Virtual Volunteerism and Digital Humanitarianism

AdélaÏde Lefèvre


"The most difficult is the uncertainty. I don’t know what will happen next and how I can protect myself. Everything is in pause even if we are continuing the mission in the NGO. We are trying to continue to help the youth, even in distance."

As community responders, the covid-19 situation and the confinement have modified your mission as a volunteer. You may need to cope with a lot of emotions like frustration to be social distanced from the community, or confusion about how to continue to work in this context. As you are usually in contact with a lot of beneficiaries, you can miss the social and human relationship. The physical isolation can drive also emotional isolation where you can feel lonely and the only one who feels this emotional roller coaster! You may need to deal with your own emotions more than usual! 
If you are a foreign volunteer, you are used to be away from your country but the context can drive more anxiety being far from your families.
Sharing experience and what you are going through in this situation of Covid-19 can be a way to cope with isolation, to normalize what you are feeling and to feel more related to a group of peers. 
This article from The New Humanitarian gives examples of testimony. Write your experience and read those from others who have created the self-care space you may need:

Photo by RDNE Stock Project

Testimony from a French volunteer in the Philippines

Pauline is a French volunteer working in an NGO which is focused on Youth professional inclusion. Pauline arrived recently in Manila and had to cope quickly with the situation due to Covid-19 and confinement rules and regulations. 

She shared with us her experience:

“The most difficult is the uncertainty. I don’t know what will happen next and how I can protect myself. Everything is in pause even if we are continuing the mission in the NGO. We are trying to continue to help the youth, even in distance. We are still giving them their allowance which is part of our mission. But I ask myself how we can continue to support them enough if the situation continues for a long duration. A lot of partnerships are difficult to maintain because companies don’t hire employees or interns. I feel frustrated and sad about the communities which have lost everything and our allowance is the only income they can have for the whole family. We are doing our maximum and cannot do more which is hard to accept. 

Moreover, as a foreign volunteer, I feel uncertainty about my role in the Philippines, as we don’t have information from the Philippine government about the volunteering status during the crisis.

It a bit difficult as we don’t know and nobody knows about the real situation due to the Covid-19 and how the NGO can continue to work in this crisis. 

More personally, I don’t know when I will be able to go back to France to visit my friends and my family in the next months as I usually come back to France once a year during the summer time to visit them. I feel stuck without possibility to choose to move. “

What gives you hope:  What helps me is to know that everybody is in the same boat! We had a lot of work the few first weeks to adjust our organization. I had to cope with a lot of workload, but I was happy to do it. I know why I am doing it, what is the deeper sense of my mission here. I didn’t lose my job as my friends in France. I am grateful to have what I have. Even if we are living in community, in a poor area, we have all our private room which is already a lot. 

My advice:  To seek for help when we need to. For example, I decided to contact France Volontariat which is a French support service for volunteers to ask for their help. It was not easy because I just arrived in the Philippines and felt a little bit alone in my mission.  I know now to whom I can connect if I need help. 

Also team communication can be reinforced to spend more time together to elaborate solutions when we are facing a problem. We cannot see each other so it’s more important to set more space to communicate.

Why did you stay (in the Philippines):   If we leave, people here will have lost a lot. I didn’t want to leave in the middle of this crisis. I am not stressed to be sick with Covid. I stayed because I thought it was my responsibility to stay as a country coordinator. I felt responsible to stay to support my team, but maybe it’s easier because I am working in the emergency humanitarian field.

Testimony from a local humanitarian aid in the Philippines

Mayfourth is a humanitarian aid worker in an NGO on disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM).  For many years, she has been doing a lot of disaster preparedness and mitigation through training and projects with local and international partners both in the Philippines and in Asia.  Her organization is also involved in humanitarian work through giving basic MHPSS (Mental Health and Psychosocial Support). She is currently one of the frontliners for this endeavor during this pandemic.  

She shared:

“​It is hard to fight a battle when you cannot see the enemy.  This is what makes everything so hard in this crisis we face.  The lawmakers are lost with what to do. It’s a hit & miss situation when it comes to implementing guidelines.  But there are so many people affected with the loss of jobs, the inability to earn a living, dependence in government subsidy and resources, which is so finite and scarce. So the vulnerable population has grown even more vulnerable and now, even the middle class are affected.  As a humanitarian responder, I know I have to do something and I know I can do more. Quarantine is not a hindrance.”

What gives you hope:  My faith in God keeps me going. I know that I have a God greater than all of these elements put together.  My love for Him inspires and pushes me to do my work and do this for others. 

Believing also in the strength of local communities and partners gives me hope.  Knowing that they are also willing to be part of the solution. Helping the duty bearers by sharing the feedback of the vulnerable sectors. 

The idea of being able to help means I am able to affect others too.  I feel good and I am able to breathe better knowing I can continue to help as much as I can. 

My advice:  Keep hope alive.  Patuloy na ipakalat ang pag-asa! 

H – Hope in love for others
O – Offer whatever help you can give 
P – Provide exhortation to my fellow humanitarian worker 
E – Encourage innovative solutions 

Do not hesitate to seek help from others. Encourage aid workers to seek support.

Feature Photo by Ray Sangga Kusuma




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Virtual Volunteerism and Digital Humanitarianism

“The most difficult is the uncertainty. I don’t know what will happen next and how I can protect myself. Everything is in pause even if we are continuing the mission in the NGO. We are trying to continue to help the youth, even in distance.”

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