What does assistance to refugees consist of: the experience of volunteers - Move2Armenia

What does assistance to refugees consist of: the experience of volunteers

What does assistance to refugees consist of: the experience of volunteers

According to the Armenian government, more than 100,000 Artsakh residents entered the country due to the outbreak of military conflict. The authorities are taking measures to support refugees, but in addition, grassroots initiatives are gaining strength - ordinary residents also want to help.

Dozens of public organizations and charitable foundations have expressed their intention to support temporary migrants, but due to the chaotic nature of what is happening, it is difficult to navigate the information: how exactly you can help, what donations are needed, what is needed most at the moment.

To understand how support for refugees should and is provided, we spoke with experienced volunteers. Georgy Nurmanov and Ustinya interacted with Ukrainians in Poland, and Elena Kozhemyakina right now works for the Armenian VIVA Foundation and helps displaced people from Artsakh in Armenia.


  1. international experience
    1. How the transit camp works
    2. Life after the transit camp
  2. Working with refugees in Armenia

international experience

Georgy Nurmanov – founder of a volunteer organization Russians for Ukraine. He understands the specifics of the work of transit camps. In the first weeks of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Georgy, along with other volunteers, set up a temporary camp in the territory of a parking lot and a defunct shopping center in the Polish border town of Przemysl. There could be 1,500 people there at the same time. Ustinya volunteered in this shopping center, as well as at the train station and at the Ukrainian House. She helped refugees decide on the direction of their further journey after Przemyśl.

Volunteers note that such emergency situations at the very beginning cause information and organizational chaos. Only over time does it crystallize into a certain system, when the state, charitable organizations and various foundations divide areas of responsibility - who is responsible for collecting medicine, who is responsible for food and clothing, and who is responsible for housing the victims. But it is difficult to come to an agreement; conflicts arise from time to time, and one initiative interferes with another. In addition, Ustinha talked about cases when companies did not want to share information with volunteers, so it was difficult to orient refugees where and what kind of help they would receive.

For the smooth functioning of the camp, the state, the Przemyśl branch of the Polish Red Cross, charitable NGOs and companies willing to help take on some areas, for example, medicine, transport and food (although volunteers are also needed here). The Russians for Ukraine organization identifies and, thanks to fundraising, purchases goods needed by refugees and finds volunteers.

How the transit camp works

Refugees stay in the Przemyśl transit camp for a short time: to catch their breath, to come to their senses a little, to warm up, to understand where to move next. As soon as the displaced people arrive at the camp, they are met by volunteers, offered food, then added to the list and given an individual bracelet. It is important that non-governmental organizations cannot store personal data, so in transit camps they do not record, for example, passport numbers.

Photo: wikimedia.org

If a person requires medical care, volunteer doctors conduct an examination, offer the necessary medications and refer them to full-fledged medical centers. Charitable organizations are responsible for providing medicines. Ustinya spoke about cases where, immediately upon arrival, victims with serious health problems were taken to the city to the emergency room. An ambulance crew and sometimes local drivers helped bring bedridden patients to the hospital, but over time, volunteers began to provide cars.

The main thing that a transit camp provides is a place to replenish your strength. At the border, refugees rest and get as much sleep as they can. In addition to the food provided at the entrance, they can get food from the indoor canteen. In Przemysl, the kitchen was managed for a long time by an organization World Central Kitchen, now the Red Cross has taken on this aspect of support. This practice is common in the work of forced migrant camps, as we learned and described in the article “Setting up a refugee camp: the experience of organizers and volunteers”. Companies cover all costs themselves, so there is no need to donate food.

When Ustinha worked at the camp/mall, a separate room was set aside to help with logistics. According to the volunteer, she encountered difficulties in finding information about where refugees should go next, what to travel by, and who to contact in the destination city. All because there was no single information portal, the information was constantly changing, and most of the volunteers spent only a few weeks at the camp, and there was no one to keep the information up to date.

Some states sent free trains and buses for refugees, as did private companies, for example, FlixBus. Now, more than a year after the start of the war, volunteer drivers often help people get to other cities.

Life after the transit camp

When displaced persons arrive in the country where they plan to stay, they are accepted at the next temporary accommodation center or humanitarian center. The task of this organization is to inform refugees about all the help they can receive and help them legalize and settle in the country.

People stop at such charity centers until they receive housing and complete the necessary documents. Apartments and houses are either allocated by the state or offered by caring local residents. This also applies to the provision of jobs or retraining courses.

To live in a new country and receive official assistance, including benefits, documents are required. Most often these are certificates of border crossing and confirmation of refugee status. Please note that all documents are obtained from the police or other local authorities: humanitarian centers can only talk about the required legal procedures.


The main conclusion that we made after communicating with Russian volunteers in Poland is this: to effectively help refugees, cooperation is needed, and not disparate and even interfering initiatives. It is important to exchange information about support opportunities so that help reaches those in need faster.

Working with refugees in Armenia

Now, based on the experience of Russian volunteers, we know what kind of assistance should be provided to refugees and by whom. It remains to understand the situation in Armenia: what support measures are required and what are already being taken. To do this, we studied news channels and talked with Elena Kozhemyakina, ambassador of the VIVA Foundation. Doctors and volunteers – Armenia.” From September 24 to October 1, volunteers worked in the transit points of Goris and Vayke and know better than anyone about the needs of internally displaced persons.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (shortly called sotsap), the Red Cross and the VIVA Foundation worked with refugees in the temporary camps. How it happened:

1. The Ministry conducted a survey of incoming residents. They were registered on the site rapidneeds.socservice.am (you can do this yourself). After filling out personal data, they indicated the number of people in the family, how many people need psychological help, what food and hygiene products, clothing and other household items are required, including school supplies for children. At the end, they chose the cities and areas where the migrants would prefer to live, and found out the telephone number for contact.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs needs volunteers. To join the team, fill out an application on the website https://kamavor.mlsa.am/.

2. The Red Cross provided food for internally displaced persons in the transit camps of Goris and Vayk.

3. Volunteer doctors of the VIVA Foundation provided first aid, helped patients with chronic diseases, and provided hygiene products for women, diapers and medicines. The foundation accepts donations through viva.foundation website. There you can contact VIVA and offer your help as a volunteer, it is urgently needed now. It doesn't matter whether you're willing to work for an hour, half a day, or several days. The main thing is the desire to help. IN social networks The fund publishes urgent lists of necessary things. Another type of help is blood donation. Fill in the form on the VIVA website, and you will be invited to the medical center.

Photo: cordial

The fund has now opened mobile headquarters for providing medical assistance to internally displaced persons from Artsakh:

  • Goris, st. Gusana Ashot, 26
  • Gyumri, st. Garegin Nzhdeh, 3
  • Hrazdan, Microdistrict, 13th street, 16/1
  • Artashat, Drama Theater named after Amo Khazaryan, st. Ogostosi Xanereki, 101
  • Echmiadzin, st. Shaumyana, 60
  • Vanadzor, Polyclinic No. 5, Taron-2 block, 10-1

Opening hours: daily from 10:00 to 19:00.

More charitable initiatives trusted by Move2Armenia are in the article "Artsakh Relief Funds".

After people had rested and came to their senses a little, the social security team directed them to temporary accommodation. Artsakh residents can learn about long-term housing and other necessary support, including clothing and food, from coordinators in territorial humanitarian centers. List of addresses – https://irazekum.am/news/view/23. Victims’ questions are also answered on the social assistance hotline 114. We warn you that due to the large flow of calls, they are often not answered immediately.

Representatives of organizations and individuals can write about their resources to help Artsakh people at http://map.socservice.am/. The information received will be transferred to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, regional administrations and local governments. While this information is being collected and coordinated. You can also write about your options for help on the platform https://tikunq.am: Proposed initiatives immediately appear on the map.

On the List.am website in the section "For Artsakh people" employers, landlords, and donors can post advertisements with offers specifically for internally displaced persons.

Artsakh residents have Armenian passports and social cards, so they can get an education, get a job, and receive medical care in Armenia. If documents are lost, you need to contact the police.

However, just having documents may not be enough, as Elena Kozhemyakina says. Yes, some children have already been placed in Armenian schools, but there is a high probability that there may not be enough places at the desks for all.

The vast majority of Artsakh residents are ready and want to work in Armenia, so an important task now is to organize jobs. On the platform of the Unified Social Service https://workforall.am/ You can post vacancies and find work in your chosen field. So far, 4,500 proposals are known in Armenia. You can also contact social service office, register, after which those in need of work should be offered employment options. Separately, teaching vacancies are posted on the website https://license.emis.am/.

Despite the existence of several platforms for offering and searching for work, housing, and goods, this is still not enough. Let us repeat, more than 100,000 people came from Artsakh to Armenia. Elena Kozhemyakina believes that now the ministries should join forces, create an advisory council and develop a plan for the competent distribution of resources and the formation of a housing stock. It is also important to formulate a package of proposals for entrepreneurs who would hire Artsakh employees, train, and raise specialists. “The state must be able to set tasks so that assistance is not scattered,” says the VIVA ambassador.

On October 3, Move2Armenia provided a platform for a meeting between representatives of Armenian companies and the state. As a result of the strategic session and brainstorm, options for supporting internally displaced persons were identified. More details – in post-release.

We will expect systematic and verified decisions and monitor the situation.

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What does assistance to refugees consist of: the experience of volunteers
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