COMMUNITY VOLUNTEERS PROGRAM OF THE HRC MULTIFUNCTIONAL CENTER OF REFUGEES
Hellenic Red Cross runs two integration centers in Athens and Thessaloniki. The MFCs work with a holistic approach that aims to build resilience and empower migrants to regain autonomy in everyday living. The MFCs also aim to help people to create new networks with people in similar situations which provide the users with a sense of community, which may otherwise be difficult to obtain in an urban setting. They enable migrants and refugees to stay safe, connected and informed and to facilitate integration in the Greek society.
To support migrants living in urban centers to meet their needs related to social inclusion and integration, core services are offered, through Multifunction Centers (MFCs) in Athens and Thessaloniki.
The focus of these social centers is to deliver a wide range of services to support people to effectively integrate into Greek society. One of the main services delivered by the social workers in the center involves providing information about migrants’ rights and entitlements, as well as the mainstream social services that are available.One of the core psychosocial services provided by the MFC is the training and deployment of migrant volunteers was originally incorporated in the Center’s activities in June 2017 and since then has been a core psychosocial service provided by the MFC. The center took the initiative to involve beneficiaries as supporters of the services, following a rough pattern of the official recruitment and engagement of HRC Social Welfare volunteers and incorporating elements of the newly introduced (back then) Fast Track Training, which was introduced by HRC during migration crisis in Greece.
PILOT ACTION: VOLUNTEER MIGRANTS’ TRAINING & DEPLOYMENT
As a pilot action, staff and volunteers of the Center in Athens took part in the creation of VAI Guide & the Orientation Manual for Volunteers, which were applied in the management system of the Center, after the completion of the deliverables. These tools were very useful and needed, since they were missing from the community and the management system of the Center.
During January – October 2019 two volunteer programs run at the MFC:
- Community Volunteers programme for adults – over 18 years old
- Trainee Volunteers (”Supporters”) programme – below 18 years old
Profile of Volunteers
The program addressed to adults who wished to help, learn and be actively involved around the Multifunctional Center of the Hellenic Red Cross.
The team consisted of people of any nationality, cultural and educational background, regardless of their experience on voluntary service. This means that anyone who is interested to help, can apply for the program.
The people who expressed their interest in volunteering, filled in the relevant form and hand it in to the MFC Reception. Those interested were contacted to join the training whenever this was scheduled.
The core training last 6 hours (in total) and included
- The History of the Red Cross
- The emblem of the RC and its meaning
- The Principles of the Movement
- Structure and activities of the Hellenic Red Cross
- The role of the volunteer
- The services of the MFC
The training was delivered through presentations and was enhanced with audiovisual aids, discussion, role plays and exercises.
The core training described above, is complemented by optional extra trainings on a variety of related topics such as First Aid, Conflict Management, Communication with Communities, Child Protection, Psychosocial support and others.
The training is in compliance to the Active Learning Techniques while the technique of the Enhanced topic presentation is implemented depending on the content (e.g. for History of the Red Cross) following the Adult Teaching methods and practices. Audiovisual aids are also used to complement the trainings.
The designing of each session has been based on:
- The profile analysis of the target group
- The estimated training needs (as they come up through the experience of the Center in the refugee context)
- The profile of the organization
- The framework of the training (volunteers’ training)
- The feedback that is provided by the trained groups
Right after the completion of the theoretical part, the volunteers can choose between:
Α) specializing in a specific activity
Β) general occupation at the center
The specialization (A) is “attributed” upon completion of a maximum of 90 hours of voluntary support in the specific post. After the attribution of the specialization the volunteers is considered eligible to provide the service in autonomy with the staff to maintain the supervisory and guiding role whenever needed so.
Volunteers The specialization options are:
- Volunteer of accompaniment of beneficiaries in public services
- Reception and information volunteer
- Volunteer supporter of children activities
As far as the general enrollment is concerned the minimum of 90 hours in any service/ activity is considered.
The volunteers were engaged in any activity of the center in which they wished to be involved, depending on their interests, skills and background knowledge during and after their internship.
They were directly supported by the staff and were assigned specific tasks which is considered a major skills’ booster and a key factor towards self-improvement, autonomy and integration.
It is estimated that around 22 community volunteers have attended the Community Volunteer’s training of the MFC while 18 community trainee volunteers have been engaged as active volunteers supporting all the MFC activities and events during the above mentioned period.
- On the occasion of the World Refugee Day on Thursday 20TH of June 2019 the Multi-functional Refugee Center of the Hellenic Red Cross in Athens host activities to celebrate this day. The MFC Volunteers prepared presentations, fact files, posters and landmarks of their countries of origin, in order to present them for the event of the day in the center. Students attending Greek and English courses as well as visitors to the Center were able to share their stories and express their thoughts on their refugee experience through audiovisual and interactive material that was shown on site.
What has been noticed through the regular group discussions and individual satisfaction interviews regularly conducted between the volunteers and the MFC volunteers’ coordinator, the community volunteers who were engaged, showed tremendous increase of self-awareness and life planning ability, notably improved hard and soft skills while their mood and psychology steadily improved.
Supporters Program (Blooming Volunteers in Action)
As a complementary program for volunteers, since 15th ofApril 2019, the Center engages teenage volunteers in the so called Supporters program. The idea was born after a team of Farsi speaker teenagers who used to regularly access the social area of the MFC, expressed their willingness to become actively involved and support others.
The new program follows more or less the format of training, engagement and organization of the one for the volunteers. (training, shifts, regular meetings, feedback channels, structure of team, security policy). Slight changes in the training material and the internal organization procedures have been made to make the program more proper for the age, the needs, the skills and the psychosocial profile of the teenage participants.
At the same time, the team attends recreational and sports activities, to release stress, make good use of their energy, explore talents and find new interests. A football match and an excursion was organized in Agios Kosmas Athletic Center in Attica on 26th of May 2019 and another one with the football team of the HRC Samaritans Volunteers on 24th of July 2019
What is important to note is that in the supporters program the role modeling system is being implemented. The young volunteers are guided by the volunteers of the center which has 3 main aims:
- To assigning an extra role (the one of the behavior model) to the volunteers in order to initiate more soft skills (such as responsibility, trust and reliability)
- To offer the supporters detailed guidance on the procedures and a complete first hand description of the duties they are asked to carry out as part of their role
- To smoothly and practically induct the supporters in the RC volunteers’ responsibilities and social role
- August 2019 – 3 community volunteers trained
- November 2019 – 3 community volunteers trained
- October 2019 – 5 community trainee volunteers (supporters) trained
- An extra training for the active volunteers (August 2019) on “Organizing and planning: skills training for volunteers and trainee volunteers” – 10 of our active volunteers and trainee volunteers participated
- To continue community volunteers training (aim to include 30 more volunteers and trainee volunteers in 2020)
- Aim to run a fully peer-to-peer training for community volunteers (whole training course to be delivered by experienced volunteers. Currently only second part delivered)
- To provide more extra trainings for volunteers and community volunteers on important topics (distributions, crowd management, PSS etc.)
- Disseminate and pilot community volunteering involvement in more HRC activities and other programmes
PILOT ACTION: MFC VOLUNTEERS PARTICIPATION IN THE 16TH PANHELLENIC FESTIVAL FOR VOLUNTEERING
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 5, 2019, SYNTAGMA SQUARE, 10.00 – 19.00
On June 5th, “We voted for Volunteering!” The Movement of Volunteer Organizations invited Hellenic Red Cross to take part in the initiative with all its Voluntary Bodies. The Social Welfare Volunteers offered handmade crafts to the MFC care space juniors coming across accompanied by the MFC migrant Volunteers, in order to communicate the idea of volunteerism, plus the 7 Fundamental Red Cross Principles. They also played with them attracting also other children coming by the HRC stand.
Hundreds of volunteers and visitors of all ages celebrated offer and solidarity at the 16th Pan-Hellenic Volunteer Festival held in Syntagma. Visitors met through the open exhibition, the work of volunteer organizations and talked volunteers to volunteering in practice. In addition, they participated in the open actions of the Festival and filled with volunteer action the center of Athens!
PILOT ACTION: PARTICIPATION OF THE HRC MIGRANT VOLUNTEERS IN THE OFFICIAL RECOGNITION CEREMONY OF THE HRC SOCIAL WELFARE DIVISION
On 21st of December 2019, the Social Welfare Division organized a formal Awards & Certificates Ceremony for HRC SWD Volunteers and Supporters at the University of Athens, to recognize the volunteers’ significant role in the organization and the priceless value of volunteering through the generations, in order to support all those who are in need. It was an opportunity to appreciate, individually and collectively, the work of volunteers and its impact.
HRC volunteers from all SWD Programmes and Services, including the community-migrant volunteers of the MFC, took part in the event, where they have been awarded certificates as members of the HRC Volunteers, by the President of HRC, members of the HRC Board, the Coordinator of VAI Project, representatives of the State and many others.
The participants of the event reached almost the 300 people and the idea to invite also our community-migrant volunteers (12 community vols + 12 trainee vols) was to express the sense of unity among HRC volunteers, where migrants stand equally beside their volunteer mates. Also, a video was produced beforehand, with the involvement of volunteers from all the programmes, who had the chance to present their voluntary contribution within the HRC family.
Our community volunteers attended the ceremony with enthusiasm, taking pictures with the HRC President, plus other colleagues and volunteers at the end.