Rethinking Volunteering in the Time of Coronavirus

Despite the social isolation caused by the coronavirus, new forms of solidarity have emerged to confront the pandemic and its consequences, with millions of people across the world finding innovative ways to mobilize to help others.

International organizations also had to adapt and imagine new forms of volunteering and cooperation. Many organizations had to repatriate thousands of volunteers, which was an unprecedented logistical effort. The coronavirus presents specific challenges that involve a reflection on the current model of volunteering.

This reflection is even more necessary due to the fact that volunteers have unique attributes to be key actors in post-COVID-19 economic and social reconstruction. Through their ground work, they act as a strong link between communities, organizations and governments, building relationships of trust and providing essential knowledge about local realities and needs. Volunteering is also a flexible and adaptable model that has proven to be helpful in all kinds of programs.

Two adaptation axes have been developed to continue cooperating in this exceptional context. On one hand, repatriated or unable to travel volunteers find new ways to mobilize and have an impact online and through various virtual platforms. On the other hand, support to local actors and volunteers is strengthened to keep programs on the ground running.

Another challenge in the near future is the return of volunteers on the field. In order to ensure a successful transition, organizations must cooperate and communicate with each other about risks as well as the measures and restrictions that are applied.

As in other sectors, a new normality is emerging for volunteering and international cooperation. This time of adaptation and reflection is an opportunity to think of new participation models that may have a lasting impact.

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