‘Reflecting the community you are working in is paramount to your effectiveness’ says Glenda Martin, Outreach and Marketing Manager at Volunteering Canterbury.  Each month Volunteering Canterbury hosts a networking opportunity for Volunteer Co-ordinators and Managers and this month they will be welcoming Thi Phian, Manager of Diversity Support from Hagley Community College and Kevin Park to discuss ‘Supporting Volunteers from Diverse Cultures’.   While a survey from David Hall at AUT in May 2017 found that 49% of New Zealanders think we are welcoming to newcomers, the reality is that being a newcomer anywhere can be an isolating experience.  Making connections in a new community can be complicated by language and cultural barriers, and there is no doubt that volunteering is an excellent way to make connections and get to know your way around a new community.  The concept of volunteering is not necessarily one which newcomers are familiar with, however.  ‘And certainly’, says Martin, ‘the critical nature of volunteering in New Zealand – in terms of providing a wide range of services throughout the country and across all sectors – is often not well understood.’

‘Speaking recently to groups of newcomers from Korea and China’, Martin says, ‘was a good reminder of the extent of volunteering in New Zealand’.  Sharing figures which show volunteering involves nearly one million kiwis each year in the sport sector alone, along with figures on volunteer staff involved with essential services such as emergency and fire, and ambulance, really strikes a chord with newcomers.  For many, they would welcome the chance to get involved, it’s just knowing where to start.  ‘While we can help with that’, Martin says, ‘it’s also important that we support our organisations to include volunteers from these diverse cultures’.  For many newcomers, volunteering is the first introduction to a kiwi style ‘workplace’ and the role of not-for-profits in this introduction cannot be underestimated.  Through a range of networking and training opportunities, Volunteering Canterbury aims to provide information on a range of topics which include health and safety legislation, best practice, recognition and trends in volunteering.

The ‘Supporting Volunteers from Diverse Cultures’ Network meeting will take place on Thursday 17 August, from 1-2pm, at the St Albans Community Centre, Colombo Street, Christchurch.