SVW 2013: Celebrating student volunteers

Posted on: 10 February 2013

For many people, student volunteering has become a concept consigned to earlier decades of revolution, free love and CND marches. But the causes, campaigns, projects and – most importantly – individuals that Student Volunteering Week 2013 (11th-16th February) will celebrate represent a national student body which is engaged, active and giving back to their local and global communities.

The latest regeneration of SVW as an organisational collaboration between NUS and Student Hubs typifies the history of the movement. Since World War Two student volunteering has enjoyed ten-year cycles of investment, celebration and momentum, followed by crashes in confidence, cutting of budgets and shifting of political agendas.

The latest safe guarders of SVW are the younger, shinier, more dynamic faces of student-led social change. NUS led the charge against the rise in tuition fees; Student Hubs, established just five years ago by a group of students in Oxford, is an ever-growing network of university Hubs which exist to increase student involvement in volunteering, social action and philanthropy.

Investment from Barclays has enabled SVW to build up its public profile and develop its high-level networks, offering greater scope to celebrate the positive impact students are making to society.

So, how will Student Volunteering Week play out in 2013? Under the powerful banner statement of “We don’t wish things were better. We make them better” SVW is gathering momentum to make a serious statement about the value of student volunteering in the UK.

You just need to take a look at the Student Volunteering Award shortlist to get a taster of the work it’s celebrating:

Anna from Leeds University has co-ordinated weekly English classes for refugees and asylum seekers for the last three years

Bianca from LSE has established her own charity, Student Heart Health, after several of those close to her suffered from heart conditions

Natasha is the Co-ordinator of the newly-founded Southampton Hub, working amongst her peers to get more young people involved with social action

Nicola established the peer-to-peer mental health counselling service, Student Run Self Help, in 2009

Thomas, nominated by Edge Hill Students Union, has devoted 166 hours to ChildLine as a telephone councillor – amongst the time he volunteers with four other national charities.

SVW 2013

Ruth Taylor, one of the Co-ordinators of Student Volunteering Week 2013, says, “I am continually amazed by the astounding breadth and scope of the volunteering activity students commit their time, energy, skills and unfaltering passion to throughout their time at university. There seems to be no area in which students don’t want to make a positive difference. SVW is all about tipping the hat to these amazing individuals, empowering the next generation of students to pick up the gauntlet and to highlight just how impactful a bit of volunteering can be.”

SVW 2013 will also see student volunteering teams across the UK supporting activities in their universities, to promote volunteering and celebrate the difference their students make.

One of the aims of SVW is to show the UK student body that everybody can be a volunteer: whether you sit on an event organising committee, coach a school football team, tutor local children, sit on the till at Oxfam, or are that voice at the end of a night-time counselling phone line. You are a volunteer, and you are changing lives of people you know – and the lives of people you will never meet.

As part of SVW’s work to encourage local institutions to build on existing activities and volunteering opportunities during the week, Student Hubs and NUS awarded 4 grants of £500 that demonstrated the value that student volunteers contribute to their local communities. Activities from these grants will be hosted by Imperial College Union and LSE; Liverpool, John Mores and Liverpool Hope; Oxford and Oxford Brookes, and Falmouth University.

There will also be local events held by universities across the UK, through which students can get involved in volunteering opportunities near their campus.

With SVW’s nationwide photo competition to build a documentary of a year in student volunteering, and the Parliamentary Reception (with keynote speech by Nick Hurd MP, Minister for Civil Society) to celebrate student volunteering and challenge preconceptions of the movement, this year’s event is set to reach out to the most students in many years. There will be opportunities to get involved on campuses across the country – so check out the SVW website, Facebook and Twitter to find out what’s going on near you!

Zoe Conn

Zoe is the Fundraising and Communications Manager at Student Hubs. A recent graduate, during her time at university she was heavily involved in charity and event fundraising in her roles as sponsorship manager on her college ball committee, and as Co-Director of the Oxford Climate Forum 2012.

Tags: Social Action, Third Sector

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