Community Scoop

Wasted talent: migrant volunteers

nicola_2018-200x300Nicola Sutton

Chief Executive | English Language Partners New Zealand

Forty percent of Auckland residents were born outside New Zealand. Other regions also have growing numbers of migrants and former refugees, many whose first language is other than English. Diverse skills, different cultural lenses, resilience gained by uprooting and resettling in a new location, and a keenness to fit in and be part of what is going on are just some of the benefits gained from involving newcomers.

If community organisations want to meet the needs of an increasingly multicultural society it is critical to utilise the language skills and cultural knowledge of newcomers.

International Volunteer Day, celebrated on 5 December, creates an opportunity to consider how mainstream community and voluntary sector organisations can engage this large and growing potential volunteer workforce.

So, what are newcomers looking for from volunteering? English Language Partners’ ethnic advisory group recently discussed this question. Their opinion was that migrants and former refugees want to share their skills and knowledge, feel welcome and valued, have opportunities to gain cultural understanding about how things work in New Zealand, make friends and create networks, and gain new skills and access to that ever important ‘Kiwi’ experience that employers seek. Many of these reasons for volunteering are similar to other potential volunteers.

My challenge to community sector leaders; how well does your organisation advertise opportunities, engage, welcome, utilize, and support newcomer volunteers? What changes could enable you to be more effective at this?


This blog has been contributed by a member of the ComVoices network. The views presented here are not necessarily those of ComVoices.

ComVoices is a Wellington based network of national community and voluntary sector organisations. It was established so that sector organisations would have a more powerful voice at Government level and in the community.

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