More than 2000 volunteers joined humanitarian organization Slovene Philanthropy with one goal – to help numerous refugees on their way through Slovenia. The need to do something and not just watch the humanitarian crisis that literally knocked on their doors activated a powerful force of people from all around Slovenia.
“After the arrival of refugees in September, we have established a database of people who not only want to help on the field, but are also willing to host the refugees in their homes, invite them for dinner etc.” explains Tereza Novak, executive director of Slovene Philanthropy. “New volunteers are contacting us daily, therefore there are enough volunteers to go on the field. Furthermore, there are people who are on the waiting list to work on the field, so we are not afraid that their help will run out.”
How can I help? When is the training for volunteers? Do you have any special needs tomorrow? Where can I bring the items that we have collected for the refugees? I am going to the border with my own car and I can give a ride to four more people. We are driving from Switzerland/Germany/Spain with a lorry full of clothing and shoes and volunteers – where can we help? These are the things that are communicated daily. People just cannot stay away, if they know that almost 150 000 people have already came through Slovenia.
The headquarter to coordinate volunteers all around Slovenia is located in a small office at the premises of Slovene Philanthropy. With all the important numbers and timetables on the walls, with phones constantly ringing and people talking and typing on computers, you feel the commotion but at the same time also the good energy. People working, including volunteers, know that their work is important and meaningful.
When volunteers accompany refugees to the doctors they get the opportunity to hear a part of their stories. Otherwise volunteers sort and distribute food and clothing, clean and prepare the centers for new groups of refugees, bring hot water for the babies and very important – help finding the missing family members. And the list continues. “There are so many sad stories that we do not get the opportunity to hear or even dare to ask, but we get so many friendly looks and “thank yous” that you never hesitate to get back,” explains Eva, a volunteer from a small village near Šentilj, where the biggest reception centre is set up. She is on the field for more than two weeks now and her help is essential when new volunteers arrive. If they are properly guided and coordinated, things run very smoothly.
Slovene Philanthropy has been hence a very active to involve local volunteer coordinators who are in contact with all the organizations on the field. Volunteers are present in all the centers where refugees have been staying. “Help from the volunteers and coordinated work of the humanitarian and other non-governmental organization is essential for further improvements in the important work we all are doing” says Tereza Novak.
Slovene Philanthropy was established in 1992 when numerous refugees came from Bosnia and Herzegovina and many experts and philanthropists came together and volunteered to help the refugees. Slovene Philanthropy is umbrella organization for volunteering in Slovenia and has been working with migrants for the past 23 years.