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An interview with an organisation which helps expats in Czech Republic

Prague Integration is an organisation based in Czech Republic which is helping with offering services, support and events for expats living in Prague (or willing to move) . We knew them when they organized a workshop in Coffice Prague. As it was expected, since the beginning there was a very good connection. Good people, hard workers and with good intentions. Definitely the kind of people we want to be surrounded by. 

In the last months, Prague Integration started a new project focused on the mental health issues caused not just for Corona, but also by the fact of living in a new country, this process of adaptation which is very simple for some people, and very hard for others.

So let’s go straight to the point, we talked with Amanda Mataija, founder of Prague Integration, and kindly answered all our questions. 

1- In your own words, what is your organisation actually doing?

Prague Integration is offering support for expats living in Prague, primarily in their easier adaption to Prague. We expats have all been there-moving to unknown countries, changing environment, enrolling in new studies or starting a job, learning a new language and finally getting used to countries mentality. All of this does sound exciting but it can also carry various sets of difficulties. So that is where we step in and offer expats in social, cultural and mental health areas.

We are running an integration course, mental health program, employment assistance program and various events. In the past year we have organised more than 10+ online and personal events, involved more than 150 expats and  built up our team to 17 people. And this is just our first year. 

 

2- Let's focus on the mental health support program. Can you describe more about it?

 Yes of course. The Mental Health Program is designed to help expats living in Czech Republic with fields of improvement in the mental health area. It was primarily started due to COVID-19 pandemic as we have witnessed that a lot of expats unfortunately can’t find proper help in English. By that I mean also help, where their specific needs are recognised and where they can financially afford it, and get it in quite a short time period. First we have started with our group support, and we had fantastic reach, more than 80 people just reached us in less than 3 weeks. We have built this model based on donation, and on pay as you go principle. Meetings were held weekly and latest 1.5 he moderated by our counsellors, also mental health professionals. Then after, we have started with individual counselling and we are currently having a number of expats going through individual counselling sessions with our counsellors. 

Besides that we have been running events like ”How to survive pandemic”,  ”How to stay sane in isolation”, or ”How to prevent burnout at work from home” that are held online and are also based on a donation model. 

Currently we are again running our group support session due to high interest starting in February. Also one special program that I am very proud of is our LGBTQI+ program that had tremendous success and is based on specific methods of body movements and art therapy our counsellors are applying in their sessions.

Our goal is to have mental health support available for everyone, as I can’t emphasize enough importance of it. I have personally seen a lot of clients struggling a lot in these pandemic times, and being affected hard by isolation and social deprivation pandemic has produced. Being locked in your rented apartment in Prague, far away from your family and friends, with your salary cut in half and stuck with your thoughts, is not an easy situation to handle, and if we don’t offer people relevant support and help, it can develop more serious mental health issues. 

Interview with Prague Integration Centre
Prague Integration in Coffice Prague

3- In your opinion, which are the 3 main facts which are affecting people nowadays?

Talking about COVID-19, people have been reporting loneliness, isolation and uncertainty about the future as main experiences. Also as a product of pandemic there are a lot of people experiencing issues on relationship, financial and as well as physical health level . Of course, some of our clients are also expats who are experiencing issues that are not products of pandemic and we are also here to help with them as mental health is a very broad term.

4- Can you tell us some successful cases or examples about how you improved life aspects in someone's life?

For me there is no bigger blessing than clients reporting even small improvements in their mental health. Some of them were extremely overwhelmed and affect by situation but then after our group or individual sessions we held they reported  feeling more encouraged, positive and able to cope on their own with situation they were asking help for. I see them also continuing friendships with people from the group and leaving us feedback about how they missed this service in Prague so much and that we have come in the right moment. I would not talk about individual cases, as this is granted by privacy rules, but overall people are very happy with our service. 

5- Is it hard for the people to be more open and tell you about their problems?

Depends on a case and aspect of the problem. What is really important is a good connection with counsellor and feeling of mutual trust and creation of safe space. It is a relationship that needs to be built on foundations of trust, respect and encouragement. People need to feel safe so they can open. We had cases of our clients opening immediately in the first session and the ones who opened in the 5th session.

6- What brings to your life this experience

Well, this is not just an experience, this is my job that I live 0-24. I started it last year and I still can’t believe that I had enough courage to do it, as I was scared to start something on my own, especially in a country where I am expat. But then, the ball just rolled and I have seen how much this is needed and how many people are reaching out to us. I had to be fast and I had to find professionals who can help people. It has for sure changed my life in the best possible way-as I finally do what I like, I learn a lot from my team and get inspired by my clients. I couldn’t be happier and I have just started, so yes, this brought a lot of joy to my life. 

Also, I must admit, as I like to be critical to myself, that I am learning how to be a good manager for my team and lead them in the best possible way. I am still new, and I am trying to be very transparent and always authentic. Sometimes I question if I am doing this in the right way, but I believe I have quite a good goal and plan to execute, and most important cause-to make people’s life in foreign country better and to help them integrate and also,  feel accepted.

7- What is Prague Integration doing right now online?

Right now, due to Government restrictions we are running everything online. From individual and group counselling, to our events and employment programs. We are preparing one big project later this year, but I will inform you more about it for sure, when time comes. I have to say that I am not the biggest fan of online meetings and that I can’t wait to meet in person. We are planning on building a nice office where we could meet our clients in person, when COVID of course allows us.

Coworking Prague Integration Centre workshop
Prague Integration in Coffice Prague

8- What are you planning to do offline once life will get to “normal” again?

As I said for sure our individual and group counselling. Further more events like ”Mental Health Talks” or ”Employment Workshops” should take place also later this year and we will make sure happening on a quarterly level. Also, I hope we will be back with our Integration Course. So many things are waiting for us, but for now we should of course stick to doing things online.

9- Tell us more about the team. Who is part of Prague Integration?

We are a team of working professionals in Prague, expats as well. We are from different countries, speaking different languages and been raised in different mentalities. But being in Prague and desire to help and support people kind of united us and now we are quite a big team: 13 counsellors, 1 project manager, 1 social media manager and various collaborators. We are also collaborating with some of the expats  organisations here and trying to involve ourselves in creating the best possible scenarios for our expats.

10- How can people contact Prague Integration?

You can contact us on contact@pragueintegration.cz or visit our website www.pragueintegration.cz.

If you want to register for individual counselling, please follow the link above: 

 

We are as well available om social media: Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin. Check us out:

https://www.instagram.com/pragueintegration/

https://www.facebook.com/pragueintegration

https://www.linkedin.com/company/prague-integration

Interview conducted in February 2021. 

Interviewed: Amanda Mataija – Prague Integration
Interviewer: Martín Miguel – Coffice Prague

Thank you Amanda!

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