Volunteering anyone?

Volunteering anyone?
Japanese fluency is required by most groups for event, client and office support, but many organizations working internationally, such as Human Rights Watch Japan and JEN (formerly Japan Emergency NGOs), also need people with English-language skills, particularly for communications, fundraising, outreach and PR. Some, such as Amnesty International Japan and OXFAM Japan, have specific groups for volunteers who may not be fluent in Japanese but want to contribute to the organizations’ missions. Amnesty International Tokyo English Network (www.aitenjp.org/), for example, is an active local chapter of Amnesty International Japan. The OXFAM Japan International Volunteers Group (www.oxfam.jp/en/) organizes its own monthly events while also supporting OXFAM Japan campaigns.

Skills in other languages are also in demand. Both Multicultural Center Tokyo (www.tabunka.jp/tokyo/) and Polaris Project (www.polarisproject.jp/) are always in need of people with Chinese or Korean skills to help with outreach, event support or running workshops in other languages.

Organizations such as the Tokyo Multicultural Center and JEN have monthly introductory meetings for potential supporters. These introduce the organization, their needs and how to get involved. JEN’s upcoming sessions have been set for Feb. 13, Mar. 12 and Apr. 17, and you can sign up by writing to info@jen-npo.org with your contact information and when you want to join.

Many of us are familiar with the need for funding, event and administrative help, but leaders from many groups have told me they specifically need volunteers with IT and outreach skills. Most may require bilingual fluency, but if you have a specialized skill you might be able to train staff or volunteers to make web sites, take care of finances or improve their outreach strategy. Leaders at Human Rights Watch’s Tokyo office and Doctors of the World Japan (www.mdm.or.jp/), for example, specifically need professional pro bono help with web site development, legal support, accounting and financial management.

For the young wanting to volunteer, age is no barrier. Kids can make a difference. Save the Children Japan (www.savechildren.or.jp/) has a youth group for which no specific skills are required, giving young people a learning opportunity while offering vital organizational support. Free The Children Japan (www.ftcj.com/index.html), made up of youth all over the world working to free children from harsh labour, is always looking for young people interested in setting up chapters at their schools.

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