Volunteer work in Rotterdam… impossible

A few months ago, during one of my occasional saunters into the public library, I discovered this group called Vrijwilligerswerk Rotterdam. I’ve always wanted to give a little back to the community, but not being a native Dutch speaker makes it more difficult, as most volunteer work calls for teaching Dutch. Besides that, I don’t drive and I don’t fancy venturing too far out of my neighbourhood. So obviously, my reach of available work is pretty small. But this means that it is pretty specific and should make me a near perfect match for anything that I do find.

I found this perfect match while trawling through the openings for volunteer work on their website. It was to help do grocery shopping for old people in the city centre, and only required 2-4 hours a week. This is perfect because: I don’t have to rearrange my schedule for this; I don’t have to speak fluent Dutch; and I like talking to old people. So I wrote to Vrijwilligerswerk Rotterdam to apply for the position. I listed the reasons I would love to help in this activity and why I am a perfect match. It was exactly like applying for a job, I even had to insert my CV!

After nearly an hour crafting a good letter and checking to make sure that I’d covered all bases, I sent it off. I figured I’d get a response within a few days – these foundations are probably understaffed – and maybe I could see them in person so they could gauge if I was a non-dangerous citizen.

After a week, I heard nothing, and as I had sent in the “application” via a form on their website, I didn’t have a direct email address to follow up with. More to the point however, this wasn’t a job where I could further my career or earn money, so it wasn’t high on my priority list to chase them.

It’s been about 6 months and I forgot all about it until early this week, when I saw an ad in the local paper from Voorleesexpress Rotterdam asking for volunteers to read to children from immigrant families who aren’t familiar with Dutch.

Another perfect match for me because: I’m always eager to help people who are less fluent in language since I understand their position; I like children, being the eldest of five; I love books and am always keen to encourage reading.

So I wrote to Voorleesexpress Rotterdam detailing, once more, why I would like to help in this activity and why I am a good match.

To be fair, it’s only been a day since I wrote to them, but not getting any response at all brings me back to the earlier time when I wanted to volunteer my time and energy into helping the community. I mentioned it this morning to Rik, and he got even more bothered by it than I was, and suggested I write a post about how I’ve been trying to reach out to people asking for help, and not getting any response in return.

I don’t know exactly why this is so… I can think of many reasons, some being: I am not Dutch (which is the answer to most questions); they are too understaffed to respond (but how does that answer the 6 months silence of Vrijwilligerswerk Rotterdam?); they have too many responses to their ad (highly unlikely, as the ad is placed in a local paper of limited reach and the neighbourhood is young or affluent, two sections of society who aren’t known to be particularly social-minded with their time).

I actually spend time crafting nice letters detailing my suitability for these volunteer activities, and not getting a response discourages me from applying to future requests.

If anyone else has had this experience, or even the opposite, it would be great to know about it.

Update: Voorleesexpress Rotterdam contacted me regarding volunteering and I went to see them. Unfortunately, during the meeting we realised that my Dutch skills would have to be higher than the level it is currently. The lady was very nice about my wanting to volunteer and even suggested other organisations which might have something for me, less language-reliant. So I’m happy with the response from Voorleesexpress Rotterdam 🙂

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