Dubrovnik, Croatia: Friday 16 to Sunday 18 October 2009

«Stress awareness and management. Do we practise what we preach?»

The 2009 Annual Forum of the European Network for Psychosocial Support (ENPS) was held in Dubrovnik, Croatia from Friday 16 to Sunday 18 October. The title was "Stress awareness and management. Do we practise what we preach" and the overall topic was staff and volunteer support.



ENPS AF09 dubrovnik-harbour
Harbour of Dubrovnik (klick on picture to enlarge)


Delegates from the following 25 National Societies participated in the forum: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and Uzbekistan.



Group foto Annual forum 2009, Dubrovnik, Croatia (klick on picture to enlarge)

In addition, representatives from the IFRC Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support and the ERNA network were also present.

The programme included many speakers, who gave interesting talks on various topics such as the support for the public in Iceland after the financial crisis, as well as the EU project on resilience (http://www.informedprepared.eu/). Furthermore, there were group discussions in the European café on the topic of resilience.

Sigrudur Thormar from the Icelandic RC gave a talk on volunteer support. Sigrudur underlined the necessity to gain more knowledge on what creates complaints and growth in volunteers, in order to be able to match programmes to this knowledge.

Prof. Dean Ajdukovits described the TENTS network that has created very interesting and important guidelines on psychosocial support (http://www.tentsproject.eu/).
Participants were also formed into three workgroups to discuss:

  • what National Societies do with regard to volunteer and staff support
  • what is done in a crisis situation and 
  • what they view as the benefits and challenges of volunteer and staff support.
ENPS AF09 workgroup1
The workgroups in progress (klick on picture to enlarge)
ENPS AF09 workgroup2

The results of the discussions revealed that although participants thought that volunteer and staff support is very important, not many National Societies have formalised programmes, particularly not for everyday support; more is done in crisis situations.
Participants saw benefits for the organisation such as: less turnover; improved capacity building; improved efficacy; improved service for beneficiaries; more resilience; and becoming a self-supportive and self-aware organisation.
With regard to the challenges of volunteer and staff support, participants mentioned: a lack of acceptance in the teams; a lack of acceptance in the organisation; and a lack of resources and time.

Therefore, from the workgroups it was concluded that volunteer and staff support should acknowledge the following:


ENPS AF09 workgroup3
(klick on picture to enlarge)
  • Awareness raising
  • Selection
  • Training
  • Team leadership
  • Teamcohesion
  • Working conditions
  • Management
  • Peer support
  • Debriefing, defusing, one-to-one support
  • Emotional and practical support
  • Evidence concerning predictors of complaints and growth.

The concept of managing volunteers was also addressed by two speakers: Gerry Foitik from the Austrian RC and Hugo Geuvens from the Belgian RC (Flemish community); they reiterated the importance of the contribution of every volunteer being acknowledged and the need for them to be appropriately selected, trained, managed and supported by their National Society.


In the General Assembly, a representative from the Irish Red Cross was nominated as a candidate for the steering group. Furthermore, we discussed about financing the forum and how to make processes of financial support more transparent to everybody.


Steering Committee

ENPS AF09 Steering-Committee
from left to right: Peter Kaiser, Moya Wood Heath, Koen van Praet, Sanja Pupacic, Johann Thoroddsen, Lena Tynnemark, Lilia Chibisenkova, Diana Prados; Barbara Juen (klick on picture to enlarge)


For downloading the report as a printable document please go to the download section.

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