If you’re like us, you’ve probably spent the last couple of weeks watching your favorite Netflix shows, reorganizing your Ben & Jerry’s collection and your closet ten times around, so what now?
As newcomers and refugees are struggling particularly acutely during the COVID-19 outbreak, we wanted to highlight a fun way to support the people in our community.
Amid the coronavirus crisis, our friends at the Finnish Refugee Council’s voluntary work have digitalized. Face-to-face-meetings have been suspended and replaced by online calls between newcomers and volunteers, who exchange knowledge and experiences, straight from their own sofa!
Previously, FRC volunteers met in person with newcomers who wanted to learn Finnish or find their first job in Finland. Now, these meetings take place online, on apps both parties feel comfortable using. In households where some families aren’t fully proficient in Finnish, it can sometimes be tricky to support children with school assignments. The coronavirus crisis has highlighted these families’ needs, which is why FRC volunteers have also started to support children and youth with their schoolwork.
Iida is one of the volunteers who have embarked on a journey of virtual volunteering. She’s currently meeting people who are new in Finland online, supporting them in their language studies!
- We have talked on WhatsApp and Zoom, and it has worked well. Some issues might be easier to discuss face-to-face, but people seem to relax in online conversations as well once we get to know each other.
The tasks are coordinated via the Finnish Refugee Council’s online platform, and volunteers can pick the ones that suit their schedules. This brings people who are new in Finland together with an established resident! In one-on-one meetings, newcomers get personal support that fits their needs.
- Virtual volunteering doesn’t take much time since you can do it from home. In that sense, it’s an accessible form of voluntary work. And I guess many people have time to volunteer now, Iida states.
- It’s been fun, and I feel I’m doing something valuable and meaningful. For people who want to volunteer, this is a great way to get to know people from different backgrounds and understand their experiences.
In times like these, it’s more important than ever to check in on the people around us, support those in need, and open our hearts to vulnerable communities. At a time when supporting newcomers is more accessible than ever, there’s no reason not to!
*This article is written in partnership with the Finnish Refugee Council