We try to make the best decisions at all times that balance getting the maximum amount of aid to refugees in camps and travelling through Europe while also behaving as a responsible organisation. We have outlined some of the issues that have come up and how we have dealt with the below, to give a flavour of how we try to balance often competing issues:
Community Payback teams
We believe that some people are uncomfortable working with the CP Teams but our experience has been really good and we use them for the following reasons:
Pragmatically using these teams of young people has enabled us to transport and process much larger quantities of donations than we would have otherwise – and we have therefore been able to help many more refugees
The teams of young people have been screened and are supervised at all times – this type of work has been identified as work suitable for them to repay their community payback sentence
The young people we have encountered have been really interested in our work and in finding out about refugees – in fact some have gone on to volunteer their own time to help with the aid effort
We have been advised that some cash for clothes organisations do not operate ethically or sustainably so we instead seek out small local rag merchants when disposing of clothing that cannot be used in any other way
We are mindful that the transportation of goods damages the environment so we try to find the best way to get the donations to the refugees cheaply, efficiently and with least environmental damage.
We are concerned about the environment that the refugees have to live in and the very limited resources they have for waste management. So we are careful to remove all the packaging from donations before we transport them and to bring back packaging wherever we can for reuse or recycling.
We value the support provided by volunteers and recognise that we would not be able to deliver our services without their input. There are many opportunities for volunteers to play a part by providing specialist skills or time to help with the day to day operation. We are aware that many of our volunteers live on very low incomes. Although they are very keen to support refugees and cannot afford to be out of pocket supporting these activities. We will therefore fundraise so we can meet out of pocket expenses like travel and to provide volunteers with drinks and sandwiches when they work a shift with us.
Many of our volunteers are unemployed and need training and support to help them use their volunteering experience to get job ready. We will therefore fundraise to be able provide relevant training such as manual handling and first aid and other practical support.
Paid staff versus volunteers
We plan to have a small core of paid staff to co-ordinate and support the volunteer effort and to administer the organisation professionally.
None of the money raised for specific aid items such as stoves, food and transportation will ever be used instead to pay for staff. Only money raised specifically to pay for staff will be used for this purpose. We know that many funders will look more favourably on a professionally run organisation with some dedicated and experienced staff – we believe that this will enable us to raise even more money to help the aid effort long term.
In the very early weeks the organisation was running before it could walk. Well-meaning volunteers were making decisions and spending donations (made to other organisations not ELAR) that in fact wasted money that more effective research and planning would have prevented. We are determined to make professional, efficient decisions that make the money we raise go as far as possible. Volunteers do not necessarily mean less money is spent on running the organisation. A combination of staff and volunteers can be far more effective
We know that to maintain a long term organisation that a small core of paid staff will be needed. Volunteers come and go and need training and support. Some tasks need to be done, whether or not you can find a skilled, experienced volunteer to help. Most other long term organisations that operate using volunteers also have core staff to manage the business – such as charity shops and Citizen’s Advice Bureau. We believe that a skilled, professional organisation we will be able to get more not less aid to refugees.
That said we are very mindful that any funds raised or payments made for staffing need to be as small as possible to maintain an efficient organisation and that we need to be transparent in letting people know what roles are carried out by paid staff. As we receive funding for this we will use our website to share information.