Just do it – Becoming a volunteer

Landing in a new town is a daunting experience. And feeling alienated and out of place can taint your whole stay. Or you can worm yourself into a group of unsuspecting people and become part of something fun. Something bigger than you.  Have a laugh and make some real friends.

Volunteering is something the Dutch do really well. Many people help out somewhere in their spare time, performing a wide range of functions. So why not us ex-pats? Whatever you’re good at, chances are there’s an organisation that needs you. The functions range from financial management to offering companionship and everything in between. It doesn’t matter if you only have an hour a week, or a day a month to spare.  You’ll find something you enjoy and the benefits are enormous.

I wanted something local and creative where I could use my hands. So I ended up with the Wageningen LEEFfestival .  The LEEFfestival is an institution in Wageningen, where it has been around for more than 20 years. On the 18th and 19th of June 2010, the town centre will once again be taken over by street performers, artists, actors, singers and musicians. A burst of colourful chaos, a troupe of wonderful weirdo’s.

LEEFfestival gives me the opportunity to create freely. I get to build street decorations, or paint and create costumes and games.  It’s also my weekly chance to practice my Dutch and to grapple with the very unique Dutch sense of humour.  And to hear about local stuff to do and see which I won’t find in any guidebooks. 

So why not try it? To find a volunteer job, it’s best to chat to the people at the Meldpunt offices (Stationstraat 84, Wageningen). They will help you find something suitable, and have no problem doing so in English. Or if you’re down with Dutch, register to become a volunteer online at http://www.vrijwilligwageningen.nl.