Code of conduct

In keeping with its vision and values, Medical Volunteers International is committed to maintain the highest degree of ethical conduct. These guidelines highlight key principles on professional ethics, integrity, acting as a representative, and safeguarding. It overarches all of MVI’s policies and procedures. It is designed to prevent wellintended actions from having negative outcomes for beneficiaries, MVI and volunteers, including negative media coverage and legal issues. Underlying all the work of MVI is the principle of “Do No Harm”.
In order to do that, there are certain commitments and expectations of you, as a volunteer, and of us, as an organisation. These guidelines applies to all volunteers of Medical Volunteers International (MVI) and employees. By agreeing to volunteer and work with MVI you agree that you have read and understood all of the following and that you will abide by them. Volunteers are expected to carry out their volunteering within the terms agreed, within the law, and the organisation’s policies and procedures, and to act within MVI’s standards of behaviour. Failure to abide by any of these can lead to termination of the volunteer invitation with immediate effect or be punished. These guidelines may be amended by MVI from time to time, and the up to date versions will be communicated to volunteers.
Anyone who has concerns or suspicions regarding violations of the MVI guidelines or knows about incidents is obliged to report them immediately. Also if you are concerned about the effect of your own or any other volunteer’s actions regarding the safety of our mission and/or the mental wellbeing of any beneficiary, point of contact or volunteer please come forward and discuss the matter with your coordinators or the MVI board in Hamburg. The contact person for this is the volunteer coordinator at MVI head office Hamburg. or

All information about violations of the guidelines is treated confidentially. Nobody who reports violations with
honest intent or gives indications of violations has to fear disadvantages or other consequences. This applies even
if the report or notice turns out to be unfounded. Deliberately false accusations are not tolerated.

Violations of the guidelines can result in disciplinary measures up to the immediate termination of the
cooperation. MVI reserves the right to sue for damages and to report criminal offenses in compliance with the
applicable law.

MVI’s commitments

  • MVI does not tolerate any form of discrimination by its employees or contributors, whether it is on the grounds of sex (or gender), sexual orientation, marital status, race (including colour, nationality, caste or ethnic or national origin), language, religion or belief, culture, political views, age or disability under European harassment legislation.
  • Bullying and harassment of any employee, volunteer or beneficiary is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. This policy applies to all MVI staff, volunteers and guests (including, for example, visiting donors, journalists or photographers). This includes (but is not limited to): unfair treatment; ridiculing; spreading malicious rumours; exclusion; victimisation; unnecessary touching; offensive and suggestive remarks; threats; intimate
    questions; jokes, teasing, nicknames, ridicule or insults which relating to protected categories; inappropriate comments about dress, appearance, physique, or abilities; offensive gestures. Managers and coordinators must ensure that they act immediately if they become aware of any bullying or harassment, and support individuals who complain. If you are subject to bullying or harassment you are strongly encouraged to make it clear to the harasser that the conduct is unwelcome. This should be done promptly and clearly. You should also raise the issue with your coordinator or their manager. Issues will be managed in line with the Resolving Differences/Complaints Policy. The issues will be investigated. As far as is reasonably practicable to conduct a fair investigation, confidentiality will be preserved. If the investigation finds that there is a case to answer, disciplinary action or a volunteer status review will be carried out. The penalty will depend on the particular facts of each case. Serious incidents of harassment, intimidation or bullying can lead to termination.
  • Any kind of inappropriate, violent or insulting language that is directed at others – in verbal or written form – is not permissible. This also applies to the use of social media.
  • MVI is not affiliated with any political parties or denomination. Contributors and employees must behave accordingly, which means, that they do not participate in any political or religious activities, during their work for MVI. This restriction does not apply to private participation in the aforementioned activities. Employees and participants must ensure, that the participation in such activities are not perceived as affiliated with MVI by any third party, but as private.
  • Employees and contributors are dedicated to set up an environment that successfully prevents abuse. Any form of sexual assault, meaning sexual exploitation, sexual abuse or sexual harassment is prohibited. MVI condemns any kind of exchanges, be it in form of money, goods, services or favours for sexual services. Employees and contributors are prohibited from entering close relationships with MVI beneficiaries/wards.
    This includes sexual, romantic, emotional, financial and business relationships. Employees and contributors are also not permitted to grant non-medical help in form of financial support to the beneficiaries/wards directly. All employees and volunteers are asked to be sensitive to the feelings of their colleagues. Everyone reacts differently, and what may not be offensive to one person may be offensive to another.
  • The purpose of safeguarding is to protect people, particularly children, at risk adults and beneficiaries, from harm that may be caused through contact with MVI. It applies to all MVI staff, coordinators, volunteers and guests (including, for example, visiting donors, journalists or photographers). MVI has a zero-tolerance policy towards abuse and other harmful behaviours. All MVI staff, coordinators and volunteers have a duty to ensure activities comply with this policy and report any potential breaches immediately – see ‘how to report a safeguarding concern. Failure to uphold the policy may result in immediate dismissal or termination of the invitation to volunteer.
  • MVI reserves the right to request proof of its suitability at any time in the form of an origin check of your country of origin or place of residence issued in the last 12 months together with an identity card (passport, driver’s license).

MVI staff, coordinators and volunteers must not:

  • Physically punish or discipline children or vulnerable adults.
  • Do things for children or vulnerable adults of an intimate, personal nature that they can do for themselves.
  • Act in ways intended to shame, humiliate, belittle or degrade children or vulnerable adults, or otherwise perpetrate any form of emotional abuse.
  • Engage in sexual activity with children regardless of the age of consent locally.
  • Sexually abuse or exploit at risk adults.
  • Develop relationships with children or vulnerable adults that could in any way be deemed inappropriate, exploitative or abusive.
  • Exchange money, employment, goods or services for sexual activity. This includes any exchange of assistance that is due to beneficiaries.
  • Use language or behaviour around or towards beneficiaries that is inappropriate, harassing, abusive, sexually provocative, or demeaning.
  • Invite beneficiaries into their home.
  • Discriminate against, show differential treatment to, or favour particular beneficiaries to the exclusion of others.
  • Engage in any commercially exploitative activities with beneficiaries including child labour or trafficking.
  • Use any computers, mobile phones, video cameras, or social media to harass children or vulnerable adults.
  • Access child pornography through any medium.

MVI staff, coordinators and volunteers must:

  • Ensure that they are informed of the relevant child protection authorities in their location and that the contact details of these authorities are readily available through their Coordinator or via direct contact.
  • Ensure wherever possible that when working with individual children, another adult is present – ideally their parent or another caregiver.
  • Ensure that images taken of children are accurate and respect children’s privacy and dignity. Children must be adequately clothed in images. Sexually suggestive poses are prohibited.
  • Obtain informed consent from children and their caregivers before taking photographs of them, except under exceptional circumstances where acting in the best interest of the child. Caregivers should be informed of how images will be used.
  • Restrict use of images of child beneficiaries to professional, respectful, awareness-raising, fundraising, publicity, and programmatic purposes.
  • Ensure that any image or recorded case history of a child does not place him/her at risk or render him/her vulnerable to any form of abuse.
  • Respect principles of confidentiality, abide by data protection protocol, and only share children’s personal information on a need-to-know basis.
  • Make all effort to minimise risk of harm to child beneficiaries.
  • MVI staff, coordinators, volunteers and guests are duty-bound to report any potential breach of this policy they observe while with MVI. They should do so through one of the following avenues, depending on what they deem most appropriate and what they feel comfortable with:
  • Report the concern to the MVI field coordinator in the location of work, unless they are implicit in the potential breach
  • Report the concern to MVI’s board, unless they are implicit in the potential breach
  • Report the concern to the locally selected external whistleblowing contacts

MVI employees and contributors are not permitted to work order drive a vehicle under the influence of
alcohol and drugs. This also applies to other narcotics that impair the skills of employees and contributors to
carry out their work for or on behalf of MVI. The possession, distribution or consumption of illegal substances
while working with MVI or in its field of activity is not permitted. This includes vehicles rented by MVI, rented
facilities and buildings and the land which MVI uses.

Volunteer commitments

  • You will be prepared to work with male and female patients, across a diverse range of nationalities and backgrounds.
  • Demonstrate sensitivity for the customs, practices, culture and personal beliefs of our patient population in your clinical management and care.
  • Keep conversations and interactions with patients appropriate; for example, it is not appropriate to offer gifts, make promises, discuss your wealth and circumstance etc.
  • Bullying or harassment of any manner will not be tolerated. This means you will treat all people impartially and with respect, irrespective of nationality, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion, or political opinions.
  • You will not harm, children, young people, vulnerable adults or anyone that I come into contact with during the course of engagement with MVI, through action or omission. And report any concerns I may have about the welfare of a child or vulnerable person to the Coordinator or Board.
  • You will not engage in any illegal activities, unethical activities or any activities that contravene human rights. Volunteers must inform MVI if they have a criminal record in any country and the organisation reserves the right to conduct a criminal background check at any time.
  • You will be treated fairly and with respect, and if any difficulties arise with the organisation or your volunteering, MVI will help you resolve these. (See the Resolving Differences policy).
  • Communication between you, your team and your coordinator will be two-way, giving you the opportunity to share your thoughts and views.
  • We often work in non-clinical settings in order to reach the largest population in need.
  • You will complete a short induction before joining clinics.
  • Work in our clinics can involve long hours 5-6 days a week, to ensure we cover the medical needs of our beneficiaries.
  • If you commit to a clinic, you should respect the work schedule in order to avoid disrupting MVI’s operations. If running late for a shift, inform the coordinators as soon as possible.
  • You should bring the right kit and be fit to work. This includes wearing appropriate attire (shoulders, knees, and midriffs should be covered at all times), and minimal make up and jewellery.
  • You should always ensure there are a minimum of two, but ideally three (to include an interpreter/cultural mediator) team members in any clinic or setting with a patient (See Safeguarding policy).
  • Whilst the team often travel together, sometimes you may be expected to make your own way between clinics and should be prepared to work after dark. If you feel uncomfortable about this, we suggest selecting a peer buddy in the team and sharing journeys.
  • Both our beneficiaries and our translator team members interact with volunteers who come and go throughout the year. This should be taken into consideration, along with their expertise and own refugee experiences.
  • You are not allowed to provide services or represent MVI in camps, rented accommodation or squats that MVI does not have an agreement with, without permission of camp authorities or coordinators.
  • You should not give advice, such as that relating to legal, accommodation or re-unification, or provide medical support, that you are not qualified to give. Please refer any such queries to the competent organisations and authorities.
  • You are not allowed to invite other individuals or organisations to engage in MVI’s work without the permission of a coordinator.
  • ensure I use MVI assets and resources entrusted to me in a responsible manner and account for all money and property. not use MVI IT equipment, software or e-mail and social media platforms to engage in activity that is illegal under local or international law or that encourages conduct that would constitute a criminal offence. Approved out of pocket expenses will be reimbursed in accordance with our expenses
  • maintain the confidentiality of all information I’m exposed to while working with MVI, including medical, legal and personal information. Referrals to other service providers must be made with the permission of a beneficiary and details should be kept to essentials.
  • ask the permission of any individuals to be captured in photos beforehand. And, in the case of minors, obtain parental permission.
  • ask permission from MVI coordinators before sharing my experiences with the media, or on social media or blogs, and make it clear in the post that the words are my own and are not representative of the organisation. Remember to maintain our beneficiaries’ confidentiality – any faces/identifying features in the photos (taken with permission) must be obscured and no names should be mentioned. You will also be asked to consent to photos with you in the being shared in our social media. You can find a detailed list here: Privacy Statement.
  • You are free to stop volunteering at any time.

Resolving Differences/Complaints Policy

If difficulties arise between members of the team, or an issue or complaint is raised, in the first instance informal
resolution should be sought with the persons involved directly, before a formal process is undertaken.

Informal Resolution
MVI encourages all issues between team members and coordinators and volunteers to be resolved informally
wherever possible. This can take the form of an organised conversation with another appropriate team member
taking the part of mediator. Actions, behaviours or standards can be agreed that will resolve the situation.

Formal Resolution/Complaints
In some instances, informal resolution may not be appropriate. For example, where an individual poses a threat to
the health or wellbeing of another, theft, safeguarding issues.

  • The complaint or issue should be placed in writing to the coordinator or their manager.
  • The coordinator or manager should reply within 2 days and organise investigation of the situation as soon as is reasonably possible. This will be undertaken by someone impartial.
  • Both parties should be invited to separate meetings, where the aim will be to find a resolution agreeable to both. You can choose to be accompanied to the meeting if you wish by a friend or colleague. Mediation face to face can then take place if appropriate.
  • If agreeing a course of action to address the issue is not possible and it violates the policies or values of MVI, the invitation to volunteer may be withdrawn (see Volunteer Status Review policy) or, should it involve an employee, they may be subject to the statutory disciplinary process applicable in their country.

Volunteer Status Report
MVI reserves the right to review your invitation to volunteer if you:

  • fail to comply with the policies and guidelines outlined.
  • break the laws of your placement country or there appears to be serious likelihood that you may do so.
  • you consistently or seriously fail to meet the criteria on which MVI selected you.
  • you either damage MVI’s reputation, or you put your own or other people’s well-being at risk.
  • The coordination and management team will discuss their concerns with you, and wherever possible, give
    you time to improve the situation before proceeding to formally reviewing your status. In some circumstances you may be asked to leave before a full status review, for example, for security or medical reasons.


  • You will be informed of the decision to review your status with a clear explanation and timeline.
  • An investigation of the circumstances, including your perspective will be collected, and you will be given an opportunity to respond to the information shared.
  • Where possible, someone not directly involved with the case will handle any investigation of the circumstances and decision on the outcome.
  • A decision will be made whether to uphold your volunteer status unconditionally or with certain conditions or whether to withdraw it, and this will be confirmed in writing.
  • Where concerns exist that a vulnerable person or child may be placed at risk or has been harmed, immediate suspension of volunteering will take place and the process may be accelerated and more detailed. And the relevant authorities will normally be notified.