Report on the Situation and Needs of Volunteers
In the first phase of the Project CaseWORK a detailed analysis of the situation of volunteers in the involved countries took place- The Report on the situation and needs of volunteers working with refugees can be downloaded at casework.eu
In all participating countries (Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy and Slovenia) volunteers are strongly committed to their support activity. We can call these volunteers “activists for solidarity”, as they are often pushed by their will to change the situation refugees and asylum seekers deal with, and not only to provide services. From this perspective some common characteristics relevant for the project can be highlighted.
Volunteers report five main challenges for their work:
- not replacing public bodies, properly funded according to the law and focused on guaranteeing welfare services (that should be provided anyway, even when voluntary work is missing);
- ensure a proficiency commeasured to the nature of the actions taken;
- avoid any overlap with professional actions;
- promote the process of integration, through flexible and personal support they are able to minimize isolation and to offer opportunities to asylum seekers to develop their human potential and skills;
- finally, contributing to improve the standards of protection of the most vulnerable groups.
Online Training for Volunteers?
Volunteers would like to run an online course providing general information, psychological support and intercultural competences that meets their needs, if provided within a flexible and easily accessible learning environment. They need a flexible – in terms of time, place and contents – training. The training courses should not be compulsory or demanding but they should function as an easily accessible source for support. Useful information and support should therefore be accessible at any time and place.
Volunteers report the need on the psychological knowledge and support as well as knowledge about migration and reasons for migration. There is a general need for information about political and legal issues, law and order or administrative procedures in Europe and national context.
Regarding the transversal competences, volunteers are mainly interested on the area of intercultural communication and skills, for a more functional management of stress and conflicts. Volunteers mentioned aspects related to tolerance, openness, empathy or cultural knowledge. This suggests that volunteers feel the need to strengthen their ability to handle cultural barriers such as political and religious beliefs, different mindsets and lifestyles.
Volunteers in the involved countries are often either below 25 or above 60 years old. The younger group is digiral-skilled and has not major problems for accessing an online training programm. The elderly helpers could face some difficulties accessing an online training environment. Therefore, the learning environment has to be user friendly, self-explicable and easy to access. All volunteer groups face high time-related constrains, the online training needs to adapt to time conflicts by being flexible in terms of time and contents.
The smoothness of situations and of the specific context, require a continuous effort to update and ability to solve problems, for this reason the training activities must not be based on an abstract or generalizing approach, but must be adapted to the context. In this sense, it may be important to use more formative practices as: action research, action learning, storytelling and autobiographies, as well as the organization and enhancement of those processes of interpersonal relationships between less expert and more expert people that are common in the volunteering work environments and not only (the so-called learning by networking).