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Celebrating International Volunteer Day: Indigo's Collective Impact

Today, the 5th December, is International Volunteer Day (IVD)! On this day, we want to recognise the invaluable work of volunteers around the globe, especially the work of our incredible volunteers, and take the chance to express our gratitude for the impact they have created on the lives of displaced communities.

A group of 13 volunteers smile at the camera, all wearing a Lifting Hands International T-shirt or hoodie. They are holding a sign saying "Still Here, Still Helping".

In this Article:

Volunteers are what makes Indigo, Indigo.

For us, volunteers are at the very heart of what we do.

This year, Indigo has placed 277 volunteers with our charity partners. That is 277 people who have contributed their time, skills and efforts to projects offering food, shelter, WASH, legal or medical aid to people displaced in Europe.

In 2023, IVD is highlighting the power of collective action: if everyone volunteered, the world would be a better place.

And we couldn’t agree more!

It is the collective action of our volunteers & charity partners that helps address humanitarian challenges through comprehensive and compassionate refugee support.

Our Collective Impact:

Taking action for refugees’ health

Two female masked medical volunteers are demonstrating a blood pressure test.

For refugees on the move, access to medical care and attention is incredibly limited. Many suffer from untreated illnesses and are unable to access regular medical support for new, recurring, or chronic illnesses.

Our volunteers help make sure individuals receive crucial medical attention and support.

  • With FAST, volunteers deliver first aid, provide basic health care, and distribute hygiene items to prevent the spread of illnesses. Volunteers work with other NGOs in the area to fill a gap in healthcare provision, motivated by the notion that basic health care and being treated with dignity and respect is a human right.

  • In Lesvos, volunteers with the Crisis Management Association address chronic, psychiatric and dental concerns through consultations and a central pharmacy.

  • In Athens, Seeds of Humanity provide primary dental and medical care for children and adults around the camps and borders.

  • In Lebanon, The Health Impact provides training and education workshops to encourage families to maintain health habits and advocate for their well-being and health concerns. By preparing education materials and running education sessions covering topics from CPR, first aid and illness detection to women’s health, this group directly confronts limited healthcare information for vulnerable families.

  • Boat Refugee Foundation provides primary and emergency health care in Lesvos and Athens. In Mavrovouni camp, they provide medical support to a population of 3,000 people; in addition, their Mental Health and Psychosocial support teams address the unique mental health challenges of displaced people.

  • In Chios, volunteers with Offene Arme e.V. assist with emergency medical projects such as infection packs for people affected with scabies, as well as a hospital transfer project that ensures refugees and asylum seekers can access the hospital on Chios.

  • As part of their work with Lighthouse Relief, volunteers provide psychosocial support for children, youth and people with particular vulnerability in refugee camps.

From delivering first aid and basic healthcare to running education sessions on women’s health, our volunteers provide quality care for people seeking safety in Europe. Addressing physical and mental concerns not only provides immediate relief, but also increases the strength, resilience, and capacity of displaced populations.

Volunteers aiding skill development

Two women are looking down at a piece of paper with the title Weather and Seasons. It contains a crossword, and aims to teach English.

In addition to providing emergency assistance and addressing urgent concerns, our volunteers help equip refugees for a future beyond migration.

The majority of our partners are involved in providing educational workshops, classes and skill-building sessions to empower refugees and provide opportunities for a self-sustaining life beyond migration.

  • Echo100 Plus volunteers provide activities spanning language learning, IT and vocational training.

  • On Samos, the selfm.aid Skills Factory project brings together professionals to put on workshops and activities to develop refugees’ individual potentials and passions.

  • Second Tree volunteers work within the Katsikas refugee camp, the Agia Eleni refugee accommodation site, as well as an urban community centre in Ioannina offering language programmes to refugees from approximately 24 different countries.

  • Sporos Regeneration Institute runs a permaculture and regenerative agriculture educational farm in Lesvos. Volunteers there run vocational education courses and internships to develop children's and adults’ knowledge of environmental improvement and agricultural traditions.

  • Since 2016, volunteers with Habibi Works in Greece have provided platforms for education, empowerment and skill-development. They host workshops to inspire creativity and skill-building, including metal and woodwork, sewing, a community kitchen and a media lab.

  • As part of their work with Love and Serve Without Boundaries, volunteers aid the societal integration of children and adults seeking asylum in Athens through a variety of free language classes.

  • Refugee Aid Serbia (RAS) volunteers provide educational and recreational workshops to migrants and refugees, and run Survival English Classes: through these classes, volunteers enable refugees to articulate their specific needs and concerns related to health, clothing, and seeking assistance. This not only ensures refugees can access emergency aid but also restores their agency through the ability to articulate their own needs. In the winter of 2022-23 alone, RAS delivered an impressive 1,015 hours of classes.

  • In Lebanon, volunteers with Salam LADC run informal educational projects and activities in a safe and inclusive environment, bringing their unique skills and expertise to each session.

  • Volunteers with The Educational Equality Institute (TEEI) provide remote language courses, schooling platforms and career workshops.

  • To address the specific educational needs of young people, volunteers with Better Days combine educational plans and counselling support services to provide young people with a safe, trauma-aware learning environment.

The skill development initiatives carried out by our volunteers have a significant impact on the educational, social and career prospects of refugees of all ages, mitigating the disruptions caused by migration and conflict. Our volunteers have witnessed the impact of education, particularly on the confidence of refugees as they prepare to build an independent life post-migration.

Volunteers providing shelter and warmth

5 volunteers stand in a line smiling at the camera. One is holding a bag of clothes, and they are all standing in front of numerous boxes of donations.

Refugees often face severe constraints in obtaining essential items; whether that is because they had to abandon their essential belongings while leaving their home in a hurry, or due to confiscations and evacuations by legal authorities.

As we approach winter, limited access to clothing and shelter items particularly pose a serious threat to survival. Freezing temperatures and insufficient clothing affect the mobility of refugees, leave people isolated and exposed to cold conditions, and pose health challenges such as hypothermia and frostbite.

The majority of our partners are involved in aid distribution, and therefore the work of our volunteers in providing clothing and shelter items becomes crucial:

  • The Internationaler Bund Polska foundation distributes clothes, shoes and sleeping items in Krakow. Their Szafa Dobra operates like a shop, allowing refugees to browse items and exercise agency over the clothing items they prefer.

  • Volunteers with A Drop in the Ocean run a seasonal Drop Shop and distribute clothing in Greece, whilst volunteers with Project Nadiya distribute essential items along the Slovak-Ukrainian border.

  • Part of volunteers’ work with Love and Serve without Boundaries, as well as Samos Volunteers, involves receiving clothes donations, sorting through them, and running regular distributions to ensure their students and everyone using their other services can stay warm and healthy.

  • At IHA in Thessaloniki, volunteers operate a warehouse, sorting and distributing clothing to 11 refugee camps, and various social projects.

  • In Chios, volunteers of Refugee Biriyani And Bananas distribute basic necessities such as clothing, shoes, shelter items as well as season specific aid; this includes firewood in the winter. Offene Arme e.V. also works in Chios, with volunteers running a free shop that serves locals, refugees and asylum seekers.

  • In France and Serbia, Collective Aid volunteers distribute blankets, clothing, sleeping bags and tents to populations sleeping rough.

Collectively, our volunteers help sustain the wellbeing of people living in displacement through challenging conditions. Through the regular distribution of warm insulating clothing and shelter items, our volunteers are not only fulfilling basic human needs, but they are doing so with care, humanity, and compassion.

Ensuring refugees have hot meals

A group of people are standing above a hot food tray, serving plates of food and laughing.

Our volunteers help provide consistent and dependable access to hot and nutritious meals to displaced communities across Europe. As winter approaches, regular access to food is often disrupted due to logistical and weather concerns. In this context, the work of aid distribution becomes a vital lifeline in ensuring displaced populations can meet their daily nutritional needs.

For some partners, such as Paréa Lesvos, the provision of free food is a key component in creating a welcoming environment to their space where people can truly relax and engage. For other partners, food provision makes up the bulk of their operations:

  • Within camps, volunteers with partners like Movement on The Ground regularly distribute warm meals.

  • Outside of camp settings, volunteers with the Calais Food Collective and Refugee Community Kitchen are involved in cooking and distributing culturally familiar, hot and healthy meals to local refugee communities residing in Calais and Dunkirk. The Calais Food Collective supports between 1000-2000 people per week.

  • Beyond delivering meals, volunteers with Calais Food Collective also distribute fresh and dry ingredients. Similarly, volunteers with Refugee Support Europe run ‘Dignity Markets’ with a “money” system, where refugees can choose food items they want. Such initiatives are important in allowing refugees to exercise choice over what they eat, increasing their autonomy, dignity, and independence during a period of insecurity.

  • In North Macedonia, Wave volunteers transform excess food that would otherwise be wasted, into home-cooked meals for people on the move.

Our volunteers ensure no one is left behind, and are active in every stage from collecting food donations to distributing essential meals.

Providing safe spaces

A woman and child are painting a plate.

Safe spaces are a fundamental aspect of refugee support: they provide the opportunity for people to navigate their trauma, build independence, and rebuild their lives in a secure and supportive environment. Whether it is through sporting activities (such as with Yoga and Sports with Refugees) or in a child- and women-focused space, our volunteers’ work offers opportunities for distraction, support or enjoyment; all these make a huge difference in people’s mental health.

Providing safe spaces for Women

Migration poses gender-specific challenges for displaced women: our volunteers stand in solidarity with female refugees, and focus on empowering women so they may live with dignity.

  • Volunteers with Irida Women’s Centre help increase the social and economic capacity of women in Thessaloniki to enhance their personal and professional development.

  • Movement on the Ground volunteers host specific educational and vocational classes for women in refugee camps, including classes focusing on entrepreneurship.

  • The Refugee Women’s Centre (RWC) is a partner committed to creating safe spaces for women and children. Our volunteers there help provide comprehensive support for women and families by addressing gender-based violence, organising activities for skill-development, and escorting women to relevant services and WASH facilities.

  • Volunteers who join partners like CRIBS ensure new and expectant mothers can access support, advice and free essential items for women, babies and children. The work of volunteers not only supports women’s dignity in areas relating to birth and motherhood, but also supports them in becoming independent after CRIBS.

  • Similarly, Northern Lights Aid runs a baby store project to ensure mothers have access to vital baby supplies.

Providing nurturing spaces for children

For children particularly, it is key to provide safe spaces for them to play and experience moments of joy. Many displaced children have witnessed traumatic events and disruptions to their education, and have been forced to navigate mature challenges beyond their age. Our volunteers provide psychosocial support for children, and ensure they have a safe place to be kids.

Providing a safe space for women and children to recover from trauma has an immense psychological impact, and our volunteers are key in facilitating this.

Supporting essential WASH services

A female volunteer smiles at the camera whilst standing at a water point.

People on the move have limited access to hygiene amenities. Beyond item distributions, our volunteers work with organisations that provide WASH (Water, sanitation and hygiene) services ranging from running hot showers, laundry services and clothes exchanges. Beyond the clothes, shelter, food, water and medical aid covered in this post, multiple partners are involved in the distribution of NFIs (non-food items) that centre on essential hygiene items, such as:

  • Soap

  • Toothbrushes

  • Sanitary items

  • Wet wipes

  • Razors

Our volunteers are committed to providing WASH services to maintain clean, more hygienic and dignified living conditions for refugees that improve their quality of life. As a few examples of the incredible impact our volunteers are having:

  • Samos Volunteers volunteers run community centres equipped with laundry stations.

  • In Lesvos and Cyprus, volunteers with Watershed work to improve camp conditions and run WASH facilities to provide decent, dignified living conditions for refugees.

  • In Dunkirk, volunteers with Roots improve living conditions for refugees through their involvement in providing water points, WASH facilities, and carrying out ‘Big Camp Clean Ups’ in Grande-Synthe camps.

  • In Belgrade and Subotica, Collective Aid volunteers distribute hygiene items and run WASH services on a weekly basis. Just within their first year of operating in Belgrade,Collective Aid provided 8,419 showers.

Whilst they appear a seemingly simple service, the WASH services our volunteers provide make a world of difference for refugees. Beyond fulfilling a basic right, the ability to access showers and laundry services can significantly have a psycho-social impact for refugees: shower access and clean clothes enhance the comfort levels and dignity for refugees, and provide a sense of familiarity and normality in a context of turmoil.

Our volunteers advocate for refugee rights

Two women are sat at a table looking at a document and talking.

Refugees are a demographic most vulnerable to human rights violations and abuses along their migration route. Whether it’s by legal authorities, media outlets, or civilian populations, refugees are frequently the target of hate and discrimination. In this context, the work of volunteers in standing in solidarity with refugees, advocating for refugee rights, and providing guidance throughout complicated asylum and legal pathways is crucial.

Our partners are involved in a range of initiatives aiming to providing free legal information and support for refugees:

  • Mobile Info Team volunteers run an advice hotline in Thessaloniki, and host information sessions regarding asylum and provide guidance for asylum applications and family reunification. Their aim is to provide refugees with vital information and assistance throughout their asylum journey, while simultaneously advocating for their rights to find solutions.

  • In Athens, Mazi Housing Project volunteers work to support young displaced men, aiming to provide comprehensive support to a demographic of asylum seekers that is often overlooked in humanitarian support. As part of their work, volunteers support displaced men in navigating the Greek asylum system, accessing medical care and employment opportunities.

  • Similarly, on Samos, I Have Rights volunteers conduct legal sessions and workshops to asylum seekers to aid with the practical process of asylum seeking and reunification. As advocates for refugees seeking safety, volunteers also put pressure on stakeholders to bring about systemic change through social media reports and communications about the situation on Samos.

  • Multiple partners, including RWC and Collective Aid, are also part of the Border Violence Monitoring Network. As part of this network, volunteers collect and monitor border violence testimonies, which are used to hold perpetrators accountable, prevent the recurrence of incidents, serve official evidence, and raise awareness about the safety concerns for displaced individuals.

From running legal counselling sessions to being on hand to provide ad hoc legal assistance, our volunteers collectively build a framework of protection.


*Note: The majority of our partners provide holistic support for refugees, meaning their activities span multiple categories and areas of impact. Their work remains flexible and adapts to changing needs. As a result, their inclusion (or lack of inclusion) in a certain category of this blog post, does not mean they are not also actively contributing to this area.


This International Volunteer Day, become part of the collective

Thank you to all of our wonderful volunteers, who have been able to change the realities of over 80,000 displaced people this year.

With every new volunteer placed, we are gradually building a more compassionate and safe world for refugees.

Whilst it is important to celebrate our volunteers, it is equally important to address the challenges faced by the charities they join . The humanitarian sector is currently struggling with funding and volunteers: both witness a decline in the winter months, at a time when they are needed most.

Apply to volunteer today to be part of this collective change.

Set up a regular donation to Indigo, so that we can continue placing incredible volunteers where they are needed most.

Note from our CEO:

"On this day, I want to say THANK YOU to the incredible individuals who make up the heart and soul of Indigo Volunteers – our dedicated volunteers.

To those on the ground, offering support to refugees day in and day out, and to those behind the scenes, contributing to the realisation of Indigo's mission; thank you from all of the Indigo team. In a world where compassion often takes a back seat, it is soothing to see people helping people. Their collective efforts are the lifeblood of our organisation, ensuring that vital services reach those in need.

As a remote organisation, we may not always witness the day-to-day efforts of our volunteers, but it is heartwarming and so inspirational to hear their stories and see them be catalysts in this movement that strives to create inclusivity and safety every day.

To all our volunteers, thank you for embodying the spirit of Indigo Volunteers and for being the driving force towards a global community of people who help each other."

Marina Kokkinou



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