Insight in voluntary work: workshop results

On April 11, the workshop Insight into Voluntary work took place, with Babah Tarawally as our special guest. Also present were Renate Schepen, trainer at Vrijwilligersacademie and Karin Schreurs from Present Amsterdam. The workshop aimed to investigate new ways of thinking about caring for each other, and specifically focussed on voluntary work for refugees. What does that involve and what possibilities are there?

It turned out to be a lively workshop with a good turnout. Babah shared his personal story about his experiences as a refugee from Sierra Leone. We then talked about voluntary work and its meaning. Newcomers (refugees) often feel that taking care of people in their own community is not voluntary work, but more so something you just do. They associate voluntary work with humanitarian work, such as provided by the Red Cross. The motivations refugees have for doing voluntary work primarily are ‘to kill time’ whilst waiting in an AZC and ‘to feel relevant’.

Charity begins at home
In order to make voluntary work accessible for refugees, some things can and should be done. One such thing is to change the perspective of voluntary work: from unpaid work to a way of meeting people and to connect. Furthermore, ‘charity begins at home’: newcomers could start in their direct surroundings (an AZC for example) by asking what is needed. We can help them, by making sure they are indeed seen and heard so they can explain the concept of voluntary work to others.

Workshop outcome
So how can we enable voluntary work for newcomers and refugees?

- Offer a guideline.
- Explain the concept of voluntary work in lessons in schools.
- Focus on voluntary work for groups, not only individuals.
- Use social media and create a ‘newcomers database.’

Relevant websites, platforms and addresses:


Do-it-yourself Handbook for refugees in Dutch, English or Arabic

Direct contact
The organisation Present welcomes newcomers a to participate in flexwork for social work and pratical work. If you are interested, please send an email to info@presentamsterdam.nl


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