Refugee volunteers? Easier said than done

By March 27, 2023

Middle East/North Africa (MNN) — Countries in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region hosted at least six million refugees at the end of 2022. Most of these refugees came from either Syria or Iraq.

Many host communities in the MENA view refugees as a “blight” or the scourge of broader society. In Lebanon, for example, the blame for government corruption and mismanagement often falls on Syrian refugees.

An emerging trend turns this concept on its head. Instead of being a societal detriment, many refugees want to give back.

“[It is] very interesting to see (Christian) leaders from Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Syria, [and] Lebanon looking at volunteer management,” Fadi Sharaiha with MENA Leadership Center says.

“They’re [saying], ‘We have refugees who want to be volunteers. How can we do this (train them)?’”

Refugee volunteers seem like a simple solution to meet increasing demand. “Because of the economic crisis [in the MENA], Christian ministries want to do more,” Sharaiha says.

“Whether it’s a food bank or outreach, they want to do more. They want to help people in the streets.”

Distributing aid to refugees.
(Photo courtesy VOM USA)

There’s only one problem. “It’s very tricky [working] with refugees regarding volunteering. You need not to build [refugee] expectations [of paid employment] but also be realistic” about the needs of your organization, Sharaiha says.

Gospel workers turned to MENA Leadership Center for help. “The MENA Leadership Center is a one-stop shop for capacity-building, training, and coaching for Christian leaders in the Middle East and North Africa,” Sharaiha says.

Earlier this month, nearly 40 leaders representing 18 Christian ministries attended a refugee management course orchestrated by MLC. Pray the course will help believers organize and orchestrate refugee volunteer management programs throughout the MENA.

MLC needs help from believers like you to keep enrollment costs low for Christian leaders. More about that here.




Header image depicts a sticker on a street lamp in Sebnitz, Germany on March 22, 2022. (Wikimedia Commons)

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