Arriving here from South Africa I learnt very early that the Californians are very community orientated. Volunteering and giving back to the community stands at the top of their lists. I was amazed. Instead of finding a job, I found many volunteer opportunities. You are able to volunteer basically everywhere. If you want to get an insight into an organization you simply volunteer. Sometimes there is quite a process involved in getting a volunteer position, other times you just go along and help out. Some of my friends volunteered at Habitat , which is an organization that builds houses for less fortunate people in the community. You can try everything you alway wanted to try, such as tiling, roofing, plumbing etc. The ladies who participated will probably write another post.
I volunteered at the Bechtel International Center in the resource center. This was a great way to schedule my day and to start my ‘new life’. The Center has a nice little room with lots of information for spouses, post docs and scholars. You can get information from banks, to how to buy a car, to nursery schools, travel ideas and schooling. You can even take out books in your language and you can get maps. Swing by there, it’s a great resource.
Bechtel also offers, as one of their orientation tours, one whole morning where they introduce you to volunteer opportunities in the area. I went to a school and an environmental center. We also visited the United Nations Gift Shop in Palo Alto, which offers besides great gifts from all over the world, a great environment for volunteer work. The opportunities are vast.
People are usually very friendly and excited. Sometimes the organization which offers the opportunities do not have coordinators. So they tend to be a bit slow to respond. You just have to hang in there and really tell them that you want to get involved. Don’t take it personal, just go for it.
The German American Business Association is also a great way to volunteer. They are very excited about everyone who wants to help. In addition you get great exposure to the business environment in the Bay Area.
Tips & Insights:
- if you can’t or don’t want to work, there are many volunteer opportunities
- try something new, something you have never done before
- stay in touch with the people, they sometimes are a bit slow to organize volunteers
- open your eyes and ask, many people are willing to give you a volunteer opportunity