When a young international student from Japan, with a minor drug offence, came to Volunteer Wellington seeking community work, the interviewer’s first thoughts were ‘what am I going to do with this one?’
The young man proved not to be a ‘fierce, tough customer’ but rather someone skilled and willing to give the community ‘a go’. ‘That’s the criteria,’ said the interviewer. ‘Whatever someone’s reason for coming in to find a volunteering role, they must be able to show willing.’
A referral was made to a local opportunity shop with brief explanation about the community involvement required; as well as the candidate’s goodwill. He started off in the back room with sorting and lifting. And then, with all the finesse and non-judgementalism of a ‘good practice’ volunteer programme, the newcomer was included in all staff discussion and training. As his confidence and ability grew so did the rapport he had with the volunteer manager.
Eventually his two-mornings a week position involved serving customers and gaining new knowledge of the needs and support available for the locals of the surrounding district. His studies are now complete and he has returned to Japan; but the friendship that developed with staff of the opportunity shop was so supportive and genuine that communication still continues via email.
‘In fact,’ said the interviewer, ‘this young man’s knowledge of aspects of community life in new Zealand are far greater as a result of his volunteering than if had remained only in the ivory towers of the university.’
The positive outcome from his volunteer seeking example, prompted by a legal requirement, should not overshadow the fact that more than 300 students annually – both local and international – do come through the offices of Volunteer Wellington, Volunteer Hutt and Volunteer Porirua without such a prompt. However like our Japanese student they have a mix of motives and priority weightings. All make sense; all have a right to involvement and participation in the community. As long as there is willing – and goodwill.
Volunteers are celebrated worldwide on 5 December International Volunteer Day. To mark the day for all Wellington volunteers – with as many students as possible included – there will be a lunch held on Friday 4 December at the offices of Volunteer Wellington between 12 noon and 1-30pm. Stories will be told by volunteers from ‘home and abroad’. Ring Volunteer Wellington on 499 4572 for more information or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Pauline H