Part A – Introduction and methodology

Background information on results of IO1

In order to be able to develop and deliver training materials and tools targeted to the needs of refugees and volunteers, the first phase of the SOFIE project consisted of a research and needs analysis. Research at the national level was conducted in five countries – Austria, Cyprus, Italy, Sweden and Turkey and identified the needs and challenges that refugee families face at the national level, especially in terms of integration and training support, best practices on the integration of refugee families as well as the training needs of volunteers. The research in each one of the five countries included literature review, focus group discussions with refugees and asylum seekers, interviews with key stakeholders and questionnaires with volunteers working with refugees. At the end, the results from all the national level reports were compiled in a transnational report that aimed to identify commonalities and differences and propose a series of recommendations.

As the conclusions and the volunteers’ experiences of the SOFIE IO1 Guidelines show, they often face challenges and lack knowledge in various fields which leads to misunderstandings between them and refugees. The research done via questionnaires shows that there are similarities as well as differences in the experience of volunteers in the five project countries. In regards to challengesvolunteers’ face, the following five categories were identified in more than two countries: 

  • Dealing with the government
  • Psychological challenges
  • Volunteers’ coordination
  • Language barriers, misunderstandings
  • Dealing with prejudice, disrespect, racism, discrimination

These challenges are also reflected in the suggested subjects for volunteers’ trainings. Training for volunteers can be general or specialized depending on the type of volunteerism that someone is doing. For example, there are different training needs for the person who offers legal advice or support for meeting their livelihood needs and the person who mainly organizes educational or recreational activities. The following training topics for volunteers emerged:

Legal and social training. Understanding the Asylum System and Refugee Challenges:

  • Understanding basic concepts, for example who is a refugee, and the differences between an asylum seeker, refugee, person with subsidiary protection and other migrants
  • Rights and responsibilities of refugees, children rights.
  • Understanding the asylum procedure, how long an application takes to be examined, what are the different steps etc.
  • Learning the rights and responsibilities of refugees and asylum seekers (especially in relation to housing, health, education, employment, welfare), the various procedures to access them and the public authorities involved in order to be able to navigate the governmental system.
  • Advocacy skills would also enhance volunteers’ ability to advocate for the rights of refugees both in their interaction with the authorities as well as with the rest of the society.
  • Having an overview of the social and integration problems asylum seekers and refugees face and at different stages.
  • More information for refugees on the various actors working for or with refugees and asylum seekers

Culture and Integration:

  • Cultural understanding and cultural differences; for example, on the interaction between women and men
  • Learning more about the refugees’ countries of origin.
  • Intercultural training and communication, understanding each other’s culture,
  • Migrant inclusion tools,
  • How to train migrants / refugees on integration issues;
  • Refugee formal and non-formal education,
  • Teaching a second language, especially to illiterate people.
  • How we can see things from different perspectives. Thoughts and expectations of newly arrived about the country
  • How to a build continuous social network
  • How to help them remain active while waiting for their asylum application
  • Parenting in the host country and rights of the child

Health and wellbeing of refugees:

  • Refugee counseling;
  • Dealing with traumatized people;
  • Things good to know when dealing with people with PTSD
  • Strategies to be most helpful when accompanying a refugee to the doctor;
  • Health prevention;
  • Providing health screening / first aid.
  • Issues of confidentiality

Psychological training and wellbeing of volunteers:

  • Stress management in such situations, dealing with burn out and separating oneself from the refugees,
  • Support in order to be able to cope with helping vulnerable refugees
  • Dealing with crisis and addressing challenges they may encounter as volunteers
  • Psychological first aid
  • Group support for volunteers.
  • Learning how to manage emotions
  • Better understanding their values and reasons for volunteering; Values and norm/criticism. Reflecting on why they want to be volunteers; Listening-Speaking-Context;
  • The boundary between professional and volunteer
  • Empowering refugees without creating dependency relationships.

Verein Multikulturell consolidated above mentioned information for the present guide. It reflects a combination of different approaches applied in the partner countries and should help to address challenges and needs related to volunteer work with refugees.