Like many other people, I consider myself to be fairly committed to charitable associations. I make donations, I have taken part in street patrols to help the homeless. But often there is insufficient time, with personal or professional life taking over. So when a colleague offered me this experience, I thought why not? What did I have to lose? It didn’t involve a lot of time – one afternoon. There was no preparation needed. And above all, the cause had an immediate affect on me: the professional integration of refugees. A practical issue on which, as employees of a major company, we can have a tangible and direct impact.
Restoring confidence through exchange
An association led the workshop: Kodiko, whose aim is to support people who have received political asylum in France in their return to employment. Whether by accompanying them in work integration programs (recruitment, work-study positions, internships) or in searching for new training courses. This was the first point that struck me: we were going to meet people who had been given political refugee status. All of these people had undergone training – sometimes advanced university education – and had lived a professional life, often a very busy one, before being forced to flee from their home country, to later arrive in France where they had to start over again.
After an hour-long presentation on refugee status, the workshop began. Groups were formed in a similar way to a speed networking session, with each AXA employee engaging in discussions with three beneficiaries of the association. Of course, I asked myself the question: what could I bring to a construction worker, a station agent, and a horticulturist who’d had a career change to become a web developer? None of these jobs were closely related to my own expertise. My concerns did not last for long. Indeed, after getting to know each person, they presented their CVs and described their careers. I then asked them questions, helped them to better structure their presentations, and re-motivated them... In this area I was able to be really useful.
When we talk face to face, everyone is at the same level. The unexpected arrival of our Chief Executive Officer Thomas Buberl to our table proved this point. Once the ice had been broken, discussions resumed with even more authenticity.
The story of one beneficiary particularly affected us. Amaré is Ethiopian, a horticulturist like his father, and an expert in his field after university studies. But since arriving in France, he has been unable to find work. He therefore decided to train in web development. Through discussions with him, we found that he was a man of great intelligence who does not give up on his dreams... I found this meeting very moving.
Much more than just an afternoon…
What is at stake here is so important that the experience cannot be summed up in a single afternoon workshop. I made the personal decision to keep in contact with Amaré for several months, on an informal basis, by email or phone. I coached him, for example, before each of his job interviews. And of course, he called me to share his joy when he found a work-study position in a big banking group...
Ultimately, I did not give much of my time, and yet I felt really useful. It goes without saying that I have much admiration for Kodiko employees who invest 100% of their energy into this mission, and always listen to the stories of each individual.
I was able to talk to Caroline Haddad, the Kodiko project manager in charge of the two workshops at AXA in June and October 2018, and to Fadul, a beneficiary of the October 2018 workshop. They shared their experiences and feelings about this program:
Born in Syria and trained as an architect, I arrived in France in 2016. I was lucky to have been one of the first beneficiaries of the Kodiko association that had just been created. I am therefore well placed to know how essential it is to be supported in the step-by-step rebuilding of our career paths in a country where we do not know the codes – ‘kodiko’ in Greek. For the beneficiaries of the association, having the opportunity to exchange with employees of large French companies is very valuable. It is a first step towards building a professional network and getting constructive opinions on our CVs, on job hunting, on making a good impression in interviews, and being successful in them... But we must not forget that this exchange is also positive for the employee. Because for them it is a unique opportunity to open up to a human and intercultural richness, and to feel useful.
I come from Sudan. After studying at Khartoum University, I worked for an insurance company for three years. Due to political problems, I could no longer work in my country and had to flee to France. The first step was to take French classes and complete my training at the École Supérieur d'Assurance to learn more about digital practices. It was then that I met Kodiko who offered me the chance to participate in a workshop at AXA. We had to role-play job interviews with employees and other Kodiko beneficiaries. Their feedback was very structuring for me. They enabled me to better understand my strengths – my very good knowledge of the insurance sector – and what I need to improve – my spoken French. Above all, I kept in contact with AXA employees, thanks to whom I managed to obtain an internship in spring 2019 to learn how to manage health contracts. This is an area in which I have never worked. I have thus added to my professional training but also learned a lot about relational and professional codes that are unique to France. During these two months, I really felt supported and encouraged by the teams. I now have new experience which gives me confidence to search for new internships, work-study positions, and why not a job.
Practical action for refugees
In addition to the actions carried out during CR Week, AXA supports the social and professional inclusion of refugees throughout the year. Particularly, since 2015, through its partnership with the Pierre Claver Association. At this school refugees are offered free legal assistance, French training and guidance to help them find work.
The partnership agreement signed with AXA was renewed in 2019, for a 3-years duration.