Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off one whole year of Unlimited learning. Subscribe for just £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only T&Cs apply

Find out more

Who are the volunteers? Where and why do they volunteer?

Volunteers describe the benefits of volunteering for themselves and the people they support.
The reason that I think people should volunteer is because a lot of the time we’re sitting at home thinking, the situation here in the refugee camps is appalling. And I think if you just get out there and help, it is amazing for yourself but you are giving so much to those refugees. And I do believe that that little bit of human kindness will go a long, long way for them to heal from what they’ve been through. So I think if anybody wants to go out and volunteer, definitely go, because it is so worthwhile for yourself and for the refugees. Well, I volunteered because I thought I could contribute to helping people achieve their goals in a modest way.
I used to be teacher of English, so I thought that I would be able to help them to do that. I found it incredibly rewarding. The people that I met were all lovely people. They were very tolerant of any teaching weaknesses I had, they all had great stories. So that, personally, was very rewarding for me. I was thinking the other day of the student who came one week and said, ‘I made an appointment for the doctor for me and my son, and I went along by myself.’ And she was so proud of that, and it gave her such a feeling of taking control of her own life again. Yeah.
Helping people to take back a little bit of control of their own lives, and helping them to be– It sounds awfully cliche– but helping them to be productive members of society. Because that’s what they want to be. Absolutely. I think you should definitely volunteer because people from Arab cultures are very friendly and very hospitable. And they’re very, very willing to tell you about their own stories. And they have a very beautiful language, and they often are very proud of it, and they would love to share it with you. So it’s a very nice cultural exchange. It’s not just you teaching them English, it’s also them teaching you about their culture and their language as well.
I think you need to feel the urge to do something like that, because obviously there’s a challenge. Because you’re in a completely new place with a group of people that you don’t know, that you don’t know the culture. So you’re learning as well. And I think the main reason why I wanted to volunteer is because I know the importance of education. And if you’re going out to a setting where the children might not have that education, everything you do is something, and will help them to integrate better whenever they arrive to a country like the UK.
So I think it’s providing that opportunity– even if it’s non-formal education– to then integrate into formal schooling as soon as they arrive and need it. Volunteering my time has always been a way for me to contribute in ways that I wouldn’t necessarily be paid to contribute through a job or other kind of professional experience. So I have things I’m interested in doing in the world and ways I want to contribute, and I’ve often found that just getting up and doing it is the best way to get things started.
And although it’s incredibly personally rewarding to be able to help people and to make a contribution in the world, the other thing that I found about volunteering is that it’s been a route into employment for me. It’s been a way of developing new projects, new businesses, new interests. I always think it’s best to just get up and start and do something. If you see that there’s an issue in the world that you want to solve– well, there are people that need help, get up and do it. And you never know where that’s going to lead.

Listen to some volunteers talking about why they have volunteered. There is no single profile of a volunteer. Volunteers come from all ages and backgrounds and can take on many different roles. Some are formal teaching roles, but many involve supporting refugees in informal ways such as doing an activity together or simply talking and getting to know their stories.

On this course you’ll meet a number of teachers and volunteers involved in supporting refugees with the specific aim of helping them with language skills. Although we are focusing on English language development, the course is relevant for volunteers helping refugees with whatever language they need to re-settle and build a new life.

Here are the teachers and volunteers you will meet at various points in the course:

Kate, Darren and Alon, Gill, Elena and Linda – working mainly in refugee camps or with refugees in temporary accommodation in France, Italy and Greece:

Marie, Kerrilee, Rudayna supporting refugees in the Middle East:

Elena and Esther supporting children in families who have resettled in the UK:

James, Kathryn, Hilary and Jeni working in colleges or special classes for refugees in the UK.

Listen to some of them talking about their volunteer role.


In the comments, introduce yourself and tell us where you’re from and where you are volunteering or hope to volunteer. When you have completed your introduction, click the ‘Mark as complete’ button to check the step off.

Please note that any external links in this step will take you to third party websites which may ask you for personal details. Please read this part of our Privacy Policy for more information.

This article is from the free online

Volunteering with Refugees

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now