Guide to Volunteering Along the Refugee Route Through Europe
Many thanks go to the czech bunch: their original version is the main source of information for this one, we added just few details:
What to take with you:
Reflective vest. It is the informal uniform of the volunteer.
Flashlight (headlamp)+ extra batteries
Hygiene/ protective equipment. Disposable latex gloves, work gloves, hand disinfection (antibacterial gel is not enough), wet wipes, garbage bags, … Protect yourself and refugees from the spread of diseases! Earplugs (for sleeping).
Good shoes, some hiking ones probably, long sleeves and raincoat.
Telecommunications. Phone roaming. Package for roaming data is very useful. Car charger/ battery replacement ….
Mac Gyver knife, duct tape…
Documents. Travel insurance.
Before the departure
For some volunteers, the motivation is not the help itself only, but also the good feeling. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is important to realise what really helps and what only fulfills the self-satisfaction.
Let the world know
Give your phone number to some of the coordinators on the spot, check what is new and where help is needed at the moment. This will change all the time so it is important to remain flexible.
On the spot
If the place is already functioning system, become a part of it. Communicate and coordinate with everyone is a must.
Peace and friendliness. Most of the time, we are helping to save only health, not lives. Hysteria or spreading alarm does not help at all. It is always necessary to coordinate with others. Moderation, calmness and ability to respect other people is a must.
Include refugees. Refugees who speak English (not a few) work well as interpreters. It is easy to get someone to help you with the work (maintain the row of people, collecting garbage). With the involvement of refugees into the labor, provide them protective equipment – gloves, garbage bags. Helpers should have better access to food/ water or other privileges.
Police, Red Cross, representatives of authorities. Build a friendly and equal relationship with them, although it is not always easy. Talk to them – we basically have common goal. On the other hand it is also good to verify that they behave correctly. Sometimes our mere presence is enough to improve the attitude of police. If they demand some information, send them to the present coordinator.
Humanity. Smile and say hello to refugees when you go around. This is important for everyone.
Media. You can always refuse the media requests for interviews Once you speak with the media, think in advance clear and simple information in short sentences to make them possibly twist your testimony or rip it off the context. Avoid the drama, do not ever spread the unconfirmed information. If journalists are interested in broader themes behind the plane of your experience, send them to present coordinators.
Share the information via social media.
Other important things
Off the beaten track. Do not focus on established camps or big ones only. Try to respond to the sudden change or calls to particular places via social media.
Food. Bring nutritious stuff in your pocket and do not forget to eat something time to time. The same with water.
You need a car. The situation is rapidly evolving and the need to deliver on time where it is needed. You will also need to bring your own water, food, etc.
Money. Buy most of the things on the spot, it is even often cheaper and it can be sometime problematic to transport material across borders.
Collaborate. If the place has some volunteers/ organizations ask them the current status and agree on coordination. Do not try to start “doing something” as quickly as possible. In areas with an already launched process, uncoordinated volunteers can make more trouble than help. Make contacts in the other groups, share information with them.
Distributing things. If possible, do not distribute “the wild way”. Organize rows or go from the less crowded part of the camp (ussually the back) in couples (one carrying the food, the other serving) and serve first kids and women. If people tend not to respect that, use short sentences explaining again. Sentences like “one hand-one sandwich” work pretty well. Do not bring too many portions of food or clothes among the people at once. It is ineffective for disturbing. Coordinate with police when to serve the food or clothes/ blankets and how safely.
System. System helps to constitute the safety of the crowd and prevent riots.
Safety. The background of the volunteers, storage, and distribution please should be kept from the crowd. Use tents or car as a shield…when coming to distribute or solve something among the people, always have a clear escape plan in case something goes wrong.
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