What does the name “NOIVA” stand for?
NOIVA comes from the Portuguese word for “bride”, a short word that is easy to pronounce in many languages, has not been used by any other organization, and has an appealing sound. And it has an important symbolic meaning, because “bride” stands not only for purity and beauty but also for joy and passion. Seeing a bride is always a touching moment, and she’ll invariably put a smile on the faces of those around her. The NOIVA foundation has adopted these values as a way of promoting transparency and fairness, incorporating them enthusiastically in its humanitarian mandate of inspiring others and prompting them to take action.
Why and since when has NOIVA been active in the Middle East?
Some members of the managing committee have been cultivating friendships and contacts in several Middle Eastern countries for many years. In view of the crisis in Iraq, Syria and the surrounding countries, a pioneer team went to Jordan in May 2014 in order to study the options for doing humanitarian work in the area. In the following August, a small team set off to establish itself in the capital. In less than a year, it managed to reach not only countless refugees, but also local families in need. As part of a next step, NOIVA carried out a large-scale project with 140 volunteers, mostly from Switzerland, in December 2014. They were quickly able to find enough local helpers who were willing to act as interpreters. The scope of the work in Jordan has expanded since then, and NOIVA is now regularly active in the region.
How does NOIVA finance itself?
The foundation relies entirely on donations, and the administrative work is therefore kept to an absolute minimum. Only a handful of staff members are on salary: One person works four days a week at the NOIVA office to handle complex communications, coordination and organizational tasks, and three persons work full-time (at the standard local rate) as a small team based in Jordan. All other members work as volunteers – for example the PR team in Switzerland, which is responsible for all the media and public relations work, and also the Jordanian helpers who work onsite as interpreters. Those who participate in NOIVA’s projects must cover their own costs for travel and accommodations. This enables NOIVA to make the lion’s share in donations available as aid to refugees.
What kind of work do the NOIVA teams usually do in Jordan?
Regular onsite activities mainly involve three areas:
- Family help: Our teams seek to establish personal contact with refugee families. Regular house visits are very effective when it comes to helping – for example by providing food, baby food, diapers, hygiene items, clothing, and blankets. The NOIVA team is also often needed when medical problems crop up. For example, they arrange hospital, doctor or dentist visits and cover the costs for patients who have no money. They also offer their friendship to uprooted refugee families, something that often proves to be invaluable. Showing love, spending time together, and providing care has an unimaginable effect on those in need, and seeing the response to acts of solidarity and compassion is often overwhelming.
- Children’s program: NOIVA pays particular attention to the weakest members of society. On the streets and squares of cities, countless children and young people are looking for all kinds of ways to spend their time. Many of them have been traumatized by the war, while others come from poor families. Boredom and a lack of orientation are often only all too apparent. NOIVA team members therefore make it a point to stop by regularly to spend a few hours doing sports, playing games and having fun with children and young people, and many friendships have been formed this way. Whenever there is an opportunity, NOIVA will also support local schools, for example by holding creative workshops.
- Organization: Besides these core activities, NOIVA team members also help those at the Swiss office to plan and coordinate larger projects, which take place several times a year. They are responsible for arranging accommodations, transportation and meals, and for establishing and maintaining important contacts with the local authorities, heads of refugee camps, doctors, Jordanian helpers, interpreters, and others. They will also coordinate the various activities and put together a detailed program.
What does participating in a NOIVA project involve?
All projects in which volunteers can participate are led by the local NOIVA teams. They generally last at least two weeks at a time, but can vary considerably, depending on the type of work.
- Projects in cities: These projects offer almost unlimited possibilities to support refugees, because the official aid programs have virtually been put on hold right now, and families without an income are therefore largely left to fend for themselves. Here, regular activities include making house visits, providing food and outpatient medical care, eye care and glasses, repairing and improving living conditions, advising women and providing maternity care, as well as offering programs for children. The aim is to try to reach those who would otherwise not have a safety net, and providing not only material but also moral support often makes all the difference.
- Projects in refugee camps: NOIVA has so far managed to carry out several projects in each of the camps for Syrian, Iraqi and Palestinian refugees. The program includes cultural elements (e.g. theater, dance), sports weeks (e.g. unihockey, handball), creative workshops (e.g. crafts, painting), as well as computer courses. Although those living in refugee camps more or less have what they need, they generally are happy to have some variety in their lives – and like getting attention tremendously. NOIVA aims to provide those participating in the programs with a sense of esteem, to boost their self-confidence, and to encourage them to become proactive.
Depending on the timing, participation in projects can involve working in urban neighborhoods, refugee camps, or at several locations. It can also happen that a particular program needs to be changed at short notice.
What are the long-term goals of NOIVA?
For a lasting positive effect to take hold, people must first find ways to help themselves. The Middle East region needs to become stronger economically, for example through investments. Creating additional jobs is therefore of particular importance. Material relief through economic progress in turn will have a positive effect on the region and contribute towards a more peaceful existence among the people there. The aim is to find ways of reversing the vicious cycle that has been observed in the political, economic, and social realty in the region in recent decades.