In 2014, more than 550,000 Hamburg citizens engaged in volunteer work. Sports, education and social work were among the most popular areas in which people contributed their time and effort to a good cause. Hamburg’s various associations, organisations, clubs, and emergency services are always happy to welcome new members. They offer rewarding, meaningful, challenging and fun tasks to everybody who wishes to engage in their communities. For people who speak little or no German, volunteer work can also be a perfect way to improve your language skills.
Volunteering in Hamburg
In Hamburg, volunteers (Freiwillige or Ehrenamtliche) join fire squads, ambulance services or lifeguard organisations. Many others dedicate themselves to diverse fields such as daycare, homework help, coaching a sports team, collecting donations, working in animal protection or leading a group of scouts.
One of Germany’s most popular organisations for volunteer work is the THW federal agency, which is responsible for crisis management. In Hamburg, where flooding is always a possibility, this could, for example, mean helping with important repair work on dykes and dams.
In recent years, refugee support has also become a popular and much-needed contribution to society. Language classes, interpreting, helping with administration, or simply showing people around — a lot can be done to make people feel a little bit more at home.
And there are plenty more possibilities still: you can find suitable openings at well-known organisations like the German Red Cross (German site only) or Caritas, or support minority groups like the Jewish Community in Hamburg.
In order to find tasks suited to your ideas and qualifications, there are plenty of volunteer agencies in Hamburg. Use this map to find out where you can get further information and which languages are spoken at these branches. A great overview of possible jobs can also be obtained at the next AKTIVOLI volunteer fair (in German) hosted by the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce.
BFD and FSJ
Some people may want to dedicate an entire chapter of their lives to volunteer work. The Bundesfreiwilligendienst (German Voluntary Service) programme is an option that’s open to German and non-German natives, as long as residence and work permits can be submitted. Young adults between the age of 17 and 27 can also choose to apply for FSJ (an unpaid year of social work), which is a popular activity for those in between high school and higher education. This meaningful and highly-reputable position can be obtained relatively easily.
Benefits of Volunteer Work
Luckily, volunteer work is highly encouraged by the Hamburg city administration. Not only are there plenty of organisations that will gladly help you to find a suitable activity, there are also substantial tax benefits that allow you to better concentrate on your new calling. In addition, most volunteer work benefits from solid insurance coverage, so that helping others won’t get you into a situation where you’ll need help yourself.
If you plan to collect money or items for charity or sell goods for a charitable cause, you should know that this doesn’t require a special license, provided that earnings are donated in their entirety.