Our team of community volunteers is very important for voicing the rights of refugee communities we want to reach, meeting their needs and touching their lives. Our outreach officer Pervin Eviz from Batman describes what kind of responsibilities volunteers have in responding to the changing needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I am Pervin Eviz, I am an outreach officer at Support to Life’s Batman branch. I am responsible for identifying volunteers and their work plans; conducting activities according to Support to Life code of behavior. As Support to Life, we place emphasis on the concept of volunteering to ensure the active participation of the community we support.
We implement a project in Batman province, Turkey, in partnership with the international humanitarian aid organization Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe and funding from European Union Humanitarian Aid. The project aims at increasing the living standards of refugees in rural areas and ensuring their access to rights and services while supporting their active participation in the community. Community member volunteers support us in reaching refugees for the information and awareness raising sessions we organize in the scope of the project.
HOW TO VOLUNTEER?
Most Support to Life volunteers are members of the community we address, and have attended our information and awareness raising sessions for refugees. They are interested in defending their rights. We choose volunteers from various neighborhoods of the city who have the capacity to work enthusiastically to inform the community on a voluntary basis. Certainly, there are many trainings that our volunteers must take before they can conduct information sessions. Such trainings include child safety, gender equality, complaint and feedback mechanism, working principles to prevent sexual harassment and abuse, legal regulations, individual protection and case management. As outreach teams, our objective is that volunteers become focal points for people in their neighborhoods, reach persons in need that we cannot access, and give them accurate information on refugee rights.
Today, we have 14 volunteers in Batman. Ensuring active participation of communities is an important condition of international basic humanitarian standards and accountability, which are also at the center of our work. Our volunteers convey requests from communities directly to us, contributing to sustainability and efficiency of our activities on the basis of participation. In addition, it is very valuable for us that our trainings strengthen personal capacities of volunteers.
One colleague who previously joined us as volunteer works at Support to Life Information and Support line in Şanlıurfa branch now; Another collegue continues her journey of Support to Life, which she started voluntarily, as a field worker. In other words, the experience gained voluntarily can become a professional work at Support to Life.
A CALL FROM THE NEIGHBOR
The COVID-19 pandemic has again shown the added value of volunteers. We restructured our information sessions to cover topics such as official pandemic measures, short-term working allowance, or how to get the codes that are now needed in Turkey for entering public buildings and using transportation.
During discussions, families mostly flagged the issue of children who don’t have digital devices at home to access remote learning. In this process, volunteers played an important role in accessing beneficiaries and expanding our support network. During one of the information sessions that we organized with the support of ou volunteers, a woman participated in the session using her neighbor’s phone because she didn’t have one. Although remote learning had started 6 months ago, we realized that the woman with two children heard about this for the first time. Following our session and our referral, she went to school and discussed with the teacher. Sometimes we also received emergency calls from our volunteers in the middle of the night, because during the pandemic incidents of domestic violence against women increased in Batman. In these cases, we took immediate action. People with sensitive cases often feel more comfortable to reach out and ask for support when they have built up trust with our volunteers.
As humanitarian worker, for me it is highly motivating to get results of our efforts together with volunteers and receive hopeful messages from our beneficiaries during this difficult time that forces us to keep our physical distance. For instance, following psycho-trainings which our psychologist and field worker colleagues in February, our beneficiaries reached us through volunteers and mentioned the sessions helped them. This boosts the trust we have in our volunteers and our faith in our jobs as humanitarian workers.
Outreach Officer / Batman