Online Volunteers are at the heart of United Nations Volunteers programme. Increasingly, Online Volunteering supports the UN system in addressing development challenges. In Romania, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) engaged two Online Volunteers to disseminate information on basic human services to support Ukrainian refugees in the country.
According to reports, since the war started more than 2.4 million Ukrainians have crossed the border into Romania from Ukraine or Moldova.
UNICEF Romania is responding to the Ukraine refugee crisis in collaboration with the government, local and county authorities, non-governmental organizations and other UN agencies. One part of this response is social and behavior change communications, crucial for enabling refugees to access information on basic human services in their native languages. This also includes UNICEF guidelines on how to prevent discrimination and violence against children.
Acknowledging the vitality of accessing the right information, Diana Maria Pirga, Social and Behavior Change Consultant with UNICEF Romania and the supervisor of Online Volunteers engaged through UNV, stated that language barrier was one of the biggest challenges at the beginning of the crisis response.
"There were only few Ukrainian and Russian translators available in Romania. While trying to find solutions, we received a message from UNV presenting different types of volunteering opportunities. Based on the discussions we had with the UNV focal point we decided to engage a small team of Online Volunteers to help with translations."
Thanks to the support of Online Volunteers, we were able to respond very quickly to the information needs of the refugees and reached all our objectives. The Online Volunteers were proactive, very flexible and understood the urgency of some requests, which made a great contribution to the quality of our CO response to the emergency. -- --Diana Maria Pirga, Social and Behavior Change Consultant with UNICEF Romania
Using social media – Facebook and Telegram – Iryna Tessard and Sophie-Valérie Yosypenko posted UNICEF communications materials to inform the refugee population on what to do and where to go for help. All posts were translated by these Online Volunteers as well. While disseminating awareness posts, Iryna and Sophie-Valérie also addressed the issue of incorrect and fake information.
Volunteering, in parallel to my full-time job, was not only an opportunity to use my skills differently but also a chance to work on social projects. I was giving back to society and volunteering felt like a psychological relief for me! --Iryna Tessard, Online Volunteer, with a background in management and literature
While interacting with refugees, Iryna and Sophie-Valérie observed the digital gaps refugees faced in getting basic information on housing, health, protection and education.
This online volunteer experience with UNICEF broadened my worldview on migration. It made me understand common problems people face and the mechanisms of solving them – ultimately helping refugees integrate into their new communities. --Sophie-Valérie Yosypenko, an Online Volunteer and internally-displaced person in Ukraine
For Sophie-Valérie, a graduate in political science with professional experience with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), online volunteering brought personal reflections. "I had to also leave my home, so I knew what it felt like and had the desire to help others facing the same."
Online Volunteers support communities all over the world – in crisis or otherwise. Find out more on how to become an online volunteer and create ripples of positive change. You can also explore how to engage Online Volunteers through UNV's Online Volunteering service.