I arrived on Chios, Greece as an independent volunteer almost completely ignorant of what was being done there, what the needs were (besides beach duty, which I was reading about in the press) and who was working there. I was told by a group of independent volunteers that I would be useful, so I went.
It wasn’t until I was working my first shift as a volunteer in the Tabakika Registration Centre that I found out that the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) had been mandated to manage the center working with other organizations, from Frontex to other NGOs (non-government organizations). I was familiar with NRC, as I had applied for a job with them some 5 years ago, and I knew they had a good reputation.
I spent the last month working alongside NRC staff on a daily basis. I checked in with NRC’s volunteer coordinator at Tabakika every morning to see where the needs were and where I could be of help.
Over the years, I’ve worked for and alongside dozens of organizations. Many of those organizations have been NGOs. My work is more political in nature, so working with an NGO in a humanitarian context, on the ground, was something entirely new for me.
I can easily say that I was surprised and impressed by the quality of staff and professionalism that I witnessed every day working alongside NRC. From the international to the local staff, it was an absolute pleasure to be a part of what they were trying to accomplish. I looked forward to working with them each day.
As a volunteer, I was appreciated and thanked consistently (which is not always the case) and I was never pressured to work a certain number of hours or a certain time of day. I was told to take breaks and take time off to rest. I was never made to feel guilty if they needed help during a certain period and I couldn’t be there for whatever reason.
I would like to say thank you to NRC. It was partly because of their professionalism, kindness and understanding, and their willingness to trust a volunteer, that I not only gave 110% in the work I did, but also left with a positive experience and feeling that I had made a difference, even if in a very small way. And, I can call many of them friends now as well.
Note: No, I’m not trying to get a job with NRC 🙂