Volunteering for Social Inclusion (VSI) is a collaboration project between Danish Red Cross and British Red Cross, supported by the EU and carried out in Denmark and Scotland from autumn 2011 to autumn 2013. The project has studied young asylum seekers’ and refugees’ participation in volunteering.
The study shows that there are many strengths and benefits from volunteering. It helps to create social spaces in which youngsters can meet.
As young asylum seekers or refugees who have just received their residence permits, establishing networks and new acquaintances often means starting from scratch. However, very few asylum seekers and refugees make use of this opportunity which volunteering can provide for new acquaintances and social networks. Instead of being volunteers themselves, equal to other youngsters, the young asylum seekers and refugees are often the recipients of the volunteering (such as in the form of homework help, etc.) and therefore they often see themselves in a relationship that can have the character of the giver/receiver rather than equal participation in a social community.
“When you volunteer you feel useful because you are helping other people”
(Young refugee in Scotland)
In Denmark and Scotland young asylum seekers and refugees as well as volunteer organisations have been interviewed about their knowledge of each other and their possibilities to meet in a community that can contribute to the newly arrived youngsters’ social inclusion and empowerment in society through participation in volunteering.
In addition to interviews, the project has conducted workshops for the youngsters focusing on, partly, the possibilities of volunteering and, partly, the youngsters’ own competencies and motivation to become involved. After the introductory workshop, several of the youngsters have participated in a number of various volunteer activities and have been interviewed about their new-found experiences as volunteers.
On the background of the experiences gained in the project, a final report as well as a practitioners’ guide has been developed (in Danish and English). An introduction to both can be found on the following pages.