It’s hard to believe that Student Volunteering Week finished exactly three months ago today, and today marks the beginning of another week dedicated to recognising volunteers in the UK… Volunteers’ Week.
Volunteers’ Week celebrates the 23 million people of all ages in the UK who volunteer, of which hundreds of thousands are students at schools, colleges and universities.
To celebrate the volunteers (over 2000 of them!) in over 170 projects across the Hub network, I’ve decided to share quotes from some of them to illustrate three key themes that we see time and time again through our projects…
Volunteers tackling social issues
“I’m passionate about access to learning. It’s so important that people from poorer backgrounds have the same access to quality education and get the chance to push themselves to succeed. It’s really great being in the position where we can help these young people achieve what they want to achieve and support their learning.”
That’s a quote from a student who volunteers with our Schools Plus programme. She spends a couple of hours a week tutoring secondary school pupils at a Supplementary School in North Kensington. Her words demonstrate something crucial about good student social action: It should enable students to learn about real issues in their community, understand the unique role that they can play, and then actually do something about it. At our 10 Hubs, the students’ projects and events have addressed educational disadvantage, social isolation, homelessness, rights of refugees, digital exclusion, climate change, sustainability, human rights, opportunities for young carers, food waste, gender equality, mental health and much more.
Volunteers developing their skills for the future
“I was able to develop a huge range of practical skills from being able to lead a team and start a new initiative from scratch. Volunteering also taught me to not be afraid to try new things and see what works, and allowed me to network with different departments and external organisations that has really kick-started my interest in science communication, something that has since defined my career ambitions.”
This quote came from a student who set up a Blood and Organ Donation campaign group on campus and then went on to be on a Hub Committee. His words show that volunteering can be challenging and full of practical skills development, and can even open your eyes to potential social impact career possibilities. Volunteers’ Week is particularly exciting for us because it gives current students a sense of all the volunteering opportunities available beyond university. Our hope is that every student who volunteers at uni continues to make a positive social impact as a graduate.
Volunteers inspiring others to get involved
“When volunteering with older people, you enhance your understanding of a group of people that you don’t really engage with every day or see, but a group that are the fastest growing in the world. Apart from the feel good factor, you’re improving interpersonal skills, diversifying your experience of people and engaging with your community to which you become more aware of and so feel you belong.”
This quote came from a student who volunteered weekly with older people in our LinkAges project. It shows that great student volunteers are able to articulate their experience to others, encouraging and enabling them to get involved too. So many new volunteers in our projects heard about us through word of mouth, and that just shows how important it is for current volunteers to spread the word, grow their teams, and increase the long-term sustainability of the opportunities that they’re involved in.
These stories are just a snapshot of the diversity of motivations and experiences of student volunteers across our network. We know that excellent social action opportunities make a positive impact on both the students volunteering and on their local communities, and this double benefit is what our staff and students strive for. Our local Hubs are already in the midst of improving existing activities and creating new ones for the 2015-16 academic year, so watch this space!