Covid-19: A perspective from Samos

Context

As most of us are currently in the process of dealing with self-isolation and uncertainty surrounding Covid-19, we want to give you a quick update on what we at Indigo Volunteers are up to. 

In short – and as you may have read – we have stopped facilitating volunteer placements. While it wasn’t an easy decision to directly influence our incredible network of partner charities by doing so, we felt it necessary to do our part in containing the spread of Covid-19. Many of the organisations we work with came to similar conclusions – partially encouraged by government-imposed restrictions and partially inspired by the developments we have seen in countries such as China and Italy. You can read our full update here.


The biggest challenge is therefore one of impact. Ensuring the sustainable continuation of projects that others grew to depend on is at the forefront of how organisations prioritise and so being faced with a context that questions exactly that, creates a dilemma. What does suspending services mean for the communities we work with? Is there anything we can realistically do even if we wanted to? Is staying in a place with an already strained healthcare system adding an unnecessary burden? Navigating the response to these questions hasn’t been easy – especially in light of a rather dynamic situation in which no single actor holds all the necessary information.

Here on Samos, the process of establishing how to address the above has resulted in a somewhat quiet atmosphere. Those remaining on the island self-isolate in their accommodation and focus on the longer-term picture of their operations. For most of us, there is a long list of tasks, questions and emails that have previously gotten shelved for times less busy and – unexpectedly and counterintuitively so – that is where we are at right now. And while nobody would choose it this way, having this time is indeed helpful.


What we are currently working on

For us at Indigo, this means two things: We want to continue supporting our partners especially in light of the recent challenges they have been facing; and we want to use this time to prepare ourselves for a post-pandemic resumption of responsibly placing volunteers in the field again.

The recent spike in right-wing propaganda against refugees in countries such as Greece and Serbia has made for a volatile environment to work in, with escalations in Greece having frequently made the news. While the spread of Coronavirus also meant a decline in outright fascism on the

To give those still on the ground and those who have recently turned home a chance to process all of their experiences in a healthy manner, we have therefore started arranging a wide array of psycho-social-support services available for those who need it. Not only do we hope to support the mental health and wellbeing of our colleagues in this way, it should also add to the further destigmatisation of seeking support in emotionally and mentally challenging times. Furthermore, we are arranging a variety of trainings and are compiling a list of resources for volunteers to dive into while on the sidelines (you can access it here). In reflection of recent events, a big focus is placed on security and risk management.

Besides that, we are also working on being the strongest version of Indigo possible to resume placing volunteers responsibly in the future. We are revising parts of our service model (e.g. assessing if and how we could facilitate remote volunteering), are streamlining our infrastructure, internal policies and protocols and are – in short – dedicating ourselves to all the things usually noted down under long-term development. 

It is impossible for us to put into words how grateful we are to be part of such a passionate and dedicated network of grassroots organisations; the collaboration we have seen in recent weeks has been heart-warming to say the least. While we are in  the fortunate position of being able to do most of our work remotely, we realise that not everybody shares this privilege. Organising psycho-social support is therefore the main means with which we can currently support those still in the field. It is our priority right now and if you liked to help us help our partners, please consider donating.


Some closing thoughts

The current time poses a unique set of challenges. It doesn’t ask who we want to be ideally, but forces us to look at who we actually are when all else fails. In light of wide-spread self-isolation, thoughts like these are given a big enough platform to be somewhat detrimental. We all want to get back to it and support the communities we came here to support. But for the time being, all we can do is focus on those in our immediate environment. For us that is our partners, for you it might be your loved ones at home. Whatever the case, this time calls for us to consider each other. Let’s be thoughtful, let’s be kind, let’s be stronger when we get out of this.

#covid19 #greece #volunteering #samos #update

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