Volunteering in Switzerland | A guide for Expats

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Did you know that around one third of the Swiss population give their time for worthy causes each year? Well, if you didn’t, then to all the newcomers and expats in Switzerland, here’s a heads up. The concept of volunteering is deeply rooted in Switzerland and many of the volunteers are extremely passionate about what they do and the causes they opt for.

Volunteering in Switzerland is a topic that I’ve been wanting to write on for so long, especially in link to our expat living section.

When it comes to volunteering for expats, there’s of course the intent of creating an actual impact via the work but it also helps a lot in your journey as an expat. In our article on Social Life in Switzerland, we touched upon the subject of Volunteering in Switzerland and today, we’re going to get into it and take you through all that you need to know. 

Volunteering in Switzerland | A guide for Expats | My Swiss Story
Volunteering in Switzerland | A guide for Expats | My Swiss Story

The Volunteering Scene in Switzerland

Like I mentioned, volunteering is a very common practice among the Swiss and there are many opportunities to volunteer as a newcomer. 

From animal welfare to urban gardening to food shelters, there are many organizations to choose from.  The key is finding the right one for you and the one you resonate with the most!

If you’re an expat, I’d really encourage you to explore different avenues of volunteering to get into the Swiss way of living once you’re all settled in. It can range from joining a choir, participating in tree plantation drives, teaching someone your mother tongue, picking up waste by the beach or lakeshore, helping out the elderly in a nursing home, etc. Basically, you can pick from a variety of options to  help other people, society and our planet.

Expert tip:

I would suggest picking up a volunteering activity in your canton itself. This will make sure you save up on the travel and put that effort into the cause. Apart from this, volunteering in your own canton also helps you in meeting like-minded people and build connections. 

Why should one Volunteer as an Expat? 

Apart from the very obvious reasons for volunteering – which is extending support and help to create a positive impact, there are a few brownie points that one gets when one volunteers locally:

  • You build meaningful connections:
    Trust me, I know how daunting and overwhelming it can be to move to a new country and build your social life from scratch…and disclaimer – you have to do this while managing your finances, home, work and family! During this time, volunteering can be a rewarding way to connect with others who share common interests.  In addition, the feeling of fulfillment and doing something good, does play a role in boosting one’s overall mental well being. 
  • You get a sense of purpose: 
    Lending a hand or volunteering can be a great way of getting a sense of direction and meaning in your new life as an expat. Often, people who have just moved to a foreign land, tend to feel disassociated with their passions and motives…so volunteering is a great way to channel those thoughts into something productive. This can be especially helpful  for non-working partners who find themselves with extra time on their hands and wish to fit into their new community.  
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Volunteering in Switzerland | A guide for Expats | My Swiss Story
  • You get to brush up your local language skills:
    Working with fellow volunteers who are native speakers can be a great way of getting a hang of the local language and encouraging yourself to learn more. You pick up certain words via conversations and those definitely stay with you…even if you’re not actively learning the language. If you’re not that comfortable with conversing with the locals yet in a foreign language…you can try out the English language volunteering groups to begin with, and then make your way. 
  • Last but not the least, like we said, it’s a Swiss thing! 
    Switzerland has a strong tradition of community participation and the Swiss have been active members of various volunteering organizations. So, if you are looking for ways to become a part of the local community (which you should), volunteering is a great way to do it. 

How to find the right area and organization for Volunteering? 

Now that you have the will to volunteer, you now have to think about what would make this kind of opportunity valuable to both you and the organization you would support…and based on that, select your area of interest.

Consider the following pointers: 

  • What gives you joy? 
  • Is there something you want to learn? .
  • What can you 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.
  • What’s your way of working? What would be your preferred work environment?  Checkout all possibilities within organizations like – Do you like working alone or in teams? Is the organization highly organized or is there chaos? All these questions will help you find something that you will find rewarding. 
  • How much time and effort can you commit? Figure according to your bandwidth.  As an expat, the transition always keeps you on the move and can be very hectic, so it’s best to choose and commit to a task or a schedule that you can actually do. 
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Volunteering in Switzerland | A guide for Expats | My Swiss Story

Where should you Volunteer? 

There are volunteering associations across the country, such as Swiss Volunteers, while Caritas offers varied opportunities, like running a language course for migrants and helping alpine farmers with the harvest. Meanwhile, you can also join city-specific organizations to help any cause.
Other than that, checkout websites like GGG Benevol, a  website that helps match volunteers with local organizations and supports the volunteer community in Basel. You can also join Facebook groups which regularly update on different volunteering activities, especially the groups of your canton. 
Christmas is a particularly the time when most people opt to volunteer: hundreds of men, for example, volunteer to dress up as St Nicholas to visit children in and around St Nicholas’ Day on December 6. Charities, such as Tischlein Deck Dich, which takes foodstuffs near their sell-by-date that have been rejected by retailers and gives them to those in need, are also in demand. For more info, check out this article.

I hope with the help of above mentioned pointers, you’d be able to navigate through the journey of Volunteering. Volunteering allows you to support good causes while meeting members of your local community and as expats, it is exactly what we all need. Lending a helping hand will bring you closer to the Swiss community and also help you build meaningful relationships along the way!

Are you looking to meet like minded women across Switzerland? Are you someone who’s trying to build their new business in Switzerland? Do you want to navigate your new life with ease? Then I’d suggest you bookmark – My Swiss Story (well right away)!

Read more such articles in our Expat living section.

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