The current situation of volunteers in times of the Covid-19 virus: This year is a year of waiting and uncertainty for many volunteers who had planned a year abroad. Not only for the PlayHandball volunteers, the departure is postponed indefinitely and there is a great deal of insecurity as to whether, when and in what form they can go.

Since the end of April, no volunteers have been in the country, neither in Kenya nor in South Africa. Due to the worldwide current Covid-19 virus, the PlayHandball volunteers, who were on site at the time, had to return to Germany with the German government’s repatriation flights. “Actually my parents wanted to come and visit me in mid-March and we wanted to travel together. On the day of their departure, they decided against it because of the Corona situation. A few hours later, I found out that I had to return to Germany. It was quite painful for me. I wanted to see my parents again, but definitely not under these circumstances,” reports Laura, who suddenly had to leave her host country within two weeks. But even for the upcoming volunteers, who were supposed to start their service at the beginning of September, the situation has not been easy since then.

About three months ago, when the preparatory seminar of the German-based sending organization Jugend-im-Ausland was held in digital form, there were five volunteers who wanted to support PlayHandball in South Africa and Kenya. At that time, the start of the international volunteer service “Weltwärts” was still planned for September. However, due to travel restrictions and protection measures, there were early indications that the departure would have to be postponed further.

Three months later “only” two “Weltwärts” volunteers are still waiting for the final start of their voluntary service.

Due to the fact that the departure was not really in sight even at the beginning of September, within a few days two of them said goodbye to their voluntary service plans for this year. Tabea and Jonathan, who both wanted to work for PlayHandball in South Africa for twelve months, decided to study. However, both hope to be able to carry out the volunteer service without major problems after their studies. And also Lennart finally decided against doing the volunteer service in 2020 due to the great uncertainty and unpredictability.

Lam and Philipp, the two remaining volunteers, have firm plans to carry out the volunteer service this year. “From this point of view, I have no time pressure, since I expected to spend this year abroad anyway,” Lam said. Nevertheless, the uncertainty during this time is also very much on their mind. “It is difficult to get any clear thoughts on how to proceed and there are many questions. When will it start? How are they doing on site? And above all, is it still meaningful to start a volunteer service at such times,” Philipp says in reference to his planned volunteer assignment.

For several weeks now, the volunteers have had closer contact with the PlayHandball team in South Africa. They take part in regular online meetings and get to know the team in South Africa. The meetings are all about finding out how everyone is doing at the moment, what the current situation is like and how best to deal with it in the coming months before possible departure. Lam and Philipp have decided to support PlayHandball from Germany even before their actual voluntary service abroad. This not only helps PlayHandball, but also enables the volunteers to become active from Germany and get to know the organization and its projects. Lam is active as Online Communication & Crowdfunding Assistance and is especially concerned with the homepage in order to improve and keep it up to date. Philipp will work as Social Media Manager and will take care of the Instagram site play.handball.

“Taking over tasks and the close contact with Nicola already from Germany is a good way to bridge the time until a possible departure, to be socially active and to support PlayHandball despite the current situation,” says Philipp. Whether and when a departure is possible depends on the decisions of the governments and also the International Voluntary Service “Weltwärts”. In South Africa the corona measures are currently more relaxed and the number of cases is declining, whereas in Germany the second wave of infection has started. Therefore, it is still uncertain when and whether it will be possible to leave or enter the country. “The volunteers are needed. And we strongly hope that Lam and Philipp will be able to enter the country at the end of January,” explains Nicola (Director of the organization in South Africa). “Unfortunately, many volunteers understandably bailed out, but nevertheless I hope that next year we will be able to welcome more handball players from other countries in our projects”. The volunteers provide significant support to PlayHandball’s partner organization and schools. They help with sports programs at schools and in the afternoons, share their experiences with local coaches and learn many new things in their host country.

Apply for a volunteer service starting from the end of January: www.play-handball.org/volunteer or find out more about the German “Weltwärts” program at our partner Jugend-im-Ausland (www.jugend-im-ausland.de).

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