10 Tips for volunteering

All of our volunteers come with a passion for helping others and a desire to make the world a better place, one person at a time. Each volunteer takes something different away from the experience. Some find life long friendships. Others learn something about themselves and their capabilities that changes their life. Many people simply find inspiration from the stories that are shared during the time spent together. We all have common struggles, mutual dreams and when it comes down to it we are all much stronger than we realise.

1. Hand gestures

“It’s like a game of charades”. Communicating with someone with no common language is a daunting experience when you’ve never done it before but you will be surprised at how much you can communicate without words, try it and see!

2. Google translate

If in doubt, use google translate, but be aware that many things get lost in translation, something as simple as ‘fish cakes’ can cause confusion.

3. Try it out

Don’t just expect people to learn your language, give it a go yourself. Even if you don’t get it right the first time (which you probably won’t) you making an effort will mean the world to your new friend, and give them something to laugh at for a while.

4. Smile

The universal sign of happiness, a smile can overcome a thousand obstacles. We want people to know we are here for them and this can be communicated by a simple friendly smile.

5. Coffee and cake

There is always a birthday to be celebrated or some other reason to eat cake. Sitting with someone and talking over a cup of coffee is what I would miss most if I was in another country. The small things are what make the biggest difference when you have been uprooted from all that you know.

6. Any other type of food

Not a week goes by without me trying a new food at Upbeat Communities. People love to share a small bit of their world with their new friends and food is the one thing we all have in common. Try something new and you might surprise yourself!

7. Friendship

Everything we do revolves around friendship. We want to see stronger communities where people get to know someone from a different culture and understand the struggles they come up against but also find common ground where we can share our joy and our tears.

8. Laugh

There is always something to laugh at whether it’s the lack of understanding, or the crazy extremes your hand gestures go to (I’ve seen people act out Psalm 23 by getting on the floor and bleating) a shared laugh is an amazing bond.

9. Cry

We hear some outstandingly brave stories through what we do and sometimes all your new friend needs is someone to hold their hand and cry with them. We can’t begin to imagine the pain experienced by many of the people we meet but we can stand with them and still be holding their hand when the tears have passed.

10. Do what you love

Volunteering isn’t about changing the way you live. You can do what you love and take others along for the ride. If you have a skill you can share it with others. If you take your children to the park, you can take another family with you. If you love a sport your new friend can join in too.

Wherever you are in your life and however capable you feel to make a difference, volunteering is easier than you think and more rewarding than you can imagine.

Emily Holden