under the Women on the Move (WoM) pilot program implemented for the refugees who were entering Hume and those who had been living in the city for some time. The research was conducted after realization of the challenges that these refugees endured as they attempted to adapt to the new environment away from their native homes and country. Existing research on challenges faced by refugees also note the importance of conducting further research aimed at improving the situation (Donaldson, Hibbins, Howson and Pease 2009). The researcher identifies women as the focus of the study as they experienced additional barriers to settlement due to the role in the households that increase the risk of social isolation.
Questions/Aims and Qualitative Method
Although the researcher does not explicitly provide the research question, the focus of the study indicates is important in identifying the research question. For this reason, the research question in this study is how does the host community contribute towards increased social participation of refugee women to avoid their isolation? The research question supports the aim of research as identified by Bond (2010). The research notes this pilot program had the aim of increasing the level of social connectedness of refugee women living in the Hume community. To achieve the aim of the study, the researcher depended on the establishment of a mentorship program where each refuge woman was connected to two mentors from the host community. The mentors were to interact with the refugees through in order to ensure increased access to services, provide relevant information, and boost self-confidence in addition to fostering independent and sense of community belonging. While the research seems to target the integration of refugees into the community, the researcher is also keen to stress its importance to the local community. According to Bond (2010), the research also aimed at increasing the level of engagement and training of local volunteers to be mentors. The importance of the mentorship program is that members of the host community increase their level of cross-cultural interaction due to greater understanding of the refugees and their culture.
The qualitative method used in the study included telephone interviews with the participants, volunteers, and professional staff, with the purpose of learning about their story and gathering data. Given the level of involvement required to conduct a qualitative study, Bond (2010) sampled a smaller group of participant to ensure thorough collection, analysis and reporting of progress attained by the mentorship program. The number of participants in the qualitative research was three coordinators, eight volunteers, seven refugee participants and five professional staff. The professional staffs were selected from refugee agencies working in the community and those under volunteering and local government community development programs. The telephone interviews were timed with participants being allocated between 20 and 60 minutes. Additionally, storage was by digitally recording the interviews then transcribing. Due to the challenges experienced by the refugees due to language barrier, telephone interpreters were included when interviewing some of the refugee participants.
Data collected from the telephone interviews were used as primary data since there was enough volume of secondary information on the participants of the WoM mentorship project. For this reason, the researcher gained adequate information from the use of administration documents and reports on the progress of the refugees who participated in the research.
Evaluation of the Success of the Research
Bond (2010) highlights a number of important areas factors that have considerable impact on the level of refugee connectedness. When relating the research aim to findings, it is evident the research raise fundamental issues that if addressed will play a significant role in reducing the risk of women refugees feeling isolated. Bond (2010) finds some of the reasons why participant refugees feel socially isolated to include the inability to form social contact or friendship with the host community. Additionally, participant refugees required settlement and orientation into the community in order to improve their wellbeing, access to services like health, financial systems, housing and mobility. Others included the need for public access and social inclusion, childcare provision and tuition for those learning English to improve access to employment and enjoyment of life in Australia.
The success of this study is not limited to the identification of the factors that influence settlement of refugees in the host community. Apart from the role played by the volunteers in the WoM mentorship programs, the study also highlights the role of other members of the host community in improving the condition of refugees. However, the researcher also notes that some of the members of the host community were unable to assist in the project due to factors such as lack of knowledge of intercultural interaction and racism. However, the challenges in getting members of the host community to participate indicate the importance of such collaborations. The report succeeds in highlighting the role of the host community in enhancing the comfort of refugees. Some of the members of the host community with a critical role to play include community sector, local business owners, and local government.
Research validity is also assessed based on the funding and publisher involved in the study and their relationship to the researcher (Wang 2014). The report by Sharon (2010) was funded by the Scanlon Foundation, a reputable nongovernmental organization involved with funding of projects on collaboration for a common benefit leading to improved cohesion in society. For this reason, funding by the Scanlon Foundation enhances the validity of the report. The legitimacy of the report is further enhanced by Sharon Bond’s qualifications as a holder of BA (Hons) Sociology in addition to having a Graduate Diploma in Education from the University of Melbourne. The researcher also works with the publisher of the report, Brotherhood of St Laurence, as a senior research officer. The publisher has a long-standing history as an organization that provides an avenue for contribution into efforts directed at solving social problems affecting members of different communities in Australia. The research aim of this project is therefore related to goals of both Scanlon Foundation, which provided funding and Brotherhood of St Laurence, the publisher.
While the researcher attained valuable information needed in improving the condition of refugees living in Hume City, a number of questions can be asked regarding the methods of sampling for participants in the interview. The pilot program involved up to 28 mentors who were matched with 26 refugees in the initial stages during 2008 and 2009 period. However, interviews featured only 8 volunteers and 7 refugee participants out of the recorded 12 mentors and 10 refugees who were still engaged in the program by November 2009. Although qualitative research method uses a small number of participants (Tuckett 2004; Frost 2011), the researchers does not provide a rationale on why the 8 volunteers and 7 refugee participants were selected and why the rest were not involved in the interviews.
Further, considering the number of participants who dropped from the program and those who finally participated in the interviews that led to the evaluation report, this group is very small when used for generalizing the outcome for the whole population of refugees in Hume or Australia at large. Accurate evaluation of the effectiveness of the WoM mentorship program, therefore, should feature a large scale in order to assess its impact on Australian community as a whole.
Bond, S., 2010. Women on the move: evaluating a refugee mentoring pilot project. Fitzroy, Vic: Brotherhood of St Laurence.
Donaldson, M., Hibbins, R., Howson, R., & Pease, B. (Eds.). (2009). Migrant men: Critical studies of masculinities and the migration experience. New York: Routledge.
Frost, N., 2011. Qualitative research methods in psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.
Tuckett, A., 2004. Qualitative research sampling-the very real complexities. Nurse Researcher. 12(1): 47-61.
Wang, V. C., 2014. Handbook of Research on Scholarly Publishing and Research Methods. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.
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