Policy recommendations to European Institutions and NGOs Volunteers
The following recommendations of the project Time to be Welcome have been designed based on:
- the external evaluation of the project outcomes produced by IICOS.
- the learning outcomes of all the partners engaged in the project and in consultation with the volunteers who have been deployed.
While the project Time to be welcome was financially supported by a grant from Erasmus + (Key3 – Social inclusion), its learning outcomes are a valuable contribution to the newly created European Solidarity Corps.
The following recommendations target both the European decision makers and peer organisations engaged in this type of activities. The recommendations are applicable to transnational long-term youth volunteers deployed to provide support to the integration of refugees and migrants.
Topic 1: Coordination of volunteers working with refugees and migrants
Working with often inexperienced volunteers in the challenging setting of refugee centers/ shelters requires a high risk management strategy to safeguard the volunteers. This strategy should look at both physical and emotional safety of volunteers:
Recommendations to the sending organisations:
Selection, pre-departure training and debriefing of volunteers
- The selection of volunteers and assigning suitable roles to each volunteer is essential. Face-to-face interviews and simulation exercises during the pre-departure training can help to assess the resilience capacities of volunteers being deployed. This is a prerequisite for being able to assign each volunteer a suitable task and provide an adapted support to their specific needs.
- Volunteers should be provided a clear job description stating the expectations and a code of conduct. The role of the volunteers with no prior social worker experiences should be given clear framework at the very beginning to avoid mis-expectations.
- A return debriefing of the volunteer after the mission is also essential. It allows the volunteers to identify their learning outcomes, to valorise their engagement, and to address any frustrations and disappointments, by putting the difficulties encountered in a wider positive perspective.
Recommendations to the hosting organisations:
Mentoring, coaching and psychological support to volunteers during the deployment
- A clear structure of support and mentoring of the volunteers during the deployment should be foreseen. This support should be composed of (i) a day-to-day coaching for the role and mission of the volunteers and (ii) of a designated resource person who will be dealing with the mentoring, personal development and the well-being of the volunteers. Moreover, (iii) a psychological expert should be involved to equip volunteers at the beginning of their volunteering with tools to mitigate emotional risks. Finally, (iv) a “listening-ears” system should be available to the volunteers (on spot or at distance through calls) throughout their mission.
- Additional psychological support should be put in place for volunteers having mental health issues or fragility and should be foreseen at the very beginning of their deployment.
Recommendations to the hosting organisations:
Ensure the empowerment of volunteers throughout their mission
- Providing continuous and relevant training relevant to the project and mission of the volunteers
- Include volunteers’ representatives in the decision-making processes for any issues affecting their mission.
- For large scale volunteers deployment, put in place a system of peer-to-peer support among volunteers through a system of team leaders and peer-mentors.
Topic 2: Strengthening the capacities of the hosting organisations
Involve organisations with a high level of expertise in work with refugees and migrants
- In order to achieve a clear and realistic oversight that best serve refugees and migrants, it is crucial to involve relevant organisations having the expertise of working with refugees and migrants at the planning and implementation stages of the project. Ideally, two hosting structures should be involved for such projects – with one taking care of the management and integration of the volunteers while the other is an expert of working with refugees and migrants.
An appropriate level of human resources should be dedicated to the support of volunteers;
- Programmes such as the European Solidarity Corps should provide additional organisational support to hosting organisations for projects dealing with difficult circumstances like this activity. Additional organisational support should be easily available based on the nature of the project activities.
- Previous experience of hosting organisations dealing with national volunteers do not necessarily qualify as a relevant experience for dealing with international volunteers. To be able to host a large group of long term international volunteers, it is recommended to the hosting organisations to have previous relevant experiences.
More flexibility of funds to support additional needs of volunteers and changes
- Since the international volunteers are unlikely to be identified at the moment of the grant application and the situation related to migrants and refugees in Europe is very volatile, the flexibility of funds allocation is key. One month for dealing with any amendments to such project is having a negative impact in the capacities of the partners to provide additional support to volunteers or to address quickly the changes that might occur on the ground; Ideally, all requests for changes should be dealt within one or two weeks.