A Reflection on different volunteer work

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It was my first day to join 'Market & Craft Day' as part of team of Pt Chevalier Community Centre. This market uses to be held on every third Saturday of the month and the purpose is for everyone in this community having a place to buy and sell goods such as second-hand house ware, handmade craft, food or anything they want to bring from home. This activity also provides resident, small business and organization an opportunity to connect with the community, to promote themselves and make a payback to the community because the fee from the stall booking is part of funding to operate the Community Centre and its programmes.

My job was as an assistant to sell BBQ sausage with John, a committee member who has been called as 'Sausage manager' and 'Sausage expert'. That is because he has volunteered in this job for a long time. This is a joke between those team members as John is the youngest of the team and it is the way how they treat each other like family. From their conversation and the small talk, I found out Kiwis love to have humour and make jokes to express their concern for each other, especially for well-known friends. They also made jokes to me but not much that I think they might worry about I could not understand their jokes then get embarrassed. They were easy-going and had an opened heart to make friend with me even though I am from a different ethnic group. I could feel that how I was accepted as part of group and been treated like a family. I was really enjoying my time with them as they had shown me the most important cultural ritual of New Zealand - treat everyone equally.

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In addition, during my volunteering, I learned how to cut onions and how to make BBQ sausage and custom-made sandwich. This is the first time of my life for doing this job. Through my work, I have known it is a very common recipe in New Zealand to have BBQ sausage with onion, mustard sauce and toast as a snack for outdoor activity. Besides, as John did, some people love to have toast with 'Spaghetti' and tomato sauce which is another special western style that different from Asian's. Compared with Taiwan, we use to have various traditional foods as our snack such as Chinese bun, Stinky tofu (smelly tofu) and Oyster omelette. The mobile stalls in Taiwan also need to be approved by local council for a licence to sell goods/food at roadside or local late-night market. There will be a penalty for no licensed stall.

Reflection: Day 2 - Core office work (Wednesday, 9.30am~1pm, 22 Sep 2010)

Karen, the Coordinator of the organization, called me to come in to the centre and gave me some works to know the way around the place. She was also my interviewee who gave detailed information for my 10 culture and society questions and how this community centre operate. Based on her job description, I know she is a key to execute the programme of community centre and the committee of this non-profit organization are people to outline and to decide what programme can be launch for the community.

I realized how important to have a community centre in the community after I did the office work and the interview. According to Karen's information, every community centre is a 'Hub' to link local public library, education institution and business/organization together to provide information and activities for people live in the local area. Any individual or various groups can use this place for any activity by just hiring a room of building, or leave their poster/brochure on the notice board to promote themselves. For example, a private childcare centre, where also provide free Spanish language learning environment, has its flyer placed on notice board so everyone might see its information when visit the centre. This is a free and convenient service that provide from the community centre for its community. I think it is also a proper place to exchange cultural value from different ethnic groups by having their activities here.

Moreover, the School Holiday Programme is a good example to show how this community centre pays proper regard to education and multiculturalism. For example, it has various activities for age 5 to 13 years old children. The activities of September and October programme in this year included the First Aid course for kids, Hip Pop dance workshop, Surf lifesaving workshop and a play for a Chinese story "The Secret of Dongting Lake" which are very meaningful for developing children's skill, personal ability and an opportunity to understand different cultural aspect. I think it is very clever to let children learn while playing through those seasonal programme and activities. Everyone, including their parents, can also make friends and have a connection for their social life after the activity. It's a very valuable contribution that the community centre gives us and the NZ society.

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Reflection: Day 3 - Work in the Op-Shop (Thursday, 10.30am~1pm, 23 Sep 2010)

Things that I had learned were not from my work in this Op-shop but from people here. Their behaviour and their thought gave me an idea to know why many New Zealander, especially the senior, have willing to be volunteer and how they made the changes for their community.

Op-Shop of Pt Chevalier Community Centre is operated by volunteers who are Erin, Julie and a lady who I haven't met yet. Erin is the team leader and the one to assist my learning. She makes the decisions and manages the shop to keep it run for its customers. This is not difficult to find out she is quite reliable and motivated in her role. She has an enthusiasm and a good intend to help people in this community. She low the price down or gave free gifts to the customers who seem to have financial difficulty. She notices the regular customer and keeps the goods, which they may need, beside her desk and give an acceptable price when they have come. She said there are not many people have enough money to buy what they want, therefore, the purpose of community centre is to help people for their need, that is the reason she gives the cheaper price and support them in this way.

Under her management, the Op-shop has offered a free service for everyone who needs to promote their home business to have their price menu and business card display on the checkout desk. This is another way how Erin does to help and encourage people who is unemployed but has the skills for starting a new life. Her whole family include her daughter and grand-daughters, are all happy to involve in the volunteering work. They used to donate good quality clothes and purchase second hand goods from this shop. These is a very good example which Erin and her family have showed us for how people help each other in their community. "This is good to see everyone happy", she said.

In Taiwan, there are also many people work for charity foundations or religious institutions who contribute themselves to help the society. A quantity of them even has joined the global charity events such as what Red-Cross does. This is positive manner to give payback to our society. The truth is, we never know there will be one day we may need help from others so that why we don't try to give what we have at first. More cooperation between people in the society may have higher quality living environment that everyone may get the benefit from. In this case, I believe most of New Zealander has done this well from what I have seen in this community centre.

Language learned from my volunteering work

The committee members and volunteers of Pt Chevalier Community Centre are like a big family to me. They knew each other and have a good connection with local residents. The language they used in our interaction was between formal and informal which may depend on the level of relationship they have had with this person.

There are two different ways of the language using that I had noticed from my participation. To well-known friends or relations, the words using and the topics of conversation choosing were quite flexible and included a lot of humour and colloquial words that I might not pick up from those native's utterance. In their small talk, they talked about friends or families they knew, gossiped about everyday matters and made jokes to each other. From here, I confirmed my impression of what I have seen when I first came to NZ that Kiwis are easy-going and love to make friends.

On the other hand, when communicated with me, those people were quite friendly and had tended to slow down their speed and simple their words to make me understand them well. From their words usage, I could know they had a quality of education level that their behaviour and speaking were gentle and sophisticated. In this case, I remember what Karen said in my interview and indeed most of team member in this organization has had a strong 'social skill' which is people skill. They know how to speak felicitously with people from different background and how to make their conversation smoothly to make both of us happy.

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Generally, the conversations with the team members had given me an opportunity to evaluate my English speaking level and to practice my communication skill with native speakers. In my self-evaluation, the positive I got is I don't have much trouble to make communication with them by using everyday language, such as greeting, telling the personal story, give the opinions of what I think about everyday matter and follow the instructions that I had been asked. Most of conversations were run smoothly but I knew there is still a gap to be narrowed if I could increase my English vocabulary to express myself properly and my comprehension of listening in English to understand their words. That is the negative side of my evaluation from my interactive tasks in this community centre.

The racial tension in NZ multicultural society?

From my volunteered work in Pt Chevalier Community Centre, I have met many people who have an open-mind to accept NZ's multicultural aspect and treat it with respect. However, some information from people who work in this centre had widened my mind to see how native New Zealanders think about the immigrants, especially for Asian people. That has given me an idea how I behave and interact with native people who have different opinion about us.

The Committee Chairman of this organization, Bruce, is a very gentle old man who was quite enthusiastic to assist my learning through my work in the Market and Craft day. He had given me some advices to make my CV and job application more successful through our interview. When we had a relevant conversation about people from different racial background like me, he told me a story of his son's employee who had been fired because his intention of refusing the service to customers who were Asian looking. Bruce had told me that many Kiwis have a misunderstanding about 'all' Asian people in NZ are bad driver. I had made the complaint about this mistaken thought as kind of racial bias and I just realized that is the reason why my friends, my family and myself had experienced of being stared or shouted by Pakeha drivers when we drove a bit slow or made a wrong way driving accidently as it may sometimes be made by themselves as well.

Just like the information acquired from Karen, the Coordinator of the organization, that when a number of Asian first came to NZ, many kiwis were very affronted about it for a long time. "They thought Asian people may be able to come and take our country, our city and our lifestyle; and they took a couple of years, maybe 2 ~ 5 years to settle down. This is long time ago when they refused to have that immigration policy to allow more Asian people into the country. But now it just really accepted, generally it really accepted," [SIC] it was Karen's reference of the general opinion of native resident. From her words, I was disappointed about the previous thinking of native people but pleased with the change that they have made.

In fact, there are always two sides of a coin that people will see from different angel of view. Most people in this community that I have met are very kind to accept NZ's multicultural society which they are living in but just a few have negative behaviour to us, immigrant from Asia countries, which I really like to ignore to live in peace with them.

In conclusion, I agree that people in NZ are just like people in Taiwan who are definitely allowed to have a right to give critical opinions to people who may cause any harm to this beautiful and peaceful country. However, it is better to keep their thinking in objective way and not so subjective to create a difficult living environment for those immigrants to live in. That is absolutely unfair for what we have faced - the racial tension in NZ.