Photo by Peter Friedman

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Volunteer Opportunities

The extraordinary Portland Japanese Garden is maintained through the vital support of our year-round volunteers. There are ten different volunteer programs at the Garden. Each program requires a different level of experience, training, and commitment. We encourage every volunteer to become a Member of the Garden and to commit to a minimum of 15 hours of service per year.

No matter which program/s you choose, we welcome you to join our dynamic volunteer team! Below is a detailed list of our volunteer programs. If you have questions about a specific opportunity, please feel free to email [email protected]

Retail Volunteer

Our retail volunteer program is a great opportunity for outgoing and friendly volunteers who are looking to build their customer service skills. Retail volunteers are tasked with greeting customers as they enter the Garden Gift Shop and assisting with questions about products or general questions about the Garden.

Volunteers must be 15 years old or older and able to remain in a stationary position for several hours.

Training and mentorship is provided. Retail volunteers are asked to commit to one 2 hour shift per month for a period no shorter than 6 months. Shifts are available on Thursdays through Sundays from 12pm to 2pm only.

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Cultural Village Host

Village Hosts are friendly and outgoing. They enjoy meeting new people and are not afraid to approach visitors to show them all that the Garden has to offer. Village Hosts play an important role in orientating visitors as they enter the Cultural Village and are fonts of information. They advertise for tours, cultural demonstrations and exhibits and they encourage visitors to consider purchasing a Garden membership.

New Village Hosts are given a handbook to read and study and are asked to shadow an experienced Village Hosts for their first three shifts, or until they are comfortable working alone. Village Host volunteers are asked to commit to two 3 hour shifts per month. Shifts are available weekdays and weekends from 10-1pm and 1-4pm between March 13th and October 31st.

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Bonsai Terrace Docent

Bonsai Terrace docents greet visitors as they enter the Bonsai Terrace. They provide information about the seasonally rotating bonsai on display and they are responsible for protecting the specimens from damage.

A fact sheet is provided to new volunteers and shadow shifts are available until volunteers feel comfortable working alone. Prior knowledge of bonsai is not required, but is a plus. Bonsai Terrace shifts are available on weekdays and weekends from 12pm to 2pm.

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Vollum Library Volunteer

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, staff 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 Saturdays only during the Vollum Library’s open hours of 10am to 2pm. Ability to read and speak Japanese is preferred but not necessary.

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Exhibition Docent

The Garden holds three large exhibitions per year that we call our Art in the Garden series. Exhibition docents are responsible for orienting and welcoming visitors to Art in the Garden exhibitions and providing information about the artworks on display. Interested parties should have a background in, or willingness to learn about Japanese art, culture, history, and design.

Docent orientations are offered before the start of each exhibition. Shifts are two hours long and are available on weekdays and weekends during the Garden’s operating hours. We encourage exhibition docents to sign up for two shifts per month during the time of an exhibition.

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Event Volunteer

The Garden celebrates hundreds of events each year including numerous Japanese cultural festivals, including Children’s Day, Tanabata, O-Bon, and Moonviewing. Event volunteers are vital to the success of all our events. They are asked to wear a number of hats including, greeting visitors; assisting with traditional arts and crafts; serving food; tending bar; roving the Garden and enforcing Garden etiquette.

Shift times are flexible. Weekday and weekend shifts are available. This is a great volunteer opportunity for couples!

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Horticultural Support

This is the perfect role 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. Please note that Horticultural volunteers don’t do any pruning and are asked to work in all-weather types.

After attending an orientation session, new volunteers are paired with an experienced horticulture volunteer for their first few shifts. Shifts are only available on weekday mornings from 8am to 12pm or 9am to 12pm. All horticulture volunteers are asked to commit to volunteering at least 8 hours per month.

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Tour Guide

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 school tours. They may also be asked to rove the Garden during operating hours to help enforce Garden etiquette. Garden guides must complete Guide Training to become certified to lead tours in the Garden. Guide training is offered on an as needed basis. Once certified, all guides are encouraged to give two tours per month or commit to 24 hours of service per year.

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Office Support

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 on an as-needed basis, usually in the afternoon. Shifts are generally 2-3 hour long.

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Haiku Alive

Haiku Alive is a special program that serves the underserved youth of the Parkrose School District of Portland. In this role, volunteers work side by side with educators to encourage students to explore and appreciate nature in and out of the classroom. Students of the Haiku Alive program (grades 3-5) receive an immersive experience that engages all five senses to translate the beauty of the Garden into haiku poetry. Through this program, volunteers inspire children’s creativity, help students build their language skills, and install confidence in children of all abilities and socio-economic backgrounds.

Haiku Alive shifts are offered on weekday mornings or early afternoons and are generally 2 to 3 hours long. Shifts take place at Sacramento Elementary, Prescott Elementary, Shaver Elementary, and/or Russell Elementary. Some shifts may also take place in the Garden. Haiku Alive volunteers must consent to a yearly background check with the Parkrose School District the cost of which is covered by the Garden.

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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 encouraged 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?

We are currently accepting applications for Tour Guides only. To be considered, applicants must be:

  • Outgoing and friendly
  • A real people person
  • Willing to embrace times of change and seek out opportunities for personal growth
  • Speak in a loud, clear voice
  • Excited to give tours to children in grades 2nd to 12th grade
  • Available to give tours on weekends
  • Physical ability to navigate the Garden
  • Available for training on the following dates: January 11th, January 18th, January 19th, and February 15th.

For more information about being a tour guide, please contact [email protected] or call 503-223-9233.

If you meet the criteria above, please fill out an application here and our Volunteer Manager will be in touch to schedule a phone interview.

What happens after I submit my application?

Our Volunteer Coordinator will get back to you within a month’s time 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.