Refugee Volunteering: Making a Difference in a Time of Crisis

In a world increasingly marked by displacement and migration, volunteering with refugees has become a vital act of compassion and solidarity. With millions of people forced to flee their homes due to conflict, persecution, and environmental disasters, the need for volunteer support is more critical than ever. This article explores the various aspects of volunteering with refugees, highlighting the profound impact it has on both the refugees and the volunteers themselves. At IVI, we work with refugee programs in Greece, Turkey and Kenya. 

The Importance of Volunteering with Refugees

Refugees often arrive in their host countries with little more than the clothes on their backs, facing significant challenges such as language barriers, legal hurdles, and cultural adaptation. Volunteers play a crucial role in helping them navigate these challenges, providing not only practical assistance but also emotional support.

  1. Practical Assistance: Volunteers help refugees with essential services, including finding housing, accessing healthcare, essential supplies, enrolling children in school, and securing employment. These tasks are fundamental to helping refugees start anew and become self-sufficient.
  2. Educational Support: Language classes and job training are critical areas where volunteers can make a significant difference. By teaching refugees the local language and providing them with skills training, volunteers empower them to integrate more effectively into their new communities and enhance their employment prospects.
  3. Emotional Support: The trauma of fleeing one’s home and adapting to a new country can take a severe emotional toll. Volunteers offer a compassionate ear and a source of comfort, helping refugees cope with their experiences and rebuild their lives.


The Volunteer Experience

Volunteering with refugees is not only about giving; it is also a deeply enriching experience for the volunteers. Here are some key benefits:

  1. Cultural Exchange: Working with refugees from diverse backgrounds provides a unique opportunity for cultural exchange. Volunteers gain a deeper understanding of different cultures, traditions, and perspectives, fostering greater empathy and global awareness.
  2. Personal Growth: The challenges and rewards of volunteering with refugees contribute to personal growth. Volunteers often develop new skills, including problem-solving, communication, and resilience. The experience can also inspire a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment.
  3. Community Building: By helping refugees integrate into their new communities, volunteers contribute to building more inclusive and cohesive societies. The bonds formed through volunteering can lead to lasting friendships and a stronger sense of community.
  4. Professional Development: For those pursuing careers in social work, healthcare, education, or law, volunteering with refugees provides practical experience that can enhance their professional development and career prospects.


How to Get Involved

Getting involved in refugee volunteering can take many forms, depending on your skills, interests, and availability. Here are some steps to get started:

  1. Research Organizations: Look for reputable organizations that work with refugees. We work with some fantastic NGO’s and non-profit’s on the ground, who have experience working in challenging situations. 
  2. Assess Your Skills: Consider what skills you can offer. Whether it’s teaching, legal assistance, healthcare, or simply offering friendship and support, there is a role for everyone.
  3. Pre-departure: Read the welcome pack and pre-departure info carefully to help understand the specific needs of refugees and how to provide effective support.
  4. Commit Your Time: Determine how much time you can commit. Whether it’s a few hours a week or a full-time volunteer position, every bit helps.
  5. Be Open and Compassionate: Approach your volunteering with an open heart and mind. Patience, empathy, and a willingness to learn and adapt are crucial.

IVI Refugee programs



Our ongoing initiatives

Pop-up shop for unaccompanied minors:

We run a pop-up shop outside the camp for unaccompanied minors, which is a top priority. This project has had a positive impact on one of the most vulnerable groups in the camp.

Hospital transfer project:

We offer taxi transfers to the refugees for hospital visits, both scheduled medical appointments and emergencies.

Free shop:

We operate a free shop where people can select non-food items, including clothing, shoes, hygiene products, and blankets. Children under 2 years old can also receive strollers. Additionally, we provide services such as printing and laminating important documents. A detailed induction will follow the general orientation, explaining the system and various roles in the free shop. The shop opens with a minimum of 5 volunteers and closes every Friday if the coordinators deem it necessary.


Our warehouse is divided into four areas: storage, free shop, office, and local shop-plastic area. It serves as our central hub for sorting, storing donations, and running operations.


Refugee children are legally entitled to enter state education, but many factors act as barriers to this becoming a reality. The first being the need for a basic level of Turkish comprehension. In order to enter formal schooling and also participate in everyday life, being able to communicate is paramount.

The Back to School Programme provides lessons in reading, writing and basic maths and science. Since the program focuses on the children of refugee families who are generally engaged in agricultural work in Turkey, it is carried out in the rural areas of Izmir, where there is a high concentration of workers. Thanks to supporters, a bus was purchased in 2021 and its interior was designed as an education classroom. Thus, educational activities are not interrupted due to seasonal conditions.

The local team run education activities for the children. Those activities aim to fill up the educational gaps so children can better integrate the schooling system. That means literacy and basic mathematics and Turkish, but also socialisation and concentration activities. You can participate in the activities by supporting the teachers, especially with smaller children (age 2-6). Speaking Arabic would obviously help you communicate, but you can easily manage with sign language!


teaching at kakuma

We have several areas of work within Kakuma refugee camp, from women’s empowerment to teaching and construction.

The primary objectives of our teaching program are:

  • Providing high-quality education for young children aged 3 to 6.
  • Ensuring the safety and well-being of young children and protecting them from domestic incidents.
  • Allowing parents to manage their daily activities without the added stress of childcare.
  • Encouraging children to develop into independent thinkers and inquirers.
  • Enhancing the literacy of refugees at Kakuma Refugee Camp.
  • Preparing children to become future role models and leaders.



Volunteering with refugees is a powerful way to make a tangible difference in the lives of those who have been forced to leave everything behind. It offers an opportunity to provide critical support, foster cultural understanding, and grow personally and professionally. As the global refugee crisis continues, the need for compassionate and dedicated volunteers is greater than ever. By stepping up to help, volunteers become a beacon of hope and resilience, showing that even in the darkest times, humanity can shine brightly.


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