The common library room at the refugee centre in Soleuvre is seen during an open house event on 26 August 2017
Photo: Laurence Schaack
With the overwhelming wave of refugees who have arrived in Luxembourg over the last two years, the numbers of shelters (called “foyers”) accommodating them has grown too.
NGOs are relying on the help of motivated local volunteers to help with the most primordial needs to facilitate the integration process.
After having talked to three different volunteer coordinators, Delano compiled a step-by-step guide on what you can expect if you want to get involved.
Where to start?
Locally, it is possible to reach out to the centres directly. The majority of foyers are coordinated by the NGOs Red Cross and Caritas. One can also get in touch with one of the 33 local parishes or religious communities which initiated Reech eng Hand-Reaching out to Refugees, a project that works with asylum seekers on local ground.
If someone prefers, for instance, to work in a smaller centre or in a mixed-gender foyer, then the NGO can offer the necessary guidance, as Anola Bracaj, a refugee and migrant services coordinator at the Red Cross, told Delano in an interview on 25 September.
Caroline Theves, the general coordinator for foyers at Caritas explained that a volunteering agreement needs to be filled out before the work starts. After the administrative procedures, a one-to-one talk with the coordinators follows, where the volunteer’s expectations can be adapted to the needs of the given centre, Bracaj noted.
Where are volunteers needed?
Marie-Christine Ries, the project coordinator of Reech eng Hand-Reaching out to Refugees, collaborates with different foyers across the country. She explained to Delano on 28 September that volunteer tasks greatly vary: “from language courses and accompanying people to a doctor’s appointments, to cultural and sport activities”.
Ries added that the shelter located at the old speech therapy centre in Strassen needed a lot of support, in particular for cooking classes or aiding illiterate people, as “volunteers are always needed to establish a first language contact.”
The new refugee housing centre in Soleuvre run by the Red Cross, which opened on 28 August 2017. Photo taken on 26 August 2017.
What does a volunteer need to be prepared for?
The majority of asylum seekers who fled to Luxembourg have been raised in the middle east. Cultural barriers are part of the job, Theves told Delano: there is often a culture gap when it comes to time management, with different ideas of punctuality, for example.
To better understand refugees’ culture, but also the geopolitical and juridical context of their situation, the three coordinators encouraged new volunteers to attend their collective briefing session “Get involved!” on Saturday 21 October at Cefos centre in Remich.
What qualities should a volunteer possess?
Still not sure whether you qualify? Well, according to Bracaj volunteers don’t need any specific profile, nor any previous experience in the social sector. She said that the only prerequisite is a volunteer’s motivation to work.
Moreover, Theves stressed that volunteers should be able to maintain the necessary distance between their private lives and the stories they are confronted with at work. Ries strongly agreed with Theves on this quality, and added that at the end of the day volunteers should be philanthropists and like to work with humans.
The three coordinators settled on the fact that volunteering can be enriching, open up possibilities and develop empathy for the individual stories behind “the refugee”.
If you want to get started, get in touch via email: