Building Bridges Toolkit

The Toolkit was designed to collect and share the know-how on voluntary projects involving people seeking or who have recently found refuge, as well as raising awareness on forced migration in general. The collection of guidelines, methods and case studies is non-exhaustive and should simply foster your own inspiration and support you in implementing projects on the topic. The creation of the Toolkit has been driven by the ever bigger need of the international SCI network to exchange best practices on projects in the field. It was coordinated by SCI Switzerland with the support of Útilapu Hungary. Its existence wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Mercator Foundation Switzerland and the active contribution of the Building Bridges working group and a number of SCI branches.

METHODS AND TOOLS serve to support your work on the topic of refugees and migration with different target groups.


Community gardening with refugees and locals

Time needed: No timeframe

Objectives and aim: To bring locals (SCI volunteers and/or general public) together with refugees; to create an «own space» of community within the area of often impersonal refugee centers; to make the area greener and friendlier

Level of difficulty: medium; activity itself is quite easy, you don’t need to be a gardening pro.However, persistence and regularity over several months is needed.

ResourcesBudget for plants and soil, needs to find an agreement where to plant together with the maintainers of the center or the town, motivating refugees to be interested.

Categories: events, regular activities

Number of participants: minimum 5, maximum 20 (or more)

Contact: Thomas Schallhart, SCI Austria


    1. Find a place where to plant.
      If possible you can agree to use unused grass and overgrown area around the center as well as some surroundings of the center to do urban gardening. 
    2. Build beds for the plants out of old wood and soil.
    3. Plant the plants or seeds you bought. 
    4. You can also build hanging gardens that you could made out of plastic bottles. You can hung them on the fence of the center for example, so that passers-by would immediately see it. You can also create a plate informing passers-by and neighbours about the project.
    5. Around every two weeks you should go to the center in order to observe the project and to motivate other inhabitants of the center, but also locals to participate. Ask them to join to work on planting new plants together or to look after the other ones.
    6. To promote your project you can celebrate the garden by organising a garden party to bring together all the people who have been involved in the project and new ones, too.


    • Make sure to start planning the project weeks or months before you start with planting.
    • It might happen that there are almost too many interested local volunteers to contribute to the project. This means that sometimes the ratio of volunteers vs. inhabitants of the center could be very uneven, especially if the inhabitants don´t know in advance when you are going to the center for this project. Also because they may not feel so comfortable working around people they can’t communicate with properly or they don’t know so well. Try to motivate them and inform and include them in the project.
    • It is important to involve as many people living in the center as possible, so there is always some people to take care of things that have to be done daily (e.g. watering the plants, looking after them). It is great to see the whole project as a learning process and to involve the learning as part of the project outline.
    • It’s much more fun, if the plants are edible. Make sure to plant things that are useful and interesting for everybody involved, maybe some that aren’t so easy to get (chili e.g. was very popular). It can also be good to plant some more attention-grabbing plants to get the attention of inhabitants and passers-by (e.g. zucchini). If you don’t have any expiry date for the project, you can prepare the wood (e.g. by varnishing it) so that it lasts longer and doesn’t get mouldy. You could start planting in May, for some plants, and depending on where you do the project sooner or later might also be good.


    You can share your experience, observations, tips and tricks, pictures etc. by uploading for instance a method or a case study to the Building Bridges Toolkit. As this Toolkit is a work in progress to which all involved parties are invited to contribute, we would also be very grateful for your support and contribution in order to inspire others to continue the work towards peace and intercultural understanding.