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The extraordinary Portland Japanese Garden is maintained through the vital support of our year-round volunteers. There are nine different volunteer programs at the Garden. Each program requires a different level of volunteer experience and commitment, although we ask every volunteer to try to commit to a minimum of 15 hours of service for a period no shorter than one year.
No matter which program you choose, we welcome you to join our dynamic volunteer team! Below is a detailed list of our volunteer programs.
Retail volunteer associates assist with day to day tasks in the Garden Gift Shop with a focus on customer service. They interact with Gift Shop visitors and work alongside Gift Shop staff to assist to answer questions about products and to organize, wrap, stock, and sticker product. The retail volunteer should have a friendly and outgoing personality; be interested in learning about Japanese culture and how it relates to shop products, crafts, and artwork; be attentive to customer needs and be comfortable working on their feet with some bending and occasional lifting.
Training is provided by the Retail General Manager. Retail volunteers are asked to commit to two 3 hour shifts per month for a period no shorter than one year. Weekday and weekend shifts are available.
The Village Host is a friendly, outgoing person, who enjoys meeting new people and explaining why the Portland Japanese Garden is the most authentic and beautiful Japanese garden outside of Japan. The Village Host will orient visitors as they enter the Cultural Village whether they arrive on foot or by Garden shuttle. S/he will provide visitors with a map and point out important places to them (such as the restrooms), and inform them of the location and times of tours, cultural demonstrations and exhibits. The Village Host should discuss Garden membership with visitors and must also kindly and patiently answer any questions the visitor may have about the Village to the best of her/his ability. The Village Host will be the first impression of the Portland Japanese Garden. S/he should behave in a manner that promotes a pleasant visit to the Portland Japanese Garden, and encourages repeat visits and/or membership.
Village Host are asked to commit to one 3 hour shift per week between March 13th and October 31st. Shifts are available weekdays and weekends from 12-2pm.
Bonsai Terrace Docent
Bonsai Terrace docents greet visitors and provide information about the bonsai on display. They are also responsible for protecting the bonsai during their shift making sure visitors do not handle the plants. Training for this program is ongoing. Prior knowledge of bonsai is not required, but it is preferred.
Bonsai Terrace shifts are 3 hours long and take place outside. Weekday and weekend shifts are available.
Vollum Library Volunteer
Vollum Library volunteers actively support the Garden’s mission to maintain, develop, and share audio and visual resources to educate the public about Japanese garden practices, culture, and aesthetics. Library volunteers welcome Garden members and volunteers to the Library. They query the online catalog, assist Garden members to locate resources, and verify that guests check in and out.
Volunteer shifts in the Library are available on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the Vollum Library’s open hours of 10am to 2pm. Library shifts are 2-3 hours in length. Applicants who can read and speak Japanese are preferred.
Cultural, Arts, and Education Volunteer
Volunteer opportunities in the CAE Program include assisting with gallery exhibitions and annual cultural festivals.
Exhibition docents are trained by the Garden’s Exhibition Manager. Their job is to orient and welcome visitors to the exhibition, provide information about the artwork, maintain cleanliness in the gallery, and secure artworks from theft or damage. Interested parties should have a background in, or willingness to learn about Japanese art, culture, history, and design. Mandatory docent orientations are offered before the start of each exhibition.
The Garden celebrates numerous Japanese cultural festivals throughout the year, including: Children’s Day, Tanabata, O-Bon, and Moonviewing. Cultural festival volunteers assist the CAE team in making these events a success. They will be asked to greet visitors, assist with traditional arts and crafts, serve food and drinks, rove the Garden, and enforce Garden etiquette with attendees. The shift times are flexible. Weekday and weekend shifts are available.
Horticultural Support Program
The horticultural support program is a hands-on program that is perfect for the rugged volunteer who is eager to get their hands dirty with tasks such as: sweeping pathways, raking moss, picking blossoms, clearing away weeds, and pulling ivy. Horticultural volunteers don’t do any pruning. After attending an orientation session, volunteers are asked to commit to a regular weekday shift from 8am-12pm and volunteer for at least 4 hours per month or 48 hours per year.
There are two primary assignments under the tour guide program. Garden guides and speakers bureau presenters. Garden guides provide our visitors with interesting and informative cultural, historical, and horticultural information about the Garden. They are responsible for leading public tours, private tours, and K-12 school tours. They may also be asked to rove the Garden during our prime hours of 11am-3pm to provide visitors with information. We encourage guides to sign up for two tours per month or commit to 24 hours of service per year.
Office Support Volunteer
Office support volunteers work in the Garden’s administration office and primarily support the Garden’s membership, development, and marketing departments with duties like stuffing and sealing envelopes, folding and cutting packet inserts, organizing files, and putting together multi-piece mailings. Office support shifts are offered on weekdays only, usually in the afternoon from 2-3 hour long shifts.
Haiku Alive! School Volunteer
Haiku Alive! volunteers join us in our efforts to engage underserved youth in the Parkrose School District of Portland. Haiku Alive! volunteers work alongside educators in the fall to engage school children in learning about the Garden through writing haiku poetry. Then, in the spring time, volunteers lead Parkrose students around the Garden on photo excursion tours where children are given the opportunity to learn about photography as inspiration for creating haiku. At the end of the school year, the students’ haiku and photos are collected in a final project.
Haiku Alive! shifts are offered on weekday mornings or early afternoons for 2-3 hour long shifts. Haiku Alive! volunteers must consent to yearly background checks with the Parkrose School District.
Why Should I Consider Volunteering?
Volunteering at the Garden is a way to build community, gain knowledge of Japanese culture, have new and exciting experiences, and have fun! Garden volunteers are a crucial link between the public and the Garden, and allow our non-profit to thrive.
Volunteers are required to be members, and as such, receive the same benefits as members. In addition to member benefits, volunteers receive the following:
- Induction into Oregon’s Volunteer Passport Program
- Annual complimentary Washington Park volunteer parking pass awarded after 15 hours of service each year
- Continuing education and annual volunteer appreciation events
How do I become a Garden Volunteer?
The Garden is seeking Village Hosts, Retail, and Bonsai Terrace volunteers only at this time. To apply to these programs, please fill out our volunteer application here. For more information, you may email our Volunteer Coordinator at [email protected] or call 503-542-9354.
What happens after I submit my application?
Our Volunteer Coordinator will get back to you within 1-2 business days to schedule an interview with the director of your volunteer assignment/s you indicated on your application. Please be prepared to give a few times/dates that you are available for an interview.