Mostafa Zohdy

Description

Since the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the possible risks that were encountered with the field missions, Egyptian Red Crescent (ERC) created a new strategy for the Volunteer management by shifting most of the volunteering processes and activities online in order to keep the continuity of its volunteering missions with the least possible risks.

The Egyptian Red Crescent launched the “Volunteer in Every Street” campaign that aimed to recruit volunteers in every street/neighbourhood in Egypt in order to guarantee fast and adequate  response during the COVID-19 crisis in Egypt especially in times of lockdown and in the isolated areas. 

Context

This was the first experience for the Egyptian Red Crescent in managing online/virtual volunteers therefore some challenges were faced in the beginning such as guaranteeing fast response through the campaign, managing the newly recruited volunteers that we have never met  in terms of effective  communication and organisation and follow up, task definition and assigning, and retaining the volunteers. 

Technical details & Operations

The team was able to identify defined tasks for the virtual volunteers such as: 

  • Raising Awareness online by sending text messages to their networks,
  • Responding and putting an end to rumours in their neighbourhoods,
  • Performing initial surveys to evaluate the needs, 
  • helping in monitoring and investigating the cases, and helping when needed in the implementation of some of the Egyptian Red Crescent’s activities in the volunteers\neighbourhoods. 

An interactive map allows the team to locate the volunteers geographically and contact them directly. Today, more than 6000 volunteers are located all around the country on this map.

The volunteers are divided into spontaneous and regular volunteers of the Egyptian Red Crescent and then they are further subdivided into those with or without medical backgrounds. 

These categories help in locating and reaching out to the most suitable volunteers in regards to the requested need at the time. Based on these categories each one of the volunteers were added to a WhatsApp group, used as a platform for sharing practices, thoughts and facilitating motivation and collaboration. 

The groups of volunteers went through a very short induction which covered the main objectives of the campaign, and at a later stage were introduced to the use of the e-learning platform offering a training per day over the course of seven days. 

Along with it, the team made sure that the group was open to answer questions and doubts from the volunteers 24/7, such as questions regarding the training content or rumours and inquiries regarding Covid-19 disease. 

The online trainings include: 

  • an induction session about the Egyptian Red Crescent, 
  • a safety and security training, 
  • psychosocial support trainings such as peer to peer psychosocial support and psychosocial during emergencies, 
  • a health promotion during the pandemic training, nutrition in emergencies, 
  • Training on home isolation procedures. 

Since this was a first experience for the team, it wasn’t easy to choose the right platform to facilitate these online trainings and get familiar with the system at the beginning. Following the testing of 5 different platforms, Whatsapp has been chosen as a tool of communication.

 

Retention was considered as one of the main and biggest challenges that the Egyptian Red Crescent as a volunteer based organisation faced, especially during emergency times. The team tried to overcome this by offering constant online training, online activities such as the awareness campaign, and hosting digital celebrations such as the Digital RCRC Day and the International Youth Day. These were all forms of saying “Thank you to the volunteers” and ways of inclusion within the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement.

Deployment & Impact

The Egyptian Red Crescent has trained more than 12 000 trainees which is a huge achievement since this was a first trial with the e-learning experience with the volunteers.

At the end of the training period, a competition was organised under the name “Our awareness is our safety (Wa’yena Amaan)”, where each of the volunteers are responsible for making a group of minimum 50 people using one or more of the social media platforms.

When the campaign management team passes the ERC’s awareness messages, pictures, videos about Covid-19, the digital volunteers then disseminate it as widely as possible, starting with these peer-group they created.

Through this competition, we were able to reach more than 600,000 people, and today, health awareness messages continue to be spread through this channel on a regular basis. Another initiative started through this campaign as well were the team targeted reaching the local most vulnerable disconnected areas in Egypt where the residents didn’t receive the proper health awareness messages or health care. 

This initiative reached over 1.7 million Egyptians through the efforts of the local virtual volunteers.