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!
This is a short guide on how to use our Online Seminar for volunteers who want to support asylum and protection seekers at Europes (external) borders!
What is this about?
How does it work?
- The seminar is structured in a way that you can equip yourself with important background knowledge, get practical advice and we offer you approaches for reflection. There is no chronological order. Instead, you can go through the seminar individually according to your interests and needs, like with a construction kit.
The three units are each divided into several sub-units that accompany different information and reflection processes around the volunteer experience.
Wichtig, zu wissen
The online seminar was mainly designed by white people without flight experience. This means that it is a self-reflection of people who grew up in Europe and does not reflect the perspectives of people seeking protection who are affected by restrictive European border policies. In addition, some units are intended to stimulate reflection, especially for people who do not experience racism. These are marked accordingly.
Background: Who are we?
Our team "Education", which designed this online seminar, consists of former volunteers who were active in supporting refugees and people seeking protection in Northern Greece, Serbia or Sicily at various times between 2016 and 2021 and are currently still active in Germany. We have experienced different phases and sides of the support landscape with protection seekers in Europe and have compiled our knowledge from our experiences and challenges in this online seminar.
A few of us were there in 2016 when the unofficial camp Idomeni, where up to 16,000 refugees were stranded, was established in Greece at the northern Macedonian border due to the closure of the so-called Balkan route. At that time, people from all over Europe, among them a few from Wind, travelled to Idomeni to show solidarity with the people, to assist 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, some of us have been in Greece at different times, working mainly with the grassroots organisation InterEuropean Human Aid Association (IHA) in the Thessaloniki area, but also with other small organisations in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In recent years, we have seen that the structures of volunteering are changing, but remain essential in providing basic services and support to people. Since there has been little action on the part of political actors in recent years to change or ease the situation, the voluntary support organisations take on 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. This is 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 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. 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 make them publicly available. 2023 we have revised this content in detail.
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 and hints.
If you want to support refugees, you should deal with certain topics and questions. Therefore, we have put together a mixture of advice and theoretical background knowledge.
In which context do you find yourself as a volunteer working with People on the Move? What are the different forms of organisation and what should solidarity support work (not) look like? In this unit, we will look at how aid organisations, initiatives and solidarity groups that support refugees are structured and why it is relevant to engage with these structures in order to do volunteering in solidarity.
White Saviourism, Voluntourism
As a volunteer in support work for people on the move, we think it is very important to critically engage with certain aspects of racism and the concepts of Eurocentrism, voluntourism and so-called "white saviourism". Don't be put off by the complicated terms if you don't know them. Click on the respective concepts for a short definition and an explanation of why they play an important role in this context. Parts of the unit are designed primarily for people from the Global North who do not experience racism.
for people on the move in Europe
The social and political situation of people on the move at Europe's (external) borders is a complex issue that requires consideration of historical, political, social, and legal realities. Jurisdictions and political practices at the borders change frequently. Therefore, we provide a brief overview of the most important developments and regulations. For further interest and questions, we refer to other organisations that deal with these developments on a daily basis and for a long time, and thus can present them much better.
Information and recommendations for concrete support work.
Engaging in support projects in the context of forced migration and border policies also means working with people who are forced to live in precarious living conditions and who are and have been exposed to various forms of violence and discrimination. What does this mean for your actions? In this unit we will give you information on important topics such as power relations and trauma-sensitive action.
To reflect on your experiences and your own self-care during or after ending your volunteer work. Suggestions for reflection and sustainable processing for further volunteering.
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.