I’ve spent my whole adult life working with non-profit organizations either as an employee or volunteer. So, when I moved to Basel (and after I got through the initial throes of settling in) I started thinking about how I could connect to organizations here.
While the landscape may look a little different, it turns out that there are many opportunities to volunteer as a newcomer. From animal welfare to urban gardening to food banks and even the Girl Scouts, there are many organizations to choose from. The key is to find the right fit for you.
Why Volunteer in Basel?
Yes, we all want to save the world but there are a few critical reasons why it’s worth volunteering locally:
Connection. It can be isolating moving to a new country and volunteering can be a rewarding way to connect with others who share common interests. In addition, research has shown that volunteering can improve one’s mental well-being overall.
Sense of purpose. Volunteering can provide a sense of direction and meaning, especially for non-working partners who find themselves with extra time on their hands and questions about how they fit into their new community.
German practice. Working with other volunteers who are native speakers (or learning German too) can be a great way of forcing yourself to practice your language skills. And don’t worry if you don’t speak German well (or at all), there are still opportunities for English and other language speakers.
It’s a Swiss tradition! Switzerland has a strong tradition of community participation. According to the Swiss Federal Office of Culture there are 80,000 to 100,000 associations (Vereins) in this country and about half of the Swiss population have been active members of at least one. If you are looking for ways to become a part of the local community, Vereins are a great way to do it.
Finding the Right Fit
Before diving in as a volunteer, take some time to think about what would make this kind of opportunity valuable to both you and the organization you would support:
What do you enjoy doing or want to learn? Passion is at the heart of the volunteer experience so aim to find a cause that you really care about or that does work that you enjoy. Or, consider it an opportunity to grow by learning about something new.
What can you offer? From students to stay-at-home parents to corporate CEOs everyone has skills they can offer. Make a quick list of what you are good at - be it baking, data entry, closet organization, citizen science, etc. - chances are there is an organization out there that needs what you can do.
In what kind of environment do you thrive? Non-profit (often volunteer run) organizations vary in their working environments. Make sure to consider the nature of the opportunity (i.e. working alone or in teams) as well as the nature of the organization (i.e. highly organized to controlled chaos), so that you can find something that you will find rewarding.
What can you commit? Free labor is great, but managing volunteers is a lot of work. Help yourself and the organization you want to support by being honest about what you can and cannot do. It does no one any good to say that you can commit to a task or a schedule unless you are able to actually do it.
Tap into Local Resources
Here are a few tools that can help you find the right volunteer opportunity for you:
GGG Benevol is a local organization that helps match volunteers with local organizations and supports the volunteer community in Basel. GGG Benevol is a partner in a broader Benevol organization which provides an online volunteer platform for all of German speaking Switzerland.
With over 2,000 members, the Volunteer Basel Facebook Group is another way to connect with local organizations who are looking for help.
Looking to join a broader community of volunteers? International Women’s Institute Basel may be a way to connect with other women and support local organizations.
More interested in sporting or cultural events? Check out Swiss Volunteers for opportunities in the region.
Of course you can also get involved with YBI Basel! We are looking for volunteers to help us map the city, write some interesting articles and generally showcase what Basel has to offer. For more information, look here!
Have other advice or resources for people looking to volunteer in Basel? Please post a comment!
Photo credit: Jessy Rone