Home to people of over 170 different nationalities as well as a vast community of hundreds of global NGOs representatives, country delegations and the United Nations, Geneva is famed for its internationalism. The city is always looking outward to address worldwide issues, from humanitarian crises to global health threats and climate change.
But the city also offers a whole range of ways to support issues closer to home and keep the city's spirit of solidarity alive as a new year begins. There are a number of websites and resources available to discover where and how to volunteer in Geneva, including Genève Bénévolat , a platform that brings together several associations and lists the latest opportunities, as well as the state of Geneva's own dedicated page. Here are some that we have picked out.
Working up a sweat
Flag21. This running club was launched in 2017 to promote integration and social inclusion of refugees and migrants in Geneva through sport. The organisation holds running training sessions every Saturday morning in the Parc des Eaux-Vives led by coaches who have a refugee background. The sessions are free and open to everyone of all running abilities, and aim to help refugees and migrants better settle into their new city and connect with locals while exploring Geneva. Flag21 has recently expanded its offering to include yoga classes and sessions specifically for families and children, and takes part in public races around Geneva where its members can enter for free or work as volunteers.
Dining and doing good
Refettorio Geneva, by Mater Fondazione. Established in 2020 by Milanese chef Walter el Nagar, Fondazione Mater is a non-profit foundation that does good through gourmet food. Its aim is to promote social inclusion through nutrition and provide vulnerable people with access to a balanced meal – all while combating food waste. It is now partnering with Food for the Soul Foundation to open a spacious community restaurant, Refettorio Geneva, later this month. Like any restaurant, its lunch service will be open to paying customers, which will then help to finance free meal services for people in need. Mater Fondazione also offers opportunities to volunteer in the kitchen or support by making direct donations.
Agora, by Cuisine Lab. Like Refettoria, Agora is another restaurant built on community and solidarity, this time focused on refugees. Scheduled to open in May 2022, it will provide training for refugees interested in culinary careers while giving the public the chance to dine and discover cuisine from different parts of the world. Cuisine Lab, the association behind the initiative, is looking to raise 300,000 CHF to support the launch of the restaurant, which will be located in Geneve’s international quarter, and to help train and equip refugees. It also welcomes volunteers with technical skills in areas such as culinary training, coaching, accounting, law and marketing.
Bateau Genève. Every morning, Geneva’s iconic boat docked in front of the city’s Jardin Anglais serves between 150 and 200 free breakfasts to people in need. A well-known fixture, Bateau Genève’s bar and restaurant is open to the public and runs events throughout the summer. It also offers opportunities for internships and work. The association also organises an evening meal on the boat every Sunday for people in precarious situations. This meal is prepared and served by volunteers, with newcomers always welcome.
Chaîne du Bonheur. While much of the work of Swiss NGO Chaîne du Bonheur focuses on supporting humanitarian organisations responding to disasters abroad, the charity is always on the lookout for volunteers in Geneva who can take part in their solidarity days. Throughout the year, Chaîne du Bonheur holds fundraising days during which volunteers are needed to operate phone lines, take pledges and offer general support for its programmes, from providing aid to Afghanistan to responding to the Covid-19 pandemic in countries around the world. All volunteers are welcome.
Lend your expertise
CyberPeace Builders. The CyberPeace Builders programme links cyber experts with NGOs in critical sectors to help them understand and respond to cyberthreats and build resilience to potential attacks. Launched by the CyberPeace Institute in 2020, the corporate volunteering initiative works with “builders” from companies in the cyber industry who can volunteer their time and expertise to help NGOs in areas such as healthcare, water and sanitation and food and agriculture maintain their vital services through upskilling staff, capacity building and training among other measures.
Protecting the local environment
Safeguarding Lake Geneva. L’Association de Sauvegarde du Léman was created over 40 years ago to protect the quality of the water of Lake Geneva. Today, with over 4000 members and 3000 volunteers, it is always accepting new recruits to join the fight. Its activities range from advocating against plastic pollution, regular clean ups to tackle invasive plants that pose a threat to local biodiversity and workshops.
Made51. Created by UNHCR, Made51 is a global brand of artisanal home decor and accessories crafted by refugees in countries throughout Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Artisans in hosting countries are linked with local social enterprises to create unique products which are sold online, supporting the livelihoods of people forcibly displaced by war, violence, disaster and persecution while strengthening their ties to local societies in their new communities.