On their web site, the International Institute of New England fit all of my requirements for the perfect volunteer gig. (I can walk to their Chinatown offices, and their primary work involves refugee resettlement, cultural orientation, and English for Employment classes for adult learners.) I filled out an online form expressing interest in volunteering, and I waited. And waited. A few weeks later, I received a reply, asking me to send a resume. I did, and then I waited, and waited, and waited until I'd nearly given up.
When I heard back from the contact person, she invited me to participate in a one-day practice job interview program for students in all levels of English classes. Of course I said yes, and a month later, when the day of the interviews arrived, I met my contact for the first time. There were 17 volunteers, and 80 students to be given two practice interviews each in 1-1/2 hours. (Think of speed dating, and you'll have a sense of how it went.) I really enjoyed the process, though it can be challenging to interview someone who has almost no English language skills. Afterwards, I made a point to speak with the contact person and let her know I was interested in more of an ongoing involvement, if there was anything available, and I followed up by email later that day to thank her for including me in the event. When she responded, she asked, "Would you be interested in helping with a new drop-in computer lab for our students one afternoon a week?" Computer lab? Me? Not exactly the kind of literacy work I had envisioned for myself, and I felt completely out of my depth, but I said yes, because if that's what they needed, that's what I would do. My foot was in the door.