Volunteer Essentials

Please note that this pathway has been replaced by the Volunteer Essentials Pathway. If you want to continue your learning we recommend that you to enroll in this pathway instead, as it has an improved layout and updated learning resources.


Welcome to the Volunteers Essentials Package. This training package is aimed at individuals worldwide who do not self-identify as professional humanitarian workers and have other roles in daily life but may be a first responder and/or volunteer their services when a crisis happens.

We would ask that if you work through all or part of the package that you provide feedback via this survey in order to help us improve the experience and the learning provided

Volunteers Essentials is an introductory course designed to equip individuals with the necessary knowledge and skills to work effectively and responsibly in humanitarian contexts while taking care of their own well-being.

Volunteers Essentials Package consists of six themes that explore the key knowledge and skills that volunteers need in order to better navigate humanitarian situations, remain accountable to affected populations and abide by humanitarian principles and standards.

The six themes are:

  Understanding humanitarian contexts and applying humanitarian principles
  Understanding the aid system and coordination in humanitarian settings
  Managing oneself in a pressured and changing environment
  Risk assessments and operating securely at all times
  Communicating in times of crisis

Within each of the six themes there are between 2 and 4 topics that address aspects of skills and knowledge to attain the relevant competencies. The topics are built using existing on-line courses. A diagram setting out the structure of the package is below.

A representation of the six sections of the Volunteers Essentials pathway

You can study this package as set out, or you can navigate your own route through it depending upon your existing knowledge and skill set. The content is all on-line, and there are useful documents embedded in the topics/modules, although sometimes we have provided additional resources too. We expect the whole package to take 7 hours of study. It is not expected that you will study the package in one go, but break it up into manageable study sessions to suit you.

By completing this package you will be able to:

1. Understand the importance of adhering to core humanitarian principles and protection standards in an emergency
2. Understand the main stakeholders in a crisis and existing coordination mechanisms
3. Have an understanding of best practices to operate effectively and safely in a humanitarian context
4. Be aware how to manage oneself effectively in a humanitarian context (well-being/resilience) and to keep others safe
5. Be aware of the impact you can have and what is means to be answerable to crisis-affected people
6. Be able to find further resources on either technical matters or humanitarian principles and protection
7. Be able to communicate responsibly with crisis-affected people and the media, including social media.

These are the core learning outcomes of the package, but each topic/module will have its own learning outcomes to give you a more detailed steer on the learning you can expect from each topic.