Introduction

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When working in the field of refugee aid and integration you need some special skills and strategies in order to cope with the potential stress factors and strains of your voluntary engagement.

In this online course we tried to give an overview on the situation of volunteers working with refugees and asylum seekers and the psychological and mental challenges they have to face.  At first we introduced the psychological implication of helping in general. Why do people help? What are their expectations, what motivates them? We introduced the psychological concepts of altruism and egoism and stated that motivation for supporting other people in most cases can be traced back to a combination of altruistic and egoistic reasons. Concluding the risk and limits of helping as well as the Helper Syndrome have been explicated.

The next section addressed volunteering in general. We presented institutional frameworks for voluntary work and traditional and newer forms of engagement. Typical motives, psychological functions and benefits of voluntary work have been exemplified.

Further specific experiences of volunteers working in refugee aid have been discussed. We introduced typical attitudes, motive types and potential kinds of support. A special focus was laid on specific challenges, e.g. working with traumatized persons, dealing with rejection and disapproval of the social environment and verbal and physical attacks.

The next section introduced the psychological implications of stress and the difference between temporary stress experiences and permanent stress and its risk factors. We presented strategies for staying healthy and motivated as a volunteer and methods of dealing with specific challenges of refugee aid. Concluding, we focused on the importance of recovering, balancing and relaxing and finding active regeneration strategies. “Soul food”, relaxation and exercise as important methods for staying in balance have been described.

In this last course section we would like to recap the content of the previous sections and to deepen your acquired knowledge and skills by means of practical exercises, assignments and tasks. The aim is to provide knowledge, competences and skills that support you in your demanding voluntary work.

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Course Syllabus