Motivation and support for life-changing journeys

Anna*, 60 years old, was suffering from cancer, anxiety and other issues. Kristine*, 36, had been living in a rural parish since childhood, and went through a traumatic experience in her youth that caused her problems raising two children. Juris*, 55, was unemployed for a long time, felt lonely and isolated, and was struggling with substance abuse, which made it difficult for him to find a job. They all benefitted from the motivation-raising and support programme that the Latvian Red Cross launched in 2018 for women and men who encounter obstacles to engage in employment or education due to their gender, nationality, disability, age or ethnicity. So far, the initiative has helped nearly 500 people.

Although research into anti-discrimination and social inclusion policies has received a great deal of attention in recent years, there is still a long way to go. In 2018, 27.3% of the population in Latvia was at risk of poverty and social exclusion, the fifth highest rate among EU Member States. People living in poverty and social exclusion are often unable to integrate into society due to lack of income, education and employment – circumstances which result in being denied access to services and support, the ability to exercise their rights and change their situation.

The aim of the Latvian Red Cross’ ‘Motivation Programme’ is to provide motivation and support services to people at risk of discrimination and social exclusion. This is done with the help of different professionals including change agents (social workers who conduct assessments of people’s social situation, prepare social inclusion plans and offer assistance in accordance with those roadmaps), individual and group consultations, support and self-help groups, information and training, and other forms of tailored assistance. Such activities promote inclusion into society, in social life and in the labour market, raising awareness on the protection of their rights, and helping them engage in education, training and professional development.

In two years, the Latvian Red Cross’ ‘Motivation Programme’ has supported nearly 500 people at risk of discrimination or social exclusion in finding a job or accessing education and training. © Latvian Red Cross

For more than 100 years, we have been helping the people who need it most,” explains Uldis Likops, Secretary General of the Latvian Red Cross. “The implementation of the ‘Motivation Programme’ ensures additional resources to support them and enable the improvement of their living conditions. Qualified specialists such as psychologists, lawyers and career experts assist in comprehensively identifying and solving situations. And the initiative is driven forward in successful cooperation with the municipal social support providers, which ensures the sustainability of the provided support.

Main impact? In two years, nearly 500 people facing obstacles to enter the labour market or access education have received assistance by social workers and other experts, for six months each. Participants were motivated to change, and supported to develop skills and competences crucial for re-entering the labour market, to access education and training, to start the job search, and ultimately find meaningful employment or self-employment.

Thanks to the ‘Motivation Programme’, Kristine* started overcoming her fears and insecurities and valuing more herself, emotionally stronger, better equipped and confident. She completed a first aid training course, which will be instrumental for her ambition to find employment in the municipality in the area of home care. With the support of different specialists, Juris* began to take care of his emotional and physical health; he reduced alcohol consumption and gave up smoking. He also learned how to effectively plan his time and finances, was able to take up employment in a farm, and at the end of the ‘Motivation Programme’ attended a training on work safety, which gave him a strong sense of security when performing his new job duties – sawing and splitting firewood.

When asking participants about significant benefits of this initiative, the most common answers are support and encouragement, finding solutions to long-standing problems, the increase in self-confidence and the opportunity to acquire new skills and knowledge that facilitate access to education, training and employment. This does not mean that results always happen during the programme: sometimes it takes much longer for participants to become aware of their own resources and be ready for a change, including on the socio-economic domain. However, they are still remarkable success stories.

Like Kristine* and Juris*, Anna* has improved her situation thanks to the ‘Motivation Programme’: with the support and encouragement of the programme specialists, she completed a full course of chemotherapy and managed to resume work. She also successfully completed online training on ‘Labour protection and safety’ and ‘Communication and business etiquette’. And, on top of all she accomplished, she started volunteering at a care centre with elderly people, bringing along her home-baked pancakes and pickled pumpkins.

* Names have been changed to protect the identity of the beneficiaries.

The Motivation Programme was carried out within the framework of the European Social Fund project “Promotion of Diversity” (No. 9.1.4.4./16/I/001) implemented by the Society Integration Fund of Latvia. Funding was provided from the European Social Fund and the Latvian State budget.