A Scout becomes a humanitarian worker

Zofia, 20, is one of thousands of Scouts, a global youth organization helping refugees fleeing Ukraine. Thanks to the skills she gained during the response, she became a Coordinator for UNICEF.

UNICEF
Zofia, 20, transformed from being a Scout to a UNICEF Coordinator at the Blue Dot in Przemyśl, Poland, helping refugees fleeing Ukraine.
UNICEF/UN0644129/Le Lijour
31 May 2022

Zofia, 20, paces in front of the Blue Dot at the humanitarian centre for refugees from Ukraine in Przemyśl, Poland. Blue Dots are safe spaces along border crossings that provide children and families with critical information and services. Mobile phone in hand, she listens attentively as a caller speaks on the other side. She asks questions in Polish, and nods at the replies.

She hangs up and says, “We have a problem. There are no more free buses from here, the Przemyśl railway station, and the Ukrainian border crossing in Medyka.” She makes another call and leaves. She returns half an hour later, relieved: “Apparently it was all a false alarm.”

The Scouts mindset at work

Zofia, from Olesno, Poland, is a Coordinator for UNICEF inside the Blue Dot here. She first came to Przemyśl in a green-beige shirt adorned by coloured patches and a neckerchief, the distinctive uniform of the Scouts* – an organization she had been part of since she was seven.

Zofia, a Scout since she was seven, uses strategies learned from her experience in the youth organization to help refugees at the accommodation center.
UNICEF/UN0644133/Le Lijour
Zofia, a Scout since she was seven, uses strategies learned from her experience in the youth organization to help refugees at the accommodation center.

“The fun games and the thrill of learning how to survive in nature made me interested in the Scouts,” says Zofia. “Then, my motivations changed.”

At 15 she became a Scout leader, working with children and young adolescents between 10 and 13 years old. The experience taught her how to plan, coordinate, and accomplish tasks on time.

“Us Scouts have a specific mindset that we use to solve problems. We see separate objects as parts of something bigger. When building a camp, we need to figure out how all materials fit together to assemble what we need.”

This is part of the approach she uses here at the humanitarian centre. When she hears about an issue faced by a refugee, Zofia breaks the problem down into smaller steps, decides on the best path, and reaches a solution.

From the Scouts to UNICEF

Zofia started to volunteer in Przemyśl on 15 March, three weeks after the war in Ukraine began. “I saw that I was needed here, so I just came. My Scout mentality pushes me to look for opportunities to help and be useful, occasions to grow and learn more. I had already volunteered for smaller events, so I felt that I could contribute here.”

She was first posted at the driver registration point to make sure that those who want to offer rides are there to truly help. Zofia then became a shift manager for other Scouts, coordinating activities at the humanitarian centre. Because of her coordination and people skills, she got noticed by UNICEF personnel who offered her to join UNICEF’s mission of caring for children and their families.

“Now I work at the Blue Dot where UNICEF provides information about safety, transport, and accommodation to refugees. We also do referrals, linking those that need additional support with the services offered both inside the humanitarian centre and by Polish municipalities.”

The Blue Dot in Przemyśl, Poland managed by UNICEF, UNHCR and other partners serves as a hub for children and families fleeing the war.
UNICEF/UN0644130/Le Lijour
The Blue Dot in Przemyśl, Poland managed by UNICEF, UNHCR and other partners serves as a hub for children and families fleeing the war.
The Blue Dot in Przemyśl, Poland provides a safe space and equips refugees with information on how to protect themselves while on the move.
UNICEF/UN0644132/Le Lijour
The Blue Dot in Przemyśl, Poland provides a safe space and equips refugees with information on how to protect themselves while on the move.

Unity is strength

“The stories we hear from the refugees are hard to listen to at times. Some lost their families and others are survivors of violence. Almost all UNICEF social workers at the Blue Dot are Ukrainian, and some are refugees themselves, so as one of the few Polish people here I am among the few that can help with cases that need support from the Polish authorities.”

“Unaccompanied and separated children and third-country nationals do not have a Ukrainian passport and cannot access the same free services as Ukrainians. With them, we try to do our best by mobilizing all the organizations and entities that can help in finding a solution.”

Zofia and Alisa, a UNICEF social worker work together in the Blue Dot in Przemyśl, Poland to find solutions for children and families needing assistance.
UNICEF/UN0644131/Le Lijour
Zofia and Alisa, a UNICEF social worker work together in the Blue Dot in Przemyśl, Poland to find solutions for children and families needing assistance.

Zofia thinks the partnership between the Scouts and UNICEF brings added value to the response. “Now we have clearer operational structures and professionals who worked in various humanitarian crises in the past and are used to dealing with difficult cases. They support us and provide us with guidance and technical expertise, which is extremely helpful.”

 

*Between 1 April and 15 May, under the partnership between UNICEF and the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM), 2,070 volunteers from WOSM have provided critical and life-saving information, as well as emergency food, water, and hygiene supplies to over 443,930 Ukrainian refugees in six host countries, thus galvanizing the power of youth engagement to address the needs of refugees fleeing the war. (UNICEF Humanitarian Situation Report 11, Refugee Response in Neighbouring Countries)

About the World Organization of the Scout Movement

Scouting is the world’s leading educational youth movement, engaging millions of young people to be active citizens and create positive change in their communities. The Scout Movement is made up of more than 57 million Scouts, including 2 million who are active in the European Scout Region. The role of the Region is to support its 40 Member Organizations across Europe empowering the development of young people in achieving their full physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual potential as individuals and responsible citizens.

Find out more at: scout.org/europe

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