Building Bridges Toolkit
The Toolkit was designed to collect and share the know-how on voluntary projects involving people seeking or who have recently found refuge, as well as raising awareness on forced migration in general. The collection of guidelines, methods and case studies is non-exhaustive and should simply foster your own inspiration and support you in implementing projects on the topic. The creation of the Toolkit has been driven by the ever bigger need of the international SCI network to exchange best practices on projects in the field. It was coordinated by SCI Switzerland with the support of Útilapu Hungary. Its existence wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Mercator Foundation Switzerland and the active contribution of the Building Bridges working group and a number of SCI branches.
PREPARING VOLUNTEERS FOR REGULAR ACTIVITIES
In the following we have gathered best practices and guidelines to consider when preparing volunteers for regular activities with asylum seekers and refugees.
1. Selecting volunteers
- Make a call for volunteers and distribute it for example with the help of other NGOs active in the field online, at universities etc. (Arabic studies, Social work etc.)
- Select volunteers that fit the project (application forms): Try to have people with different skills (e.g. people with experience with children, with psychosocial work, with specific language skills etc.); ask them about their preferences in case there are more possibilities concerning location, age group etc.; make clear the volunteers know the requirements when applying for the project.
- Some branches need criminal records extracts; CVS-Bulgaria also asks for a CV from applying volunteers.
- Face to face meetings with preselected volunteers: Speak about the task, clear out possible misunderstandings, confirm motivation
2. Training volunteers
Best practice: A 2-day training speaking about:
→ general information about refugees and the procedure for asylum seekers (e.g. guest speakers from other NGOs)
→ working methodology
→ intercultural communication, stereotypes
→ practicalities: How do we work together? How do we communicate? How do we take care of issues?
→ self-care: What kind of boundaries are there in my voluntary work? Which support do I get from coordinators etc.?; Focus on my learning process.
You can prepare a volunteering agreement with rights and responsibilities of the volunteers and the coordinators. It’s not a strict legal document, it’s just to be sure both sides are aware of and agree to these rights and responsibilities.
3. Coordinating the project
If you don’t coordinate the project yourself and the coordinators of the project are supposed to be other volunteers, make sure to also train the coordinators of your regular activity in volunteer management. Give them e.g. a one-day training covering the following topics and give them continuous support and mentorship:
- organising the group responsibilities
- different stages of group dynamics
- how to keep volunteers active and motivated
- coordination and responsibility of actions
- ongoing support for the volunteers especially in the beginning and later if needed
This preparation of both coordinator and volunteers depends a lot on their previous experience and SCI involvement. Adapt your training and support according to that.
4. During the activities
- Beginning: Coordinators always stay with volunteers and do the project together. They give support to the volunteers. The volunteers are organised in small groups in order to prepare for their activities. The volunteers themselves should plan the project (e.g. If it’s a lesson or a workshop, you can give them some material, but the actual plan of the workshop or lesson should be developed by themselves and you should validate it).
- Midterm training and evaluation: Catch up on the status of the project; check what is working and what not; how is everybody doing and how we can increase the project’s impact; check how the learning process among volunteers is going.
- Final evaluation: At the end of a volunteering cycle (e.g. At the end of the year, at the end of the project, for ongoing projects at the end of the cycle) – what worked out, what didn’t and how can we further develop the work.
- Clear instructions and objectives for volunteers
- Self-care and boundaries
- Knowledge management: Keep all the materials that you use structured, store reports and tools
- Write down a summary of discussions and meetings
- Make planning concrete and define who is in charge
- Appreciate volunteers and create a pleasant group atmosphere