More than 700 volunteers hit by repercussions
There are currently over 700 Global South volunteers on assignment in Germany through the weltwärts South-North component. They work in a wide variety of social, cultural, development-related and health-related areas and are affected in different ways by the repercussions of the corona pandemic. However, measures have already been put into place to alleviate their situation.
The South-North volunteers are among those for whom the current crisis brings special hardship and challenges – in many different respects. As well as having to deal with their new and often still unfamiliar surroundings in Germany, the social distancing restrictions introduced in the past few weeks pose a risk of social isolation. Another problem is the frequent lack of certainty regarding the volunteers’ work in their place of assignment, i.e. how the place of assignment will be affected by the restrictions and for how long and whether or not volunteers will be given leave. And, of course, there is the anxiety about family and friends back home.
So far, only a very small number of volunteers have terminated their assignment due to the pandemic. Termination is not possible for most of the volunteers anyway at the moment as there are no flights to take them back to their home country. Volunteers whose places of assignment have been closed (nurseries and schools, for example) have therefore been given leave for as long as required by the restrictions.
In addition, all volunteers can agree with their implementing organisation to be given leave from their duties at their place of assignment or, where possible, to be moved to a different role for the duration of the pandemic. This approach ensures that volunteers who are assigned to, for example, hospitals or care homes, are not exposed to excessive stress, physical strain or health risks. Many volunteers continue to work at their place of assignment where possible, making a valuable contribution, especially in the face of the coronavirus. The rule that applies to all of them, of course, is that health and safety are of the utmost priority.
The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) has introduced special, ad hoc provisions to enable, for example, voluntary service to be extended from the usual maximum of 18 months to 24 months. The extension enables volunteers to maintain their residential status since they are unable to return home. In addition, since they remain part of the programme, the extension means that the implementing organisations and places of assignment can look after and support them properly. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has also responded to the current exceptional circumstances and agreed to pay any additional costs incurred by the host organisations during this phase as a result of the corona pandemic.
In this unprecedented situation, all the weltwärts stakeholders remain in constant contact in order to continue to find swift and simple solutions to help volunteers. The joint aim is for the South-North volunteers to be able to complete their voluntary service safely and with a good level of support – despite the challenging situation.