Online support for volunteers
Instructions for our free and customisable online seminar:
Volunteering at Europe's external borders
Welcome to our Online Seminar
for your volunteer work experience
This is a short guide on how to use our Online Seminar for volunteers who want to support asylum and protection-seekers in Europe!
What is this about?
How does it work?
- The order we have chosen describes the different steps of a voluntary stay as we experienced it ourselves. The units are not necessarily based on one another in terms of content. Create your own seminar according to your questions and interests.
- These units are therefore to be understood as an orientation guide for the time before, during and after your stay and consist of different subunits for information and reflection processes during your volunteering experience.
Background: Who are we?
Our team consists of former volunteers who were active in the support for people on the move in Northern Greece between 2016 - 2021. During this time, we have experienced different phases of the arising support structures, networks and humanitarian aid offers with and for protection and asylum seekers across Europe’s borders. We have compiled our knowledge from our experiences and different challenges to design this online seminar.
Our activities in this context started in 2016, when the closure of the so-called Balkan route forced the unofficial Camp Idomeni to be set up on the border to North Macedonia, where up to 16,000 people seeking protection were stranded. At that time, people from all over Europe, including some of our team members, travelled to Idomeni to show solidarity with these people, to help in ways that they could and to build up structures for basic care. In this context, we became aware of the importance of volunteering, but also of the many challenges and dangers of lack of organisation and preparation that come with it.
In the following years, our team members were on the ground at different times, working mainly with the grassroots organisation InterEuropean Human Aid Association (IHA) in the Thessaloniki area, but also in other small organisations, including in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. During that period of time, we have seen that although the structures of volunteer work in Greece are changing, they remain essential in providing basic services and support to the people, which of course creates a certain responsibility. Since there has been little action on the part of political actors in recent years to relieve or defuse the situation, the voluntary aid organisations assume an important civil responsibility, but must also reflect on their actions accordingly.
Together with many friends within the volunteer community, we see a great need to accompany and support volunteers in this context - for the benefit and protection of volunteers, but also and mainly for the protection of the people they work with. This for the benefit and protection of you as volunteers, but also and mainly for the protection of the people you work with.
Since 2018, we have been supporting volunteers who work in humanitarian aid with refugees and asylum seekers in Greece. Some of us have also been involved in volunteer recruitment and volunteer coordination on site for a few months to years. In 2018 and 2019, we offered weekend seminars for volunteers regarding their preparation as well as follow-up and return seminars. These are the contents which we have edited and summarised here to now make them publicly available.
Of course we do not claim that this information is exhaustive, as we refer to our limited range of experience. Nevertheless, we have gained the impression that these contents are equally important and applicable in some other comparable contexts. However, we would be happy to hear from you if you have any suggestions for improvement or additions that you bring with you from your experience as a volunteer!
All in all, we sincerely hope that you can benefit from our experiences and that this Online Seminar can provide you with exciting and important impulses, suggestions and tips.
For initial orientation and preparation of your volunteer stay:
A mix of helpful preparation measures, tips and tricks and theoretical background knowledge
In this section, we want to support you in finding a project that suits your ideas of support, your capacities and profile to ensure a sustainable project work. In addition, this unit will introduce you to the basics of humanitarian work and encourage you to reflect on the opportunities and also the limitations of humanitarian aid projects as well as your own volunteer work
White Saviour-Complex, Voluntourism
As a volunteer in support and aid structures for people on the move, we believe it is very important to critically engage with certain aspects of racism and the concepts of Eurocentrism, voluntourism and the so-called "white saviour complex". Don't be put off by the complicated terms if you don't know them. Click on each concept for a brief definition, an explanation of why they matter in this context and further reading recommendations.
for people on the move in Europe
This unit serves as an orientation for the last weeks or days before your departure. In the first part we will encourage you to self-reflect on your expectations, which in our experience has a great added value for the preparation and later also for the follow-up. In the second part, we will give you some final practical tips for your preparation.
In the project
Information and suggestions for action that might be important during your stay.
with people on the move and refugees
This unit is intended to give you some background information and advice for working with protection and asylum seekers in precarious living conditions and to encourage you to deal with the issue of trauma. You will receive further instructions and input of this kind in your project, which will have top priority for orientation However, you may already find some valuable suggestions and food for thought in this unit, which are to be taken into account when working with protection seekers.
Your volunteer work in supporting people seeking protection can be well combined with public outreach and advocacy work to raise awareness about the situation at the external borders. In this unit, we would like to draw your attention to some important pitfalls, challenges but also potentials of public outreach in this context.
To deal with the experiences you have made at a time of your own choosing after your departure. uggestions for reflection and sustainable processing for possible further volunteering or further engagement back home.
of your volunteering stay
The time on the ground usually goes by quickly and is so eventful that there is often no time for intensive consideration of your experiences and reflection on it. Back at home in familiar surroundings, many thoughts can therefore come crashing down on you at once. Processing what you have experienced can take some time and emotion. We have some options for you here that might help you process and reflect. Just look at the different ideas and choose something suitable for you.