Kia ora folks, I'm Jo (or JoJo, as the team call me), and I'm currently onboard the Rainbow Warrior in Taiwan. My role here is to coordinate the eight 'Open Boat' days that we're having, where the public come to visit the ship and take an onboard tour.
Obviously, as someone who can't speak any Mandarin, this presents some challenges! That means that I have to rely pretty heavily on a team of volunteers to be the bridge between the English-speaking crew and the Mandarin & Taiwanese-speaking public when they come onboard.
I've worked with volunteers at Greenpeace in Aotearoa / New Zealand for the past 5 years, and have been involved in recruitment and training of volunteers, organised and managed volunteers, as well as well as having put in many months of volunteer work myself.
I love working with 'the vollies'. They're one of the best parts of this organisation. They all come and give their time, energy, enthusiasm, love, and 'blood, sweat & tears', because they simply believe in the work that we're doing. That's an incredibly powerful and humbling thing, and we'd be totally lost without them.
When I came to Taiwan I really didn't know what to expect; as an organisation, Greenpeaces presence here is counted in months rather than decades. We don't have the same recognition here in Taiwan as we do in New Zealand. But I've now been in Taiwan for 3 and a half weeks, and I've been totally blown away by the vollies I've met so far. For many of us, we first met at a training workshop held over Christmas weekend. Before we knew it we were having a BBQ, telling stories (with the help of hand-gestures and those with better English acting as translators), and planning our next meetings.
Since then, we've held four 'Open Boats' onboard the Rainbow Warrior, in the rainy ports of Keelung and Suao, in the north east of Taiwan. But if Keelung and Suao were wet and grey, the volunteers were anything but. Kitted-up in “hot-freakin'-pink” t-shirts, they were probably the brightest and bubbliest bunch of bandits I've ever worked with. They didn't stop laughing and smiling from the minute they arrived in the morning to help with the set-up, until we all sat down and had a drink together in the mess at the end of the day. While they endlessly showed groups of people around the main deck, dashing from sheltered-point to sheltered-point, while they handed out (soggy) info-sheets, while they translated the words of wisdom from the crew for the twentieth time that day, their laughter never faded.
I'm always touched by working with vollies – I'm a bit of a softie like that. I'm always honoured that people give their time and energy so generously. And in this sense I think that Taiwan is going to be a lot like Aotearoa/NZ; with a strong volunteer-culture within the organisation, and a campaign team that is all the more stronger, cheerful, and effective for it. I'm looking forward to seeing where we take it.
Joanna McVeagh is a Greenpeace open boats coordinator from New Zealand.
>> Find out more about the Ocean Defenders Tour of East Asia.
If you would like to volunteer or apply for a job on a Greenpeace ship you can fill out an application form here.