Volunteer Guidance


A project will take you through an induction clearly explaining the expectations they have of you whilst in your role and they will ask you to sign a ‘Code of Conduct’, specific to the work of your placement. We suggested you take a look at this very general ‘Code of Conduct’ to guide you on how you will be expected to behave when working in the field and watch the following videos to ensure you have a good basic knowledge of the crisis.

  • What does it mean to be a refugee? – YouTube video 6 minutes long – watch now >
  • The European Crisis & Syria explained – YouTube video 6 minutes long – watch now >

A ‘Code of Conduct’ is a voluntary code, enforced by the will of the organisation to maintain the standards.  It seeks to guard our standards of behavior, and maintain the high standards of humanitarian aid, effectiveness and impact to which we aspire to as an organisation.

Help Refugees and indiGO Volunteers work in collaboration to oversee volunteer conduct and welfare. Please note that any mention of Help Refugees and/or indiGO Volunteers in this document should be considered interchangeable.



  • BENEFICIARY – An affected person who receives any form of help or support, including  financial, material, legal or psychosocial i.e. refugee, migrant, homeless, internally displaced person, etc.

  • VOLUNTEER – A person who freely devotes their time and skills to support an organisation or project.

  • COORDINATOR – A person who adopts a role of designated responsibility within an organisation or project.





What guides global humanitarian work

What a 6 minute video explaining these principles – watch now >


The singular motivation of humanitarian action is to save lives and alleviate suffering in a manner that respects and restores personal dignity.


Humanitarian action is based solely on need, with priority given to the most urgent cases irrespective of race, nationality, gender, religious belief, political opinion or class.


Humanitarian actors refrain from taking sides in hostilities or engaging in political, racial, religious or ideological controversies.


Requires autonomy on the part of humanitarian actors, who are not to be subject to control or subordination by political, economic, military or other non-humanitarian objectives.

Source: UNHCR, Emergency Handbook https://emergency.unhcr.org/entry/44766/humanitarian-principles


Understand the context of your volunteer role and project

What a 2 minute video explaining these principles – watch now >


The principle of “do no harm” obliges all actors to prevent and mitigate any negative impact of their actions on affected populations.  Volunteers are asked to adopt the ‘do no harm approach’ in both professional and social environments, and to consistently assess the implications and potential consequences of their actions for themselves as individuals, for beneficiaries and for their respective organisations. Volunteers must be conscious of the social, cultural and professional contexts they are working in, particularly their interactions with beneficiaries, and work within the necessary professional boundaries that ensure we can provide principled, accountable and high-quality humanitarian aid.




  1. All beneficiaries must be treated with dignity and respect. Any volunteer conduct that is reported/seen to be degrading, discriminatory or harmful to beneficiaries will not be tolerated.
  2. Volunteers must maintain a high level professionalism in all relationships with beneficiaries.  
  3. Although volunteers will seek to develop trust and cooperation in their working relationships with beneficiaries, they must respect the necessary professional boundaries and the remits of their role for safety and security purposes, and  to reduce the potential for harm.
  4. Volunteers must never engage in any illegal activities on behalf / with of a beneficiary, including the discussion or disclosure of information that may support illegal activities i.e. if a beneficiary asks how to find a smuggler.
  5. Sexual relations between volunteers and beneficiaries are strictly prohibited, on the basis of recognising the possibility of exploitative behaviour.  This applies even when a beneficiary is a consenting party. Volunteers must recognise that they are in a position of trust, which makes it impossible to avoid the context of a disproportionate power balance, and can put the beneficiary at risk of harm. Under no circumstances will this be tolerated.
  6. Any sexual relations between volunteers and beneficiaries, or any person under the age of 18 shall be considered and reported as a criminal offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
  7. Volunteers are asked to remember that the beneficiaries we work with may have had traumatic experiences and may still experience repercussions from these. Volunteers must  avoid questions or engaging in dialogue, unless appropriately trained, since this can result in lasting damage when not professionally handled.   If uncomfortable or unsure about a working relationship with a beneficiary, volunteers should seek advice from their coordinator.
  8. It is important to take the time to observe the cultural and religious practices of the people we are working with, taking particular care not to assume our cultural norms as certain activities may be misconstrued or cause offence to those we are here to aid. Please seek advice from a supervisor on this issue.
  9. Volunteers must respect the personal space of all beneficiaries. Whilst we may be accustomed to close and intimate contact between friends and acquaintances in our culture, it is not necessarily appropriate and can cause great distress to the beneficiaries we are working with.



  1. Organisations work closely alongside the Greek authorities, including the Ministry and military.  The camps are overseen by these bodies, and they take care of the management and security of the sites. All volunteers must maintain good working relationships with the aforementioned parties, and respect their commands.
  2. Volunteers must maintain good working relationships with all other actors, including grassroots and international organisations. Volunteers are asked to remain professional, promote a positive working culture, and offer constructive feedback; refraining from making negative comments about other organisations.  



  1. Volunteers must respect and uphold the highest level of professional standards in all their volunteer work. This includes respect for their coordinator(s), working hours, and the quality standards of their work.
  2. Efforts to directly undermine, subvert, or intentionally negatively affect the work of any humanitarian group will not be condoned e.g. public remarks intentionally meant to bring into disrepute the humanitarian efforts of an organisation.
  3. Sexual and/or romantic relationships between volunteers and coordinators of the same team  should be avoided, and Help Refugees reserves the right to take action in the case that a relationship puts the integrity of the organisation and its operations at risk. Although Help Refugees respects the privacy of its volunteers, we recognise the necessity to avoid the unlikely but unfortunate possibility of any allegations of sexual exploitation or abuse in this power dynamic.
  4. If volunteers choose to work with any groups associated with Help Refugees, they must adhere to all policies stated by their assigned organisation’s code of conduct, i.e. do not enter a camp outside of the agreed working hours; do not enter into romantic relationships with other volunteers; etc.



  1. Volunteers are expected to observe the law of the country they are operating in.
  2. In the unlikely event that volunteers encounter conflict, volunteers are prohibited from engaging in verbal or physical confrontations.
  3. Volunteers are under no circumstances permitted to push their own agenda, whether that be religious, political or otherwise.
  4. Remarks made on social media must not be made to be appearing on behalf of Help Refugees or any other organisation, unless with the express approval of that organisation.  
  5. Volunteers must not undertake tasks that are outside of their role, without the explicit permission of a senior member from the organisation. For example, if a beneficiary approaches a volunteer seeking legal information or advice, they must not proceed to advise on the topic, unless they are a member of a team distributing up to date, accurate legal information. Similarly, volunteers should not offer medical advice unless they are a registered and practicing health professional.



  1. All individuals must be treated with dignity and have the right to privacy. Please be aware that photography within camps and other housing sites is largely discouraged, and may result in equipment being confiscated by authorities.
  2. Photography of any individual must only be made and/or shared with the explicit, informed consent of that individual. For safeguarding reasons, volunteers are prohibited from taking and/or sharing photos of minors without explicit parental consent.



  1. Sensitive and private information relating to the work of any humanitarian group and/or volunteers, must not be shared irresponsibly i.e. in a public forum, such as social media or a public space. Such information includes confidential staff details, meetings, funding, etc.  If unsure whether or not something is of a sensitive nature and should be shared or not, volunteers must check with a senior coordinator before sharing.  
  2. Volunteers are prohibited from remarking to media without consent from a senior member of their respective organisation. This includes comments on their own project, group, and other organisations / actors i.e. Save the Children, the Ministry of Migration, the police.
  3. Volunteers may come into contact with, or possession of, information and items of a sensitive nature in relation to the lives, identities, and needs of their colleagues, beneficiaries, or other vulnerable persons. Such information must be treated with discretion and not shared publicly. However, if the volunteer believes that this information may have a negative or harmful impact on the welfare and safety of the concerned party or any other individual/group/project, we do ask that they privately disclose this information to a senior member of their coordination team. If they are unsure whether or not something is of a sensitive nature and should be shared or not, they must check with a senior coordinator before sharing.


All information privately disclosed to a coordinator will remain confidential throughout and after the volunteer placement, unless it cannot safely remain private. This information will then be escalated in order for the necessary action to be taken. Coordinators will attempt to protect the identity of the volunteer wherever possible.



  1. Buying, selling or provision of illegal substances from/to beneficiaries in camps or elsewhere will not be tolerated, nor will public consumption while on-site. This shall be considered and reported as a criminal offence.
  2. Illegal substances are strictly forbidden from the warehouse site at all times, and volunteers are prohibited from working under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  3. Absolutely no consumption of alcohol is permitted whilst performing volunteer duties, unless for a specific social event arranged by a member coordination team.



  1. All volunteers must respect and uphold cultural sensibilities and differences when on distribution or on site in camps, urban housing centres, community centres, hotspots, etc. All volunteers must wear clothing of at least knee length, and keep their shoulders, chests and stomachs covered.  If unsure of the dress code for a particular project or activity, volunteers must speak to their coordinator in advance.
  2. In respect of the professional and multicultural working environment, volunteers must abstain from any public displays of affection when working on site / during working hours.
  3. In respect of the professional and multicultural working environment, volunteers must not remove their tops/shirts, wear shorts that are too revealing, crop tops, or swimsuits when working 


  1. Volunteers are asked to take at least one day off a week. Long-term volunteers are required to take a minimum of 14 consecutive days break for every 3 months of volunteering.


Updated October 2017