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Migrant Volunteering Programme Launch

Tuesday 18 December 2018 – and co-inciding with International Migrants Day, is the official launch of Volunteer Nelson’s Migrant Volunteering Programme in conjunction with Multicultural Nelson Tasman. The programme, jointly funded by the Nelson City Council, has been designed to support migrants to connect with local people through volunteering.

The main aim of the programme is to help integrate those migrants who are feeling isolated or wanting to get to know Kiwis while doing an activity that has meaning for them. As the focus will be to work with those for whom English is a second language, the programme will involve cross cultural workers and interpreters.

The programme itself kicked off in September with initial introductions and discussions leading up to the first group activities taking place through November and early December. These included gardening with a group of Kiwi buddies at Founders Park, sewing together at the Tahunanui Community Centre and volunteering to assist at the Colour craze fun run. Construction activities are planned at TheMenzShed in Richmond in 2019.

These initial group volunteering sessions have gone really well and will continue into 2019 with Volunteer Nelson collaborating with community organisations to offer a varied programme of group volunteering events for our migrant community. This will lead on to further support to match individuals to other volunteering roles that interest them in the community.

Nicola Sutton, Chief Executive for English Language Partners New Zealand had this to say about Migrant Volunteering**:

Diverse skills, different cultural lenses, resilience gained by uprooting and resettling in a new location, and a keenness to fit in and be part of what is going on are just some of the benefits gained from involving newcomers. If community organisations want to meet the needs of an increasingly multicultural society it is critical to utilise the language skills and cultural knowledge of newcomers.”

Nicola also responded to an often asked question: ‘What are newcomers looking for from volunteering?’

It is evident that migrants and former refugees want to share their skills and knowledge, feel welcome and valued, have opportunities to gain cultural understanding about how things work in New Zealand, make friends and create networks, and gain new skills and access to that ever important ‘Kiwi’ experience that employers seek. Many of these reasons for volunteering are similar to other potential volunteers.”

Call to action: If you are new to New Zealand and would like to get to know local people through volunteering, or want to help support our migrant volunteers, or if you are an organisation that has a great group project idea that could do with a culturally diverse group of volunteers, Volunteer Nelson would like to hear from you.  Visit our webpage and get in touch with us at

Facts and stats – Did you know?

  • A large number of migrants volunteer! Our stats tell us that since 2016 Volunteer Nelson has had over 800 migrants sign up as volunteers.
  • Nelson is home to many migrants – Nelson has the third largest migrant population in New Zealand after Auckland and Wellington with 21 percent of Nelson’s population being overseas-born.
  • International Migrants Day takes place on 18 December, the day in 1990 when the UN adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. International Migrants Day is seen firstly as an opportunity to recognize the contributions made by millions of migrants to the economies of their host and home countries, and secondly to promote respect for their basic human rights. Making migrants’ voices heard is the common thread throughout International Migrants Day events.
  • MultiCultural Nelson Tasman is a non-government organisation which supports migrants, former refugees and people from minority ethnicities in the Nelson/Tasman region with their settlement process. It also promotes positive race relations through community education, ensuring people of all ethnicities feel empowered so that they can actively contribute to our community.
  • Cultural Diversity enriches our society and provides opportunities for economic growth, community development and international relationships. Even though we may have different ways of expressing ourselves through music, dance, food, celebration and worship, we have more in common as people than not.
  • How new migrants engage with volunteering: according to research by VNZ in March 2018, 91 migrants participated in an online quantitative survey.  The key insights from the survey include:
  • Timing: 1 in 3 migrants volunteered in first 12 months of their arrival.
  • Outreach:Ethnic groups have different ways of finding out about volunteering,
  • (e.g. 67% of European migrants found out via family/friends, whilst 43% of Filipinos found out via volunteering websites).
  • Motivations:Respondents were more likely to be motivated to volunteer to contribute to society or meet new friends that gain local work experience.
  • Benefits:Respondents noted that volunteering benefits them by offering a sense of contribution (71%), opportunity to learn new skills (61%), and a sense of belonging (59%).
  • Barriers:The most common barriers to volunteering included a lack of time, not knowing where to source reliable information, and volunteering in an inconvenient location.
  • Positive view:7 out of 10 migrants would recommend volunteering to others.

** The quotes from Nicola Sutton, Chief Executive for English Language Partners New Zealand were taken from the blog post at

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