Tandem aims to be a learning organisation, constantly evolving and developing in order to be as effective as possible at achieving our mission.  We’re also aiming to do this as openly and transparently as possible, with the full involvement of the participating refugees and NGOs.  This is why we are holding monthly Tandem Sessions with refugees that have completed volunteer placements, the organisations that hosted them, and with new volunteers.  The purpose of these sessions is to evaluate together how Tandem placements are working, what practical aspects can be improved, and to discuss future strategy.

Like Tandem itself, these sessions were born from a need.  Feedback from some of the first volunteer placements we organised suggested that the refugees involved did not always feel properly prepared when starting their two-week placements.  For example, when they first arrived at the office of the hosting NGO, they still had lots of questions, and were not always completely sure of what was expected of them.

This uncertainty is common to any new volunteer work, internship or job.  However, as a Tandem placement is the first time that many refugees encounter EU-level NGOs or step inside the ‘Brussels bubble’, the culture shock may be a little bigger than usual.  The Tandem Sessions then, are designed also to be information sessions for refugees that have not yet started a volunteer placement; to give them a chance to talk to past volunteers, and to meet the Tandem Team; and to hear directly from the leaders of EU-level NGOs about their organisations.

The first, pilot Tandem Session took place on 9 September at Mundo-B, and included presentations from two refugees speaking about their experiences as Tandem volunteers. We also heard from the directors of the European Volunteer Centre and ActionAid about the contribution that Tandem volunteers had made to their work, and their thoughts on how to build up Tandem further.

These Tandem Sessions are crucial, in our view, to keeping Tandem focused, meaningful, and an initiative that adequately responds to a genuine need.  We intend to organise the sessions on a monthly basis, so if you’re interested in developing Tandem with us, come along and get involved!