Getting Involved

FEW’s Community Service Directory has information on organizations and about getting involved in community service. Here we have put together some tips for those of you just getting started.

Volunteering in Japan can be a rewarding experience allowing you to give something back to the community while acquiring new skills and meeting new people. People volunteer for a myriad of reasons ? to work with children, to use skills, to make friends, to have an impact on a problem, etc. ? so your first step is to decide your own personal priorities, possibilities and needs.

Community service is a serious dedication of time and effort towards the chosen organization. One should expect to
* Be ready to share skills and ideas
* Learn about an organizationfs priorities and needs
* Be open to learning new things
* Follow through on commitments

Meet people at events and attend volunteer orientation meetings.
There are so many events going on it would be a shame not to just find out what groups are doing by learning more about the problems and how nonprofit NGOs are tackling them. Go to volunteer orientation meetings and other events run by organizations doing work in your fields of interest. Events will tell you more about what they do and the people involved.

Making contact:
Talk to people in person. Donft send out a bunch of emails. Unfortunately, nonprofits, NGOs and local associations are usually too understaffed to deal with email enquiries effectively. Ask the people you meet about what the organizationfs needs are. You can learn more about the work, methods, vision and achievements by talking to and listening to people than you ever could from a website. Find out about their needs, if your skills are a match and if these are the people with whom you want to work.  

Volunteer your time: getting started.
Self-Assessment: Ask yourself 3 things
1. What are your relevant interests, skills and experience?
2. How much time do you have and how long do you want to work with a group?
3. What are your language and communication skills like?

Find out what they need:
Try to understand organizational goals and needs. Although some groups value sharing the mission over all else, organizations need skilled volunteers. Consider what you can offer to an organization: Do you have skills and/or experience in PR, fundraising, website creation, database, outreach, grant proposal writing, financial management or event coordination?

Possible volunteer roles and responsibilities:
There are many possibilities and depend on the organizationfs need, your skill-set and time availability. Among the many ways you can support community groups: event preparation, editing newsletters, translating reports, writing conference notes, answering the telephone, doing research, making PR materials, making an English brochure or webpage cleaning the office, teaching kids, fundraising, taking care of animals, counseling, training volunteers, making presentations to corporations, writing grant proposals, running a food drive c the list is limitless.

Communication skills
Whether or not you need Japanese language skills depends on the organization you are interested in. Many but not all groups require some level of Japanese. Many organizations working internationally need people with English language skills particularly for communications, outreach and PR. Other languages groups often need help with are Chinese, Korean, Thai, Portuguese and Spanish.

Some groups such Amnesty International Japan and OXFAM Japan also have specific groups targeting the volunteers who speak many not be fluent in Japanese but want to contribute to the organizations missions.

If you have your heart set on a particular group, but do not have confidence to contact them in Japanese, ask someone who speaks Japanese to go with you on your first visit. Have your friend explain that you would like to find a way to contribute ? based on their needs make suggestions for how they be able to use the skills you have.

Busy people can help too: other types of community service support
Perhaps your schedule does not allow you enough free time to commit on a regular basis, but there are other ways to contribute.  It is possible to have an impact through your company, network of friends, school or any group in which you are involved. Be innovative! Select a project and develop your own support program.
* Invite an NGO leader to give a guest presentation to your association members.
* Distribute nonprofit NGO event materials and pamphlets to company staff or your association members
* Have a party that doubles as a mini-fundraiser ? introduce an issue and organization over dinner and drinks; guests pay a gparty donation feeh.
* Make donations of items organizations need such as computers, food or office supplies
* Purchase products groups sell ? for example fairtrade food items make good gifts or purchase organic cotton clothing for yourself.

For those with very little time:
Becoming a member, making cash donations and purchasing products online are ways of contributing without taking too much time away from your family and work.  

Make the commitment.
Select a group or project and then stick with it. Whether as an individual or group, for one event or one day a week the key is to follow through. Community service is not paid but for the people in need your work is valuable. For the e people we are trying to help, not showing up due to a hangover will have an impact.

You will not only make a difference in peoples lives but you may also learn new skills, develop an deeper understanding of issues, while meeting new people and gaining a sense of satisfaction.