Volunteer Canada shared this excellent blog post about engaging newcomers to Canada in volunteer opportunities, which made us think about our mentoring recruitment practices.
There are many unique opportunities to engage newcomers, immigrants, and refugees as mentors.
If you have not done so already, please check out our toolkit on Mentoring Immigrant Refugee Newcomer Children and Youth here.
Volunteer Canada had several questions worth considering when we review our practices. For example, during the application and intake steps:
Create a simplified volunteer application for newcomers: It should contain the core information you need but with fewer details. A complex intake form can feel overwhelming for people who are not familiar with our processes. See the sample form by the Volunteer Centre of Southeastern New Brunswick
Arrange a meeting: Take the time to meet with the newcomer face to face. It acts as an informal interview (the word “interview” can be intimidating for newcomers). The meeting usually uncovers many skills and expertise that might not be listed on their application form.
They also touched on background checks and provided thoughts on how we can streamline our processes. This resource from MOSAIC, a settlement organization in British Columbia developed this excellent resource.
MOSAIC, a settlement organization in British Columbia, developed Capturing the Talents of Newcomer Volunteers: A Guide to Developing Effective, Culturally Inclusive Volunteer Programs, which goes into detail on all aspects of engaging with newcomer volunteers.
They caution that organizations cannot expect recent immigrants to provide a criminal record check from before their arrival in Canada.
Here are some of the tips and alternatives they provide:
- Be sure to explain to the newcomer the need for, and the process of, criminal record checks, health and reference checks.
- Provide letters of request for health checks and criminal record checks that newcomers can take to the doctor and the police, respectively.
- Accept non-traditional references such as a landlord, an ESL teacher, or a settlement worker.
As we all know, there are more than ample volunteer opportunities in our community. If you feel the volunteer may not be an ideal match for your mentoring agency, it is important to help them bridge to another opportunity where they can share their enthusiasm.
Sometimes, a volunteer isn’t a good match for your organization, or you can’t accept them for other reasons despite your best efforts to accommodate their situation – and that’s okay. Avoid simply refusing the newcomer as a volunteer. Instead, refer them to another organization in the community where they could volunteer or to a volunteer centre that can help them in their search. If possible, connect them with another person that can support them.
Being left to their own devices to find another opportunity can leave a newcomer feeling overwhelmed or set aside. Whereas feeling supported and valued as a volunteer (even if it’s for another organization) empowers them to keep looking for a role that will fit their needs and help their community.
To fulfil our missions, we need to meet people where they are so we can move forward together. For our organizations to reflect the communities we serve, volunteer programs must do the same.
Newcomers have a wealth of knowledge and experience they want to contribute to their new home; we just need to allow them to share them with us.