Caring for volunteers

  • July 2, 2019

Caring for volunteers

19 August 2018 expert panel (with Cecile Dinesen from the PS Centre) discussing mental health issues among volunteers (Youtube).

The 14 million Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers often work in difficult, complex and sometimes dangerous environments. They are exposed to traumatic events as part of their job, they are often members of affected communities themselves and may therefore experience the same loss and grief as the people they are supporting, and they work long hours under extremely challenging and stressful conditions.

It is our duty to protect and support our volunteers. Advocating this point is an important activity for the PS Centre and in 2018 this included the article Mental health and psychosocial support: who cares for the volunteers? in the Humanitarian Exchange and participation in a global awareness raising event organised by Overseas Development Institute (ODI) on World Humanitarian Day 2018: Breaking the silence: promoting action on aid worker mental health.

The PS Centre supported volunteers working in complex emergencies in Afghanistan, Mali and Sudan by strengthening the systems of the National Societies, their structures and skills to support staff and volunteers as well as the capacity for self-care of staff and volunteers.

Fund and support:

  • The caring for volunteers programme in Afghanistan, Mali and Sudan is supported by DANIDA.
  • CMINE  received funding from the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme for Research,
    Technological Development and Demonstration under Grant Agreement (GA) N° #607798.
  • The IFRC PS Centre received funding from Swedish Red Cross to host the ViCE pop-up lab on
    Caring for our volunteers – Psychosocial support systems for volunteers.

Using PFA for Groups to support teams – an innovative approach

It can be difficult to provide effective support to staff and volunteers during and after crisis situations. However, simple and cost-effective initiatives and interventions can be put in place before, during and after humanitarian responses to promote the well-being of staff and volunteers and to reduce symptoms of distress and burnout.

Managers and other team leaders are particularly well placed to respond to the needs of staff and volunteers during and after crisis situations. The IFRC PS Centre recommends that managers or team leaders hold different types of support meetings with staff and volunteers based on their needs and the situation. The different kinds of meetings include short impromptu meetings, gatherings to show appreciation and recognition, and meetings to provide psychological first aid.

PFA in groups – support to teams has been developed for trained psychosocial staff or volunteers, team leaders, managers or others with responsibility for the well-being of teams of Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies staff or volunteers.

The IFRC PS Centre advocates for the use of psychological first aid (PFA) approaches with staff and volunteers in distress.

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Photo: SARC