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PSP – Spain

Table of contents 
map of Malaga, Spain

The LEMA project in Málaga (Spain)

The LEMA project has been formed in Mála­ga (Spain) by two enti­ties: the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mála­ga (UMA) and the Moroc­can Asso­ci­a­tion for the Inte­gra­tion of Immi­grants.

On the occa­sion of the ‘Urban Action’ of the project, in that coun­try they worked with young immi­grants between 18 and 20 years old. They were young peo­ple from Moroc­co who migrat­ed alone from their coun­try when they were still under eigh­teen. Once detect­ed in Spain by the cor­re­spond­ing enti­ties and after ver­i­fy­ing their sta­tus as ‘Unac­com­pa­nied For­eign Minors’ (UFM), the pub­lic sys­tem took care of them. This sys­tem acti­vat­ed the exist­ing child pro­tec­tion mech­a­nisms which, among oth­er things, pro­vid­ed them with shel­ter, food and min­i­mal liv­ing con­di­tions, edu­cat­ed them and tried to help them to build the life they longed for in a dig­ni­fied man­ner and with­in the chan­nels of legal­i­ty. All this until they were 18 years old.

The prob­lem was that once they reached that age, all that sup­port was tak­en away from them and they were left in a sit­u­a­tion of risk that threat­ened to ruin all the work done up to that point. They were left in a sit­u­a­tion of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to numer­ous and diverse threats. They had to sur­vive with few resources and in an unnat­ur­al envi­ron­ment. Let’s not for­get that they had no fam­i­ly around them, they were in a for­eign coun­try, in a cul­ture dif­fer­ent from their own, with a lin­guis­tic hand­i­cap, with­out a home or eco­nom­ic income, etc.

Occa­sion­al­ly, the Moroc­can Asso­ci­a­tion had a pro­gramme for this group (called EXYI: Ex–Protected Young Immi­grants). The young peo­ple who have par­tic­i­pat­ed in the LEMA project in Mala­ga (Spain) are part of the EXYI pro­gram of the Moroc­can Asso­ci­a­tion. Specif­i­cal­ly, we worked with a group of approx­i­mate­ly 10 young peo­ple, all male, whose mem­bers have var­ied over the course of the project. The mobil­i­ty of these young peo­ple is part of their real­i­ty and through­out the time we have been work­ing with them there have been sev­er­al boys who have left to oth­er places try­ing to find oth­er life oppor­tu­ni­ties, while there have been new addi­tions who have been join­ing the project.

The main aim of the LEMA project guid­ed the action car­ried out in Mala­ga (Spain). With­in this frame­work, the empha­sis was placed on the socio-edu­ca­tion­al action with the young peo­ple. Specif­i­cal­ly, a process of socio-edu­ca­tion­al accom­pa­ni­ment was artic­u­lat­ed around an ana­lyt­i­cal action, which was intend­ed to be empow­er­ing and inclu­sive. In the fol­low­ing sec­tion, the socio-ped­a­gog­i­cal foun­da­tions of this process will be explained and the main actions that were car­ried out to mate­ri­al­ize it will be shown. In essence, the task con­sist­ed of ana­lyz­ing, togeth­er with the young peo­ple, their life sto­ries, focus­ing on resilience. Resilience is here under­stood from an envi­ron­men­tal point of view (not only indi­vid­u­al­is­tic), inter­sec­tion­al and lon­gi­tu­di­nal (as a result of the con­flu­ence of numer­ous and var­ied fac­tors in the course of a lifetime).

Multi-Approach model: Environmental-Humanist, Emancipatory-Critical and Inclusive

The socio-edu­ca­tion­al foun­da­tions that have under­pinned the socio-edu­ca­tion­al action with young peo­ple in Mála­ga (Spain) are out­lined below. As these foun­da­tions are made explic­it, the main dynam­ics that mate­ri­al­ized the work with these young peo­ple will be described.

The inter­ven­tion mod­el used is the result of the com­bi­na­tion of dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives. Per­spec­tives that the dif­fer­ent mem­bers of LEMA in Mála­ga (Spain) have applied in oth­er projects (indi­vid­u­al­ly and joint­ly, and from com­ple­men­tary approach­es) with chil­dren and young peo­ple at social risk (i.e., a pop­u­la­tion with sim­i­lar char­ac­ter­is­tics), with good results. These per­spec­tives have been defined by virtue of the analy­sis of these expe­ri­ences. So much so that this ratio­nale is dis­tilled, fun­da­men­tal­ly, from the core ideas of the ref­er­ences that appear at the end of this sec­tion, which are pub­li­ca­tions elab­o­rat­ed by the mem­bers of the LEMA team in Mála­ga (Spain). The LEMA project has pro­vid­ed the oppor­tu­ni­ty to com­bine the strong points of these per­spec­tives and to improve the aspects that need­ed, in order to make a qual­i­ta­tive leap in the con­struc­tion of a more com­plete and holis­tic mod­el that com­bines these com­ple­men­tary approach­es and makes pos­si­ble a more far-reach­ing socio-edu­ca­tion­al action. By virtue of this, a mul­ti-approach mod­el has been assem­bled com­bin­ing the fol­low­ing per­spec­tives: envi­ron­men­tal-human­ist, empow­er­ing-crit­i­cal and inclusive.

young people hiking in mountains
Hik­ing in a nat­ur­al area
Young people in a museum
Vis­it to a muse­um. Explic­it demand of a young man, because he had nev­er been in one before

The Environmental-Humanistic approach

The first approach tak­en into con­sid­er­a­tion is the envi­ron­men­tal-human­is­tic one. The cre­ation of an ade­quate envi­ron­ment to car­ry out the socio-edu­ca­tion­al work to be imple­ment­ed was con­sid­ered fun­da­men­tal. Set­ting such an envi­ron­ment required the con­ju­ga­tion of var­i­ous ele­ments, one of the nuclear ones being the rela­tion­ships and bonds between the dif­fer­ent mem­bers of the expe­ri­ence (young peo­ple, vol­un­teers, edu­ca­tors and researchers).

With this in mind, it was thought that the work to be car­ried out with the chil­dren should be impreg­nat­ed with a recre­ation­al char­ac­ter. All the ses­sions had to begin or be artic­u­lat­ed, in a gen­er­al way, through social, play­ful, sport­ing, cul­tur­al or sim­i­lar activ­i­ties. These activ­i­ties, which were agreed with the young peo­ple or were explic­it­ly request­ed by them, were inter­est­ing and moti­vat­ing for them and pro­vid­ed a cli­mate con­ducive to weav­ing con­nec­tions between all the participants.

Con­nec­tions that, although invis­i­ble, tried to be forged with the most sol­id raw mate­r­i­al: trust, which, togeth­er with the attach­ment that was also gen­er­at­ed through the dif­fer­ent dynam­ics that were car­ried out, pur­sued the devel­op­ment of bonds between the dif­fer­ent mem­bers of the project (Bowl­by, 19761). Hence, not only the activ­i­ty was con­sid­ered impor­tant, but, above all, the moments of inter­ac­tion around it.

young people playing football
Foot­ball tour­na­ment between all the par­tic­i­pants in the project
young people sitting on the ground
Hav­ing break­fast togeth­er after the foot­ball tournament

These bonds were sin­gu­lar in each case, but lit­tle by lit­tle they became stronger and a web of rela­tion­ships was woven around the project that, in addi­tion to rep­re­sent­ing a new social cir­cle for the young peo­ple, emerged as a sup­port net­work for them, some even liken­ing it to a family:

“I feel good [about the project] because now we are as a fam­i­ly, now every­one has one more fam­i­ly.“
Focus group of youth from the Moroc­can Asso­ci­a­tion.

The essence of such an envi­ron­ment was human­is­tic. The basic premis­es that per­me­at­ed it were: pro­tec­tion, equi­ty, respect, hor­i­zon­tal­i­ty, dia­logue and free­dom. In addi­tion, a work sys­tem based on per­son­al­ized atten­tion was designed. Ini­tial­ly, each young per­son was asked to draw up a ‘Life­line’. Tak­ing into account that it was a strange task for them and that the lev­el of abstrac­tion of some of them was lim­it­ed, a sys­tem of work in pairs was artic­u­lat­ed. Each young per­son from the Moroc­can Asso­ci­a­tion would be accom­pa­nied by a vol­un­teer, an edu­ca­tor or a researcher. The vol­un­teers were uni­ver­si­ty stu­dents, the edu­ca­tors were pro­fes­sion­als of the Moroc­can Asso­ci­a­tion and the researchers belonged to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mala­ga. They all attend­ed each of the ses­sions that took place, par­tic­i­pat­ed in the recre­ation­al activ­i­ties at the begin­ning of each day and then worked alone with the young per­son with whom they had been paired. This allowed for a more humane and indi­vid­u­al­ized treat­ment between the mem­bers of each pair, as they got to know each oth­er in a more per­son­al and inti­mate way, and the estab­lish­ment of more con­sis­tent bonds.

A few young people in a classroom
Work­ing in pairs. Sec­ond part of a work­ing day.
Two men making v-sign. Blurred
Work­ing pair 1 — youth and volunteer
Man and woman making v-sign
Work­ing pair 2 — youth and volunteer

Empowering-critical approach

The sec­ond approach from which we have worked has been the empow­er­ing-crit­i­cal one. This approach was artic­u­lat­ed through the inter­ven­tion mod­el called: socio-edu­ca­tion­al accom­pa­ni­ment, which is based on walk­ing with the oth­er per­son to pro­vide sup­port and guid­ance in the course of that walk. The objec­tive of this mod­el is to con­tribute to the devel­op­ment of inde­pen­dent peo­ple with suf­fi­cient cri­te­ria to devel­op autonomous­ly in their environment.

In the case of LEMA Mála­ga (Spain), we walked with the young peo­ple of the Moroc­can Asso­ci­a­tion in the ses­sions that were held week­ly for the project, although we were also at their side in fac­ing oth­er vicis­si­tudes (indi­vid­ual and cir­cum­stan­tial) that were con­sid­ered nec­es­sary, such as, for exam­ple, ‘over­com­ing a bump in the road’ or sim­ply spend­ing free time togeth­er. In this sense, the accom­pa­ni­ment was designed to ful­fill the tasks set, but above all to sup­port them, because the aim was for them to acquire con­fi­dence and the nec­es­sary tools to be able to fly on their own.

“I like this project because on week­ends, for exam­ple, we go for a cof­fee and watch foot­ball and we don’t feel alone in the house. We don’t have that day when you run out of patience and you feel bad. So that this does­n’t hap­pen, thanks to the project we are going to play, to have fun, to watch foot­ball, to have a coffee”

Focus group of youth from the Moroc­can Asso­ci­a­tion.

In rela­tion to the task of analy­sis that had to be done on the basis of the ‘Life­lines’ of the young peo­ple, they were guid­ed in their elab­o­ra­tion, offer­ing them guid­ance and advice, at the same time that they were asked doubts and ques­tions that made them reflect on the mat­ter. The per­son­al­ized work that was done with each one of them cul­mi­nat­ed in a col­lec­tive Focus Group in which they dis­cussed togeth­er, in a rea­soned way, the most sub­stan­tive aspects that had emerged indi­vid­u­al­ly. All this to make them think about their real­i­ty. There­fore, the accom­pa­ni­ment was also edu­ca­tion­al, because it aimed to devel­op argu­ments that could help them to under­stand, in a more com­pre­hen­sive way, the com­plex­i­ty of the sit­u­a­tion in which they found them­selves, to glimpse ways of solu­tion and to explore resilient strate­gies. All of which was devel­oped from a crit­i­cal per­spec­tive that sought equal oppor­tu­ni­ties and social jus­tice (Freire, 19762; Giroux, 19833), since, on the one hand, it sought to coun­ter­act the dif­fi­cul­ties they had to face and, on the oth­er, the trans­for­ma­tion of the struc­tures and mech­a­nisms that pre­vent­ed their devel­op­ment (the advance­ment of the mem­bers of this group).

Focus group of young migrants
Focus group af young migrants
Young people making v-sign in front of mountain view
Youth and volunteers

Attention to diversity and inclusion

The third approach, atten­tion to diver­si­ty and inclu­sion, was devel­oped in par­al­lel as a con­se­quence of all of the above. The approach is that the crit­i­cal empow­er­ment of mem­bers of a minor­i­ty group at risk, through the human­ist envi­ron­ment, also aims to con­tribute to their full devel­op­ment. In oth­er words, from the above per­spec­tives, it was also about lay­ing the foun­da­tions so that these peo­ple could devel­op in all their dimen­sions and in all areas of life.

Tak­ing into account that two of the three basic human needs (Maslow, 19754), phys­i­o­log­i­cal and pro­tec­tion, of the young peo­ple were min­i­mal­ly cov­ered by the pro­gram of atten­tion to EXYI of the Moroc­can Asso­ci­a­tion. From an inclu­sive per­spec­tive a mech­a­nism was artic­u­lat­ed to con­tribute to the devel­op­ment of the third of them: affil­i­a­tion-belong­ing (which is the one that com­pletes the basic lev­el of sur­vival) and to com­plete the sec­ond (just men­tioned), cre­at­ing an envi­ron­ment of greater secu­ri­ty for the young people.

The involve­ment of the vol­un­teers in the project (a group of young uni­ver­si­ty stu­dents of the same age as the young peo­ple of the Moroc­can Asso­ci­a­tion) made pos­si­ble to gen­er­ate this envi­ron­ment and to broad­en the rela­tion­ship sys­tem of the lat­ter. It gave them the oppor­tu­ni­ty to relate to peo­ple out­side the Moroc­can Asso­ci­a­tion (natives from Mála­ga) in an envi­ron­ment of trust, which was pleas­ant for them, gen­er­at­ing roots and mak­ing them see that they were ful­fill­ing their migra­to­ry dream, giv­ing them the strength to con­tin­ue mov­ing forward.

“For me it is impor­tant because there are not many peo­ple who vol­un­teer to be with us, as we said before, we need to be trust­ed, there are many peo­ple who are Span­ish who do not trust us, but these peo­ple do.”

Focus group of youth from the Moroc­can Asso­ci­a­tion.

By com­bin­ing these three approach­es, a more com­pre­hen­sive and far-reach­ing inter­ven­tion mod­el was cre­at­ed, which in Mála­ga (Spain) con­tributed favor­ably to the devel­op­ment of the young peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ing in the project. Although the dif­fer­ent approach­es were com­ple­men­tary, we worked to adjust them in an ade­quate way, mak­ing pos­si­ble the cre­ation of a mul­ti-approach mod­el: per­son­al­ized, holis­tic, coor­di­nat­ed, com­pre­hen­sive and net­worked, which took into con­sid­er­a­tion the real­i­ty of each young per­son from prac­ti­cal­ly all aspects. It would not have been pos­si­ble to advance in the same way if the dif­fer­ent dimen­sions of each case had been addressed in a gener­ic and sep­a­rate way.


The fol­low­ing are some of the ref­er­ences pub­lished by LEMA mem­bers in Spain that sup­port the ratio­nale just outlined:

Ruiz-Román, C. y Her­rera-Pas­tor, D. (2020). La inves­ti­gación de la Resilien­cia y el Acom­pañamien­to Socioe­d­uca­ti­vo: situación, lim­ita­ciones y posi­bil­i­dades des­de la mira­da de la desven­ta­ja social [Research­ing on resilience and socio-edu­ca­tion­al accom­pa­ni­ment: Sit­u­a­tion, lim­its and pos­si­bil­i­ties from social dis­ad­van­tage]. En E.S. Vila Meri­no e I. Grana Gil (coords.). Inves­ti­gación educa­ti­va y cam­bio social (211–226). Barcelona: Octaedro.

Her­rera, D., Juárez, J. y Ruíz-Román, C. (2020). Col­lab­o­ra­tive lead­er­ship to sub­vert mar­gin­al­i­sa­tion. The work­ings of a socio-edu­ca­tion­al net­work in Los Asper­ones, Spain. School Lead­er­ship & Man­age­ment, Vol. 40, 2–3, 203–220. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13632434.2019.1699525

Ruiz-Román, C., Juárez, J. y Moli­na, L. (2020). Fac­ing adver­si­ty togeth­er by look­ing beyond abil­i­ty: an approach to resilience among at-risk chil­dren and youth. Euro­pean Jour­nal of Social Work, 23(2), 315–326. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13691457.2019.1570084

Her­rera-Pas­tor, D., Padil­la-Car­mona, M.T., & González-Mon­teagu­do, J. (2020). Acom­pañamien­to sociope­dagógi­co, holis­mo y lon­gi­tu­di­nal­i­dad: Claves de una bue­na prác­ti­ca con un menor infrac­tor [Socio-ped­a­gog­i­cal accom­pa­ni­ment, holism and lon­gi­tu­di­nal­i­ty: Keys from a good prac­tice with a young offend­er], Vol. 22 (1), 62–74. Revista Fuentes. DOI: https://doi.org/10.12795/revistafuentes.2020.v22.i1.05.

Del­ga­do, P., Berne­do, I., Car­val­ho, J., Salas, M. y Gar­cía-Marín, M. A. (2019). Fos­ter Car­ers’ Per­spec­tives about Con­tact in Por­tu­gal and Spain. Inter­na­tion­al Jour­nal of Social Sci­ence Stud­ies 7(6), 145–153. DOI: https://doi.org/10.11114/ijsss.v7i6.4502

Ruiz-Román, C., Moli­na, L. y Alcaide, R. (2019). We have a com­mon goal: Sup­port Net­works for the edu­ca­tion­al and social devel­op­ment of Chil­dren in Dis­ad­van­taged Areas. British Jour­nal of Social Work. 49 (6), 1658–1676. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcz063

Her­rera Pas­tor, D., Sol­er Gar­cía, C. y Man­cila, I. (2019). Inter­cul­tur­al­i­dad Críti­ca, Teoría Soci­ol­ingüís­ti­ca e igual­dad de opor­tu­nidades. La extra­or­di­nar­ia his­to­ria de un menor infrac­tor [Crit­i­cal Inter­cul­tur­al­i­ty, Soci­olin­guis­tic The­o­ry and Equi­ty. The extra­or­di­nary sto­ry of a juve­nile offend­er]. Revista Ten­den­cias Pedagóg­i­cas, 33, 69–82. DOI: https://doi.org/10.15366/tp2019.33.006

Fuentes, M. J., Berne­do, I., Salas, M. D. y Gar­cía-Martín, M. Á. (2019). What do fos­ter fam­i­lies and social work­ers think about children’s con­tact with birth par­ents? A focus group analy­sis. Inter­na­tion­al Social Work 62(5), 1416–1430. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0020872818775475

Ruiz-Román, C. y Rascón, M.T. (2017) Between two shores: A mul­ti­ple case study on the cri­sis of val­ues and edu­ca­tion­al prac­tices in Moroc­can immi­grant fam­i­lies in Andalu­sia, Spain. Children’s Geo­gra­phies, 15 (2), 177 – 192. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14733285.2016.1214683

Her­rera-Pas­tor, D. y De Oña-Cots, J.M. (2017). Per­son­alizar la inter­ven­ción educa­ti­va con menores en situación de ries­go es fun­da­men­tal para su desar­rol­lo, la igual­dad de opor­tu­nidades y la jus­ti­cia social [Per­son­al­iz­ing edu­ca­tion­al inter­ven­tion pro­vides equal­i­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ties to under eigh­teen at risk]. Revista Inter­na­cional de Edu­cación para la Jus­ti­cia Social, vol 6, nº 2, 149–165. https://doi.org/10.15366/riejs2017.6.2.009

Ruiz Román, C.; Calderón Almen­dros, I. y Juárez, J. (2017). La resilien­cia como for­ma de resi­s­tir a la exclusión social: un análi­sis com­para­do de casos [Resilience as a way of resist­ing social exclu­sion: a com­par­a­tive analy­sis of case stud­ies]. Ped­a­gogía Social. Revista Interuni­ver­si­taria, 29, 129 – 141. DOI: 10. SE7179/PSRI_2017.29.09

Her­rera Pas­tor, D. y De Oña Cots, J.M. (2016). La impor­tan­cia del ambi­ente de apren­diza­je. Ped­a­gogía ecológ­i­ca en un cen­tro de menores [The rel­e­vance of the learn­ing envi­ron­ment. Eco­log­i­cal edu­ca­tion in a deten­tion cen­tre]. Revista Fuentes, 18 (1), 77–90. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12795/revistafuentes.2016.18.1.05

Berne­do, I. M., Ruiz, C., Lino, R. y Juarez, J. (2019). Situación
educa­ti­va y soci­o­lab­o­ral de famil­ias en exclusión social en Mála­ga. En J. A. Marín-Marín, G. Gómez-Gar­cía, M. R. Nava­jas-Pare­jo, y M. N.
Cam­pos-Soto (Eds.), Inclusión, Tec­nología y Sociedad: inves­ti­gación e
inno­vación en edu­cación (pp. 1328–1341). Edi­to­r­i­al Dykin­son, S.L. (ISBN:

Gar­cía-Martín, M. A., Fuentes, M. J., Berne­do, I. M., y Salas, M. D.
(2019). The views of birth fam­i­lies regard­ing access vis­its in fos­ter care. Jour­nal of Social Work, 19(2), 173–191. doi: 10.1177/1468017318757399


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  2. Freire, P. (1976). Ped­a­gogía del oprim­i­do [Ped­a­gogy of the oppressed]. Madrid: Siglo XXI de España editores.
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