Are you planning to sign up as a volunteer? Please read this information first, so you know what to expect and how the registration proceeds.
Mission and vision
Boat Refugee Foundation (BRF) provides humanitarian aid. We stand for the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. We provide help to those in need and focus on people on the run.
The work of the Foundation on Lesvos has significantly changed over the past few years. In 2015 the Foundation provided support with boat landings, a rescue mission and medical support. Now, we try to tailor the work we deliver (such as medical aid and [psycho]social support) to the residents of the largest refugee camp on the island. This means an adjustment from direct action to more structural provisions within a strict framework, which requires a higher level of professional knowledge. We could use your help and expertise with this process!
What do we expect from you?
We expect you to conform to and carry out the mission and goals of the Foundation. We are a public foundation: a foundation for everyone, by everyone. The volunteer team and the camp residents that we work with have a diverse set of beliefs and come from different religious backgrounds. We are here to provide help in spite of someone’s background.
The inhumane situation on Lesvos has been an ongoing issue for years. It is important to remember that it is not only the refugees who find themselves in such degraded circumstances. The locals have been equally overburdened by the situation on the island. This means that there is regular tension in and between groups that can sometimes rapidly escalate resulting in acts of violence. The targets of these violent acts – for example: demonstrations, riots, fights or threats – can encompass journalists, camp inhabitants and rescue workers. Depending on the specific group, tension tends to focus in and around the refugee camp itself or in Mytilini city centre.
It is therefore, really important for Boat Refugee Foundation that you are fully aware of the socio-political situation from which these tensions arise. The Foundation aims to provide as safe and secure a working-environment as possible for all its employees and volunteers. As such, a strict security policy is in place and BRF expects every team member to comply with it’s safety measures.
All volunteers are screened by staff members of the Boat Refugee Foundation. The same procedure is applied to everyone: all applicants are screened the same way. It is not possible to apply as a group, as each person is screened individually. Neither can we take a group of people into account when it comes to general planning or creating a weekly work schedule.
Missions on Lesvos
Currently, we carry out two missions on Lesvos: the Psychosocial Support (PSS) mission and the Medical mission. An average team consists of a number of volunteers who are specialists in their field. The teams are supported by interpreters from the camp, who assist with communications primarily in Farsi, Arabic and French. We usually have a media volunteer present on Lesvos to provide further support. Volunteer accommodation is provided by the host of the guesthouse who is there to support volunteers in this area. The PSS team and medical team are led by the PSS coordinator, the logistics coordinator, volunteer coordinator and the medical coordinator.
Before you go to Lesvos, you should know that you will come across violent, inhumane conditions within the refugee camp. Many of the camp’s inhabitants live with hopelessness and despair. The situation there is critical but unfortunately we cannot help everyone. Especially during the first few days you may find yourself battling with feelings of frustration and depression. It is good to be prepared for this and to talk about it during your stay on Lesvos. The coordinators are always there for you to answer questions or help you process the first impressions.
The fire that broke out in Moria, on the 8th of September 2020, utterly destroyed the camp. As such, a new camp has been established. The situation in the new camp is as inhumane as it was in camp Moria. Inadequate sanitary provisions and temporary sleeping tents that flood with wet weather, are common problems that you will encounter. Furthermore, there is a shortage in food supply and a lack of medical and legal support. Children either have very little or no access to education and there is a rapidly growing demand for psychological support that cannot be provided.
The camp is run by the Greek government who work together with the army and police. It is a Reception and Identification Centre (RIC), also known as a hotspot. This means that all refugees who arrive on the island of Lesvos by boat, are brought to the camp to be registered and to start the asylum-seeking process.
The purpose of the medical mission is to improve the quality of life of camp inhabitants by increasing access to medical care and by making sure there are always doctors present in the camp itself. We do this by providing primary care and limited emergency care from a mobile clinic in the camp during night shifts. The clinic is fully run by our volunteers and often supported by interpreters from the camp. For our work we keep close contact with the Greek government, other medical NGOs and the local hospital.
The medical team consists of doctors, nurses and support crew. The doctors and nurses usually have a background as a general practitioner or specialise in tropical medicine, emergency care, psychiatry or another clinical specialism. Their experiences vary from veterans with thirty years of experience to volunteers in their twenties, often still studying for a specialization. All these differences contribute to the strength of the team because no background is the perfect preparation for all the patients we see. We view diversity within the team as a positive, that allows us to support each other.
Besides medical volunteers, the team usually has a support crew. The support crew consists of volunteers without a specific (medical) degree, but with a common background: strong social skills, grounded personality and the ability to organize. Their job consists of mostly crowd control and patient support outside the clinic.
Procedure and shifts
We offer medical care to camp inhabitants from our mobile clinic. Our clinic is open 7 days a week from 18:00 to 01:00. During the day, medical care is provided by a Greek government agency and other NGOs.
All medical volunteers (including support crew) work 5-6 days a week, 8 hours a day (including a break). Outside these shifts you are off, but several odd-jobs and tasks may need to be done in and around the house and clinic such as; supplying materials and the sterilization of equipment. For this a schedule is made up. You will also find that there will be regular team meetings and the occasional training given during this ‘off’ period.
Psychiatry and the target group
The medical mission of Boat Refugee Foundation focusses on emergency aid.
We often encounter refugees who struggle with psychological problems. Almost all refugees in the camp have fled because of war or prosecution and are often victims of (sexual) violence during their journey to Greece. This, in combination with the horrible living conditions in the camp, is causing PTSD symptoms and panic attacks among many of the refugees. Our job is to provide psychological first aid, taking care of acute problems like panic attacks and to refer patients where possible. The latter is often, to our great frustration, difficult because of a very restricted offer in psychological and psychiatric help.
We will provide the medical protocols to properly prepare you for the situations you will face. You should receive these well before your arrival in Lesvos and we ask that you study these protocols carefully.
The PSS mission has had to be temporarily put on hold due to the fire, COVID-19 and the resulting measures that have had to be put in place. The situation will be re-evaluated in January 2021, by which time the Foundation hopes to be able to restart the PSS mission.
Guest houses: ‘The Red House’ and ‘The Sea House’
Boat Refugee Foundation has two guest houses: The Red House and The Sea House. The two houses are located near the airport and accommodate our volunteers.
The Red House is the spot where we have our meetings and dinners together. Where you can relax and socialize with other volunteers. It is also the pick up point from where we leave for our shifts. The house has the feeling and facilities of a hostel. You share a room with a maximum of four others (male and female). Be aware that you and your roommates might have different shifts. The other house “The Sea House” is only a few minutes by car from “The Red House”. To live in one of the volunteer houses, you pay 10 euro per day for the first 30 days. From the 2nd month, your accommodation is free.
It is not mandatory to live in one of the houses. You can choose to look for other accommodation yourself. If you decide not to live in any of the guest houses, please inform the planner about this.
Boat Refugee Foundation has a few team cars available for volunteers. These cars can be used to drive between the camp and the guest houses. It is mandatory to have a driver’s license that is valid in Greece. For non-EU nationals this means you need an international driver’s license. You also need to be able to drive a manual car. In case of evacuation it is important that everyone can drive. Also, it might happen that you need to drive around the island by yourself.
Screening and registration
The steps for screening, planning and registration are as follows:
You apply via the website. One of the screeners will contact you via e-mail and will send you more information about the work on Lesvos. Next, the screener will contact you by phone for a selection interview. During the interview the screener will ask some questions about your work experience and personality. You will also have the chance to ask questions. After the screening, the screener will let you know whether you are suitable to volunteer on Lesvos and subsequently will send you to the planner.
You will be forwarded to the planner of the PSS-team or the Medical team. The planner will discuss your travel dates with you and together you determine which period would be best. It might happen that your availability does not entirely match our planning. The planner will then ask you to contact us again at a later moment, so you can volunteer at a later date. Once you and the planner agree on a time period, you can book your ticket. We kindly ask you to plan your arrival day on Thursday. Please consult the planner before booking if you find a ticket with another arrival date.
You will only get access to the refugee camp once you are registered. For your registration, we need several documents. Therefore, please make sure to send all documents on time to firstname.lastname@example.org. The planner will provide you with the necessary information.
We need the following from all volunteers:
- A copy of your passport
- Official passport photo
- A signed volunteer statement and code of conduct
- Your contact details (for our administration, emergency and debriefing). You will receive a link to fill out a form.
- Certificate of conduct
- Solemn Declaration
For the registration of medical volunteers, some additional documents are required by the Greek authorities. This concerns the following documents:
- Copy medical degree
- Copy medical degree translated to Greek
- CCPS (Certificate of Current Professional Status)
- CCPS translated to Greek
- TELICO registration form
More information about these documents will be sent to the medical volunteers by email in a later phase.
Time to register
Have you read the information carefully? Then it’s time to register as a volunteer using the registration form below the vacancy. Please contact us if you have any questions. We are happy to provide you with more information.