Skip to comments.Poles apart of charity boom
Posted on 05/15/2006 1:26:37 PM PDT by lizol
Poles apart of charity boom
SCORES of Polish immigrants in the Capital are giving charities a massive boost - by offering their services for free.
With many of the 20,000 Poles who have flocked to Edinburgh since the expansion of the EU working in unskilled jobs such as waitressing or labouring, many are turning to unpaid volunteering to improve skills and their chances of getting better jobs.
Agency Volunteer Edinburgh, which matches people with opportunities, has seen around 35 eastern Europeans turn up at their Queensferry Street Lane offices every month to offer their help.
While most want to improve their English or gain work experience in sectors ranging from marketing and PR to supporting people with learning difficulties or helping out in charity shops, others are looking to meet new people in their adopted homeland, or give something back to the community they now live in.
Paul Wilson, manager of core services at Volunteer Edinburgh, which was set up in 1970, said around one in five new volunteers are from the EU accession countries - with the greatest number coming from Poland.
He said: "It is absolutely amazing that people are coming over from Poland and other countries, and, while they are working hard to support themselves, they are also putting a lot of their spare time into volunteering.
"When people come here, even if they have experience in their professional field, it's totally different in a foreign country. Also, they may feel they want to improve their language skills. So a lot of people come here and work for a few months in their spare time.
"Volunteering gives them something to put on their CV, they have someone to give them references for job applications and they have time to find their feet and improve their English."
"A lot of the Polish people we have spoken to really want to integrate into society here and they find volunteering allows them to meet local people and give something back to the community where they are living."
Ewa Walker, who came to Edinburgh from Poland eight years ago with her Canadian husband, became involved in volunteering soon after arriving in the UK.
Mrs Walker, who, with her friend, Katarzyna Kidd, 28, runs a recruitment agency, Pol-UK, to help Polish immigrants find work and learn English, is now using her recruitment skills in her spare time to mentor Scottish people who are long-term unemployed.
Mother-of-three Mrs Walker, 33, from Leith, said: "When I first came to Edinburgh, I was struggling to find work myself. I had been a German teacher in Poland, but my English was not good enough to work here so I started taking English classes.
"After a while, I started helping out at the classes, teaching English as a foreign language to beginners. For me, it was a huge difference to feel I could help people and it made me feel valued as a person, as well as being something to put on my CV."
Earlier this year the pair decided to sign up for Volunteer Scotland's mentoring scheme in a bid to help unemployed people in Edinburgh.
Mrs Walker added: "The mentoring scheme gives us valuable experience which helps us in our business."
City council leader Donald Anderson said: "We have always known that volunteering is one of the popular ways of finding employment and this experience just demonstrates that this is the case. We are also getting a lot of feedback that the Polish people who are coming here are a really hardworking and dedicated bunch of people and are making a huge difference in the city."
'POLISH PEOPLE REALISE THEY NEED WORK EXPERIENCE TO GET A GOOD JOB' MARKETING assistant Kasia Kot, who moved to Edinburgh six months ago, works with people with dementia and Alzheimer's disease in her spare time.
Miss Kot, 25, pictured, who lives in Morningside, contacted Volunteer Scotland in a bid to broaden her social circle and integrate with the local community.
She said: "When I first came to Edinburgh I had two jobs just to make some money, so I had no time.
"Then after a couple of months I started working for a travel company, which means I do not have to work in the evenings, so I decided to look into volunteering.
"I wanted to improve my language skills and meet new people. My boyfriend is Scottish, but generally it is quite difficult to meet local people, so I hoped that volunteering would give me that opportunity."
Miss Kot, who moved to Edinburgh with a friend the day after graduating from university in Krakow, added: "In Poland, no-one volunteers. It is very difficult to get a job there, so I suppose people do not want to work for free when they are not being paid at all. But I think Polish people who have come here realise they need work experience to get a good job - that is always the first question on every job application form here.
"When I looked at the opportunities available through Volunteer Edinburgh, I realised you can get experience in marketing and PR through volunteering, which is definitely something I would have tried if I had not been lucky enough to get my job so quickly. I don't see volunteering as working for nothing, you are working for yourself and other people.
I say the Poles can come to America.
The more I read about the Poles the better I feel that they are on our side.
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