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.