There are many reasons why you might want to give volunteering a shot. It is a great way to add more information to your CV, meet new people, improve your Dutch and, of course, find fulfillment in helping to contribute to a better society.
Living abroad can be very challenging, but volunteering can help making you part of a community, helping you feel integrated. And the good news is: there is a way of volunteering for everyone! You can for example coach other internationals finding a job, teach English, or just keep someone company. Ask around, because to give an example, in Ghent 1 out of 7 people are volunteering in their spare time.
Another good reason to start volunteering is that it adds more information on your CV. There is no shame in having a gap because moving to another country takes a lot of time and energy, but you might want to keep this to a minimal. By the way, did you know that even if you do not have all the required documents to work yet, you still are allowed to volunteer?!
Not convinced yet? We could go on and on about why volunteering is good for you. You get the chance to work for a cause you are passionate about, which benefits both your personal growth as the growth of the company. While looking for a job, it is a great way to gain more practical experience and building your network. Last, but not least, volunteering with a local organization that is solving a social problem, will help you learn more about the social, economic and political issues that a country is facing.
You might already have thought about volunteering, but never really knew where to begin. Here are some ideas on how to get involved.
Volunteers most commonly work within a legally recognized VZW (a non-profit organization). In order to know which organization would suit you, you can look through our suggestions below, you can do your own research online, or you could pay a visit to a “Vrijwilligerspunt”. All the big cities in Belgium have one. They will help you search their database and will even help you to connect with the organization. The ability to speak Dutch is not always required, so even if your Dutch skills are not yet on point, you can be a voluntary worker! Once, you have identified the organization you want to work with, the office can also help you review your contract.
If you live in Ghent and are looking to volunteer, you can also take a look at the Facebook group: “Expats give back: Ghent”. It lets members share requests and recommendations with each other, and equally allows local non-profit organizations to post volunteer opportunities.
There are thousands of organizations in Belgium where you can volunteer. Here you can find a brief selection of some non-profits worth looking at:
Refu interim wants to help newcomers integrate. They support them in their job hunt and building their social network. They motivate each newcomer to further develop their talents and to use them in the voluntary work they will be doing. They match non-profit organizations with newcomers, and as such, create a win-win situation for both parties.
Expats for UNICEF is a volunteer committee based in Brussels to raise awareness of UNICEF and support UNICEF Belgium’s campaigns. It organises fundraising activities, promotes awareness and supports UNICEF Belgium in its campaigns.
You can help them by joining as a volunteer or participating in one of their events.
The European Youth Portal is a European organization that offers opportunities for the European Youth. Voluntary work is one of the things they offer for youngsters between 18 and 30 years old. Take a look at their database for open vacancies.
There is an animal shelter in each city and there are many ways to volunteer there. You can either walk the dogs, help cleaning, take care of the animals etc.
CHS is based in Brussels and offers vital mental health services to English speakers in Brussels. Their 24-hour helpline is staffed by volunteers.
Serve the City is a global movement of volunteers showing kindness in practical ways to people in need. They partner with homeless shelters, refugee centres, orphanages… offering help and support. They are the connection between the good intentions and talents of people who could volunteer, and a meaningful opportunity to get involved.
Want to improve your Dutch a bit more? Or have cool topics to speak about during your voluntary work? Check out this list of movies to watch when learning Dutch!