Volunteering in Lausanne

by Gabrielle Kaprielian

November 7, 2023

Whether you’re looking for something short-term or to make a serious commitment to volunteering, many opportunities exist to donate your time to helping those in need. But if finding a good match can seem daunting, read on.

The best place to start if you’re looking for a volunteer job is to check out Bénévolat Vaud and their online platform for searching opportunities, Bénévolat Vaud aims to support and promote local associations and volunteering in the Canton de Vaud. At no cost, you can book an appointment with a counselor to better understand what opportunities are available depending on your interests and skills and help you find the right match. They speak English, so don’t worry about your French level when contacting them or setting up an appointment. They also manage a Facebook page specifically for the Canton de Vaud.

But my French isn’t great!

While some, at least elementary level, French is required for most volunteer jobs, organizations are looking for English speakers, especially those working with migrants. For example, the International Foundation for Population and Development (IFPD) runs AlterStart and AlterStart Food, a platform designed to assist migrants in the creation of their own micro-businesses in Switzerland. Volunteer opportunities that don’t require much French include working in the kitchen to prepare food with migrants hoping to work in the restaurant business, as well as delivering the food that is prepared. Volunteers with greater French skills can coach migrants in developing their businesses or finding a job through weekly meetings. A wide range of skills and knowledge are sought after, so don’t hesitate to reach out.

Some small associations or NGOs have international activities that are looking for volunteers who speak other languages than French. Some associations need drivers, such as FreeGo, which collects unsold food to be then made available to those experiencing food insecurity. The team at Bénévolat Vaud can help in your search.

Social support

There is a large demand for volunteers in the social sector, with support for the elderly being one of the biggest. The Red Cross, Caritas, and Pro Senectute provide opportunities for volunteers to help with meals, transportation, supporting families and caretakers, spending time, and doing activities with people living alone. These tend to require a long-term commitment by volunteers.

For something more flexible, the Fondation Mère Sofia, which aims to support Lausanne’s most disadvantaged, is an option. They run La Soupe populaire, a soup kitchen in the heart of Lausanne providing lunch three times a week and dinner every day free of charge to anyone. The kitchen primarily depends on volunteers to set up, serve food and drinks, and clean up at the night's end. Volunteering at the Soupe populaire does not require any long-term commitment. Signing up is easy and done by phone or SMS. And you get a free (delicious) meal!

Culture and Sports

Other opportunities to help out include volunteering during festivals or sporting events, including international ones. Since Covid, there is now a big need for support at music and cultural events, such as festivals and concerts. English speakers are also sought after at some sporting events when international participants are involved.

To find opportunities at sporting events, check out the online platform Volontaires Sportifs Lausannois for a full listing. For opportunities in the arts and culture, there is no centralized platform, so it’s best to check out the website of the event and sign up directly with them.

Things to keep in mind

While there is a bigger interest in volunteering towards the end of the year and especially around the holiday season, this tends to be the time when there is the least need, given the high volume of volunteers. The real need is in the summertime, when regular volunteers go on holiday. There is also a need for more consistent volunteering. While you may just want to help out once or twice, most organizations need people who are going to show up and commit sustainably.