Caring for Volunteers working with Refugees

In 2015, the European Refugees Crisis has brought more than one million migrants to Europe. This estimation by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) does not include the many who reach the EU without being detected. The highest number of asylum-seekers is found in Germany, followed by Sweden, France and Italy. Belgium and Hungary have very high numbers as well. The more people in Europe are looking for protection, the more help has been organized. Volunteers distribute donations of clothes, take refugees in to give language lessons, support in the communication with local authorities or in the health care process. The number of volunteer refugee helpers has risen sharply in the past three years. People are willing to help with time, dedication and financial resources. And these people are a keystone in the necessary process of integration at the earliest possible in order to minimize isolation and separation from receiving communities and to provide opportunities to asylum seekers to develop their human potential and skills. For a better help on both sides it is crucial to provide these motivated volunteers with information, knowledge and emotional support.

This is exactly the aim of this project. In an innovative learning environment, volunteers are supported to find necessary information, to develop transversal skills such as intercultural communication and to be prepared for the very emotional task of supporting people that have been affected by a crisis situation.

The main output of caseWORK will be an online training seminar for volunteers, comprising three main areas:

  1. Information: Getting all information – legal, organizational, administrative – regarding the asylum process in the involved countries. Participants are supported in finding all the necessary information as fast as possible.
  2. Intercultural Competence: This part of the seminar supports volunteers in getting aware of cultural barriers and helps them to handle difficult cultural situations. Which are the most common cultural challenges asylum-seekers have to face? How can the work of volunteers be influenced by cultural barriers? And how to overcome cultural barriers? Intercultural competence is a key factor for successful work with refugees.
  3. Psychological support: The work as a volunteer is a very demanding one, and the society has a very high demand on “helping people”. They are expected be almost impeccable and altruistic, not expecting anything in return for their work. But human beings are different. They try their best and often fail. At the same time the help volunteers offer does not always achieve its goals, sometimes leading to disappointment and demotivation on the side of the “helping ones”. In this module the challenges and pitfalls of volunteer work will be introduced and discussed in the scope of human and social psychology tradition.

Project website is available here: