Volunteering as an expat – how you can make a difference
April • 19th, 2021
by Expat in the City Team
Making an impact as an expat through volunteering
Volunteering as an expat is a topic that has been close to our hearts ever since we started Expat in the City. We belief volunteering is a way to make a difference in the world, use your skills, time, passion and experience to make an impact; to start a ripple effect of good.
As an expat you are often looking for purpose, especially if you are an accompanying spouse and have more time on your hands than before. Volunteering is a great way to find purpose in your new hometown or country. It’s really a win-win situation, you do something good for someone or something else, that is also good for you. What’s not to like?
When we met Klem Kowalczyk, founder of yoga community Breathe and Live Yoga School we quickly found out she feels the same way about making an impact through volunteering. And not only does she feel passionate about the topic, but she also has a lot of experience both as a volunteer and as an expat in Germany.
The desire to share our combined belief that volunteering can make a real difference, even now during the pandemic, resulted in the decision to develop a webinar together about the topic. With the aim to inspire other expats and inform them about the possibilities that out there.
In March 2021 Klem hosted the first Expat in the City webinar ‘Volunteering as an expat: make a difference even now’ (we’ll let you in on a little secret: there will be another edition of this webinar later this year, date is still to be decided).
Volunteering as an expat: how you can make a difference
From the interest in the webinar, we could tell that there are a lot of fellow expats who are looking for ways to volunteer. Not only in Germany, but also outside Germany. That is why we wanted to devote an article to the topic, including the valuable information that Klem shared during the webinar.
“Everyone can make a difference. Everybody should try.” – Klem Kowalczyk
Why should you give volunteering a try? Good question! The answer is because YOU can make a difference. You can have an impact on the lives of other people, animals or the planet and also very importantly on your own life. Volunteering makes a difference. To others and ourselves.
Volunteering as an expat helps you to become part of a local community
When you are new to a place, volunteering helps you to make new (online) connections to your local community or perhaps to other expats facing the same challenges as you. It is a way to get to know people and find out what is going on in your new neighbourhood.
Volunteering as an expat helps you to develop (new) skills
Volunteering could help you to learn and practice German, but it can also help you to focus on those skills that you don’t necessarily use(d) in your job. Or perhaps further those skills that will help you advance in your job. The possibilities are endless. Use your skills, develop your skills and learn new skills, all the while you are making a difference to the world around you. What you know is of value to others!
Volunteering during the pandemic
Of course, a lot of local volunteering opportunities are temporarily unavailable due to the current covid-19 restrictions. Now more than ever, opportunities can be found online, as most things in our lives right now. Don’t be discouraged, there are still a lot of opportunities to do good and spend your time making an impact. At the end of this article, you will find a list of possible (online) opportunities. In all you do, please be safe!
Volunteering as an expat: tips from Klem Kowalczyk
Volunteering options for Germany
Vostel (no German required)
Klem: “I’m a HUGE fan of the Vostel.de platform. It is providing volunteering opportunities in Germany only. Just for Munich alone there are 244 opportunities at the moment, so there’s got to be SOMETHING that you will like and feel confident about helping. The best thing about this platform, is that it’s in English and... you can find opportunities in English as well, even if you don’t speak perfect German! All you’ve got to do is to insert your city or the skill you are after and listen to your heart.”
Nebenan (website in German)
Klem: “Connecting neighbors together and helping each others. Probably the best known neighbourhood network in Germany is nebenan.de, which connects around 1.4 million neighbors. Over there, the registered people can publish their own help offering or accept other’s help. And you can do this as well to connect with your neighbours! All you’ve got to do is to register, get verified and either post your offer to help or respond to a help request. Each one of us can do that and there’s no shame in writing in English neither!”
Gabenzaun (website in German)
Klem: “If we don’t want to be glued to our laptops for the whole day, we can open a gift fence! What is it? It’s an initiative that started in Hamburg and it means that you can hang on a fence food, warm clothes, toys, books that you don’t need any longer – all of that with a kind message attached for all of those who need those basic things. Then those in need can come to the fence and serve themselves if needed. The best part about it is that you can also engage neighbors and start the ripple effect in your own community. Just make sure that you have an explanation on the fence who it is for and how to contribute and pick items or use other fences organized in bigger cities.”
Triaphon (German required)
Klem: “Some of us do speak German on a sufficient level to help those who didn’t master this difficult language yet. Triaphon is a telephone emergency line connecting the volunteering language mediators with doctors, nurses and patients, to translate short telephone conversations and therefore enable the medical help, which can be even live saving. Triaphon offers a 24-hour telephone translation service for hospitals for Arabic, Farsi/Dari, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Turkish and Vietnamese. If you are able to translate in such situations yourself, it is worth taking a look at their website. All you’ve got to do is to pick up a phone from time to time.”
International volunteering options
Klem: “For all tech lovers, you’re going to like this one. Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers for visual assistance through a live video call. It might be eye-opening for many of us, who aren’t blind or low visioned: some basic things can be really challenging for those who don’t see well or at all, like reading the expiration date on a milk box. Whilst we can do it any time, others can’t and you can help. All you’ve got to do is to install the app and pick up a video call in case someone needs you and be their eyes for a moment to i.e. read the expiration date.“
Klem: “A portal of online volunteering activities, many that support women and young individuals. They currently have numerous COVID-19 specific virtual projects and you can search for volunteer opportunities per specific area: ranging from translation, art and design, writing and editing, advocacy, community organizing, technology development, and more. You can also pick up our region, i.e. the entire Europe. All it takes is that one, first step and then the right opportunity will find you.”
Klem: “I am a yogi myself and I thought one day, that it would be really cool if I could practice yoga for the right cause. I didn’t find anything like this around me, especially in English, so… I decided to be that one single drop and make some ripples around me. That's how I set up a Yogi community caring for the Planet, Breathe and Live Yoga School. One of the most frequent activities we’re doing that is are making a positive difference in this world is our daily yoga practice “Do Yoga Do Good”, where 50% of the prices go to the charity, that we chose collectively as a community every month.”
Want to know more about how to join a Do Yoga Do Good class? Visit the Breath and Live Yoga School website.
Do Yoga Do Good – special deal for expats in the City! Book any yoga class with the code #EXPATSVOLUNTEER and get 5 yoga passes for free to be used within the next month after booking.