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Guidance for organisations part 2: Induction and orientation for volunteers

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Volunteer inductions

Providing appropriate inductions for your volunteers will help them understand their role in safeguarding migrants and how to keep themselves safe. Although organisations will have their own induction processes, here we have provided some good practice advice and guidance to follow:

1. Provide structure and a network of support for volunteers to help them have a positive impact

Offer volunteers a support network made up of other volunteers and, if possible, staff. It can also be invaluable to have people to learn from, share with and depend on for safety and emotional support.

2. Basic principles of humanitarianism

Your volunteers may be unfamiliar with the basic principles of humanitarian work. We encourage you to use the Core Humanitarian Standard (pdf, 1.8MB) and related training activities, as well as the Code of Conduct by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Ask them to read, reflect and discuss the code of principles while they are volunteering with you.

3. Involving volunteers in safeguarding

As well as a practical briefing on looking after physical and mental health and developing positive relationships with other volunteers and migrants, you should raise awareness among volunteers of the differences between trafficking and people smuggling – including what to look out for and how to report concerns to authorities. Refer to the What is organised immigration crime? and How to help refugees and migrants avoid harm from organised immigration crime factsheets.

4. Appropriate use of social media

Responsible use of social media is a must. You should ensure volunteers follow these good practice guidelines:

  • Volunteers should not post photos or details of refugees and migrants. Photos can be taken out of context, re-tweeted and used to create an artificial narrative about the refugee crisis or the individual being photographed. Lives may even be put at risk. 
  • It is not appropriate to take photos of strangers in refugee camps, especially other people’s children.
  • Even if people give permission for their photo to be taken by a volunteer, they may do so because they feel they cannot refuse or are unable to communicate their refusal across a language barrier.
  • In some countries, taking photographs and posting them online may be a violation of privacy laws.
  • Volunteers and staff should be cautious about giving any personal contact information about themselves or refugees on a social networking website.

5. Appropriate language and behaviour

  • Explain the importance of appropriate language and behaviour, being aware of boundaries and maintaining them.
  • Urge caution in forming emotional relationships with people who may have little control over their lives and are vulnerable.
  • Remind your volunteers that they are free to leave whenever they choose, whereas migrants are not.
  • Help your volunteers understand that they are in a position of power and influence – and offering assistance, goods, services, information or money in return for something creates hope and dependency which is fragile.

Good practice tips for volunteer coordinators/ long-term volunteers

  1. Look after your volunteers by offering them up-to-date briefings and a named regular contact.
  2. Always urge volunteers to work in pairs and to know where one another is, and when they will return.
  3. Encourage volunteers to debrief with their partner or with another partner when they return from camp.
  4. Smugglers exist and if you know of any you should discourage migrants from using their services.
  5. Encourage your volunteers not to take unnecessary risks for their own safety and not to encourage migrants to take risks.
  6. Remind volunteers they can share concerns with you about migrant wellbeing or anything they have seen or heard that they are worried about.
  7. Model good behaviour to demonstrate good practice to volunteers.

Advice for your volunteers on their return

  • Encourage them to talk to families and friends about their volunteering experience.
  • Let them know that allowing themselves time to adjust back to their usual routine will help; providing guidance on reverse culture shock, particularly to long-term volunteers, may also be necessary.
  • Suggest they keep in touch with volunteers they’ve made friends with.
  • Remind them to use social media in an appropriate way, for example to share experiences by not naming individuals or sharing photos of refugees and migrants.
  • They can also get involved in an organisation supporting refugees and migrants in the UK. NCVO can signpost to organisations, campaigns and initiatives.

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Page last edited Nov 21, 2017

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