Volunteers in the Spotlight

On December 7, the Netherlands celebrates National Day of the Volunteer. Internationally, this is celebrated on December 5th, but we have a sneaking suspicion that this was moved two days along due to the Sinterklaas celebrations here.

IWCN works with over 90 volunteers to be able to organize so many community-driven events, clubs and integration programs. In 2022, we hosted over 500 events thanks to our event coordinators and all our volunteers. Many of our amazing volunteers have worked with us for many years, starting at IWCN or even at City Central and Connect International already.

To honor this year’s Day of the Volunteer, we want to highlight four of our amazing volunteers. What drove them to start a writing club, why do they love teaching internationals to cycle, and what would be their tips in case you would want to volunteer. Get ready to meet Ragini, Saskia, Sezin and Janny.

You can catch Gini at the Writers' Club's events such as WordPlayers.

What inspired you to become a volunteer for IWCN (or City Central/Connect International at the time)?

Before I joined Connect, all my local friends were Dutch. I speak Dutch well and after all this time living in the Netherlands, I’m well assimilated. But, I work (NEEDSer.nl) and write in English and I missed not being able to speak it. I wanted to meet English-speaking writers, to talk about writing and find support for my endeavors, since I’d been putting off finishing my second novel and needed a kickstart to get going again.

At the time, Connect International (now IWCN) were advertising a writer’s group on their website. Alas, that group was full, so I asked if I could set up a new one. They said yes but then Covid-19 got in the way and it was only after the pandemic ended that our new Writers’ Club went live. We’ve been going for close on two years now. We’re still evolving and growing stronger by the day.

Do you have any memorable stories or interactions at our events that you’d like to share?

At every session, I get bowled over by the talent of our ‘clubbies’. Some have been writing for ages. Others are just starting out, but everyone in the Writers Club loves words, loves writing, and comes up with amazing pieces. Creative writing rules OK!

What role do you think you as a volunteer can play in creating a sense of community and make people feel at home here in the North?

Clubbies come from all over the place: Columbia, Mexico, France, Taiwan, Turkey, the US, the Caribbean; you name it! I love that we’re drawn together because of our common love of writing. We’re forming close bonds, especially the WordPlayers regulars and those doing the Short Story Workshop.

I’m proud to have created a safe and friendly space for writers in the North, where the door is always open to newcomers. No matter where you come from, you’re welcome in the Writers Club. And that’s something to write home about! 😊

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering for IWCN?

I like that IWCN is so open to new ventures. No one stood in my way when I volunteered to start the Writers Club. On the contrary, they were really supportive.

If you have an idea for an event that you think will appeal to internationals, don’t be afraid to approach IWCN. The organization depends on volunteers. They know that and your idea will be respected. If your plan fits the scope of IWCN, I’m pretty sure you will get the green light and, most importantly, all the positive encouragement you need! Go for it!

You can catch Saskia at FietsFriend events where she helps teaching people to cycle.

What do you enjoy most about being a volunteer at IWCN?

I can make internationals feel at home in Groningen through sharing my knowledge about cycling. In return, I learn about new cultures and meet inspiring people.

Do you have any memorable stories you’d like to share?

It gives me so much joy to learn someone to ride a bicycle. On the FietsFriends Festival all volunteers were applauding and cheering when a lady ride her first meters all by herself. That joy and happiness is contagious!

Do you feel that you help in creating a sense of community and make people feel at home here in the North?

Cycling is a key element for a proper Dutch culture. I believe the freedom of riding a bicycle helps to feel more at home.

What is the importance of volunteering?

The FietsFriends volunteer group is a warm community. The FietsFriends festivals are a lovely way to stay in touch with other bicycle enthusiasts.

What’s your advice for someone thinking about volunteering for IWCN?

The volunteering task is only part of the story. Meeting new people and learning about their culture is the key element. If you want to meet internationals, IWCN offers a low-effort way to get in touch.

You can catch Sezin at her fun and delicious cooking workshops to cook together.

What do you enjoy most about being a volunteer at IWCN?

While there are many clubs/activities hosted by IWCN, I wanted to be one of the reasons to bring the international community together. I’ve also seen the potential of the international community to broaden my network and for me to integrate in the Netherlands. It has had a really positive effect on my life here.

Do you have any memorable stories you’d like to share?

While we were doing our last cooking demo, it turned into a ladies’ tea time fortune telling demo.

What role do you think you as a volunteer can play in creating a sense of community and make people feel at home here in the North?

I believe that the cooking demo which takes in my place already makes people feel at home. I’m trying to serve the traditional foods that are always being made in our homes.

What’s the importance of volunteering?

Volunteering really helped me to find my place and opened my eyes to a new community. I believe that sharing knowledge or interest with other people motivates me a lot. I like being productive with my friends.

What advice would for potential volunteers?

IWCN is always open to new ideas so I can only say: just go for it!

You can catch Janny at her engaging Let's Talk Dutch! Groningen where she hosts both Beginners and B1+.

What inspired you to become a volunteer for IWCN?

Just to have a good time, meet people and enjoy other things than work.

Why do you like volunteering?

Meeting people from all over the world. Their stories and life in Groningen.

Do you feel that you help people feel at home?

I hope so. Teaching Dutch and getting people to talk Dutch. I want people to feel at ease with the way of life in the Netherlands.

What’s your advice for potential volunteers?

Just go for it. Helping people, sharing your knowledge, understanding it may have been a difficult choice to come here. Some people miss their family and friends. A friendly word gies a long way I think.

Feeling inspired?

New ideas are always welcome! At the IWCN, we’re always looking for new events and gatherings that our Northern community would like to see happen.

If you’re feeling inspired to start volunteering, there’s always room for you. If you have any ideas for a one-off or regular event, feel free to get in touch with our Events team via events@iwcn.nl.  The team will evaluate with you whether we can breathe life into your idea and make it happen.