Salome’s Story - Experience of Volunteering & Community Participation

Image: Salome (Left) with a student intern volunteering at a Kaleidoscope event.

Salome, Volunteer Secretary for the Kenya Australia Chamber of Commerce WA (KACCWA)

My name is Salome, and I work as a Marketing Administrator for the Kaleidoscope Initiative Program at the City of Stirling where I am charged with running monthly job readiness workshops for migrant women.

I volunteer my time as secretary for the Kenya Australia Chamber of Commerce WA (KACCWA) which seeks to strengthen the commercial relationship between Australia and Kenya. This has enabled me to connect with some amazing people while creating value for my country of birth. I have taken up other volunteering roles in the past; as a Fair-Trade Volunteer at an Oxfam Shop, a Research Assistant for Action Research Centre and as a Kaleidoscope Volunteer which is how I ended up landing my current job.

Volunteering is especially important for migrants as it is our first introduction to the Australian work culture and the beginning of network building.

You meet great people and get to learn valuable soft and technical skills. Through volunteering, I began to understand the importance of socialising  which was one area I particularly struggled with. The experience allowed me to grow my social skills in a low-pressure environment. Volunteering in practice means you keep showing up even without the incentive of a pay-check because the networks you make and the skills you develop will ultimately help you land that dream job! There is also the added satisfaction of making a difference in people’s lives.

New migrants may not value volunteering roles at first as their most urgent need is to secure a well-paying job to support themselves and their families which is completely understandable. However, volunteering is a crucial step to transition from ‘survival jobs’ into positions that match their professional international experience. It cannot be understated how important it is to seek volunteering roles that are in line with their profession.  This will help migrants to remain updated on the emerging technologies and changes within their industry.

New migrants tend to gravitate towards their own communities when settling down in a new area. It is normal to find comfort in what is familiar. Volunteering takes you out of that comfort zone and helps connect to people outside your culture. It is scary at first, but the experience is worth the first -day butterflies in your belly!

One of the scariest parts of volunteering in a new place is not knowing what to expect.

Volunteering organisations can help prepare new migrants for this by training them on the Australian work culture which is very different from many countries. In my country of birth, we have a very hierarchical system where managers are addressed with a sense of fear and deference. Volunteering enabled me to get accustomed to having very approachable managers where I learned to communicate my expectations and goals boldly without fear of being reproached.

Volunteering with Kaleidoscope was especially fulfilling for me as a former mentee. I was able to talk to new and potential mentees at job fairs who shared the same fears that I had had and encourage them. Working behind the scenes gave me a deeper appreciation of the team delivering this amazing program and I am very fortunate to now call them my friends and colleagues.

This story is a collaboration with the City of Stirling and is a VMA initiative funded by DSS. The VMA program is promoting inclusive volunteering, including for new migrants to Western Australia. For more information on volunteer management best practice and attracting new migrants to volunteering involving organisations, contact VWA.