Who set it up?

The EU Aid Volunteers initiative is funded by the European Union and executed by EACEA (Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency). A consortium of five organisations (ICF, MDF, GOPA, Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution and Scuola Sant’Anna) was tasked by the European Commission to set up a comprehensive training programme for selected candidate volunteers. 

Nicolas, what is this initiative?

The people who volunteer for this initiative have one thing in common: their wish to show solidarity with those who most need it. The initiative brings together volunteers and organisations from different countries, providing practical support to humanitarian aid projects and contributing to strengthening the local capacity and resilience of disaster-affected communities. This training is very important to prepare them on what to expect in the countries where they will be deployed! During these two weeks, they learn about the European Union, its external relations and crisis response system, humanitarian action, managing personal safety, health and security, project management and inter-cultural awareness. We know that all of this is a lot of information and it is important for them to apply these new skills, so as a part of the training there is a large-scale scenario-based exercise where the participants can put into practice the whole spectrum of skills and knowledge. This section of the training is the part that I personally enjoy a lot.

What is your role in this?

The training is an opportunity for the candidate volunteers to learn the essentials for their deployment in third countries and for us to assess them based on certain pre-defined criteria. As a mentor, I review whether the candidate volunteers (the 18 in my group) are "fit" for deployment by assessing their competencies and skills. However, I am also a mentor for them by guiding them throughout the training, as well as being a reference point when they need someone to talk to. I try to help them to overcome their obstacles and worries about the training, when needed. I think it is important to be attentive to their needs, their perception of the course, and above all, I make sure that the course fulfils their expectations and that they have a lot of fun.

How can you fulfil these expectations?

Well, for example, in the modules in which I give training, my approach is to use unconventional teaching methods with lots of visuals and little PowerPoint, interacting as much as I can with the participants and using their experience. As part of the training, there is a field part of the scenario that prepares them for extreme situations. It is hoped that they will never experience that, but I believe the training really prepares them for what they may go through when they are abroad either as an EU Aid Volunteer or if they choose a professional career in the humanitarian sector.

What was your highlight of the training?

I must say, the vibe and the dynamic in the group was positive. I was really impressed by how the candidate volunteers were super attentive and accommodating to each other, making sure that everyone was involved. But my highlight was on the last day of the training when I informed them that they were all "fit" for deployment. I was about to give them their certificates when they gave me a certificate that they had made themselves. The whole group took the floor and out of nowhere, they made a special song for me! The song pictured how they felt about the whole training and highlighted the things I was doing as a trainer. I have to admit, it was super well done. I was really touched because I did not expect it. It was an unexpected sign of appreciation, a big thank you!


Get in touch with Nicolas Dupic who can tell you more about the EU external relations and crisis response system, humanitarian action, the humanitarian aid policy and the EU Aid Volunteers initiative legal framework or find more information about our office in Brussels and the assignments they do.