Since I left university, I’ve made two major moves to new cities. The first was driven by a new job, while the second was in pursuit of building a social enterprise. Each time, it took a while for me to feel settled. I had to figure out new homes, new commutes and where the good charity shops are. I had to get used to all the new people in my daily life.
Some time after my most recent move to Cambridge, I decided to stop working on the social enterprise and return to having a “proper” job. Cue another big change.
Thankfully, I was introduced to the brilliant organisation Turtle Dove at this point. After failing to remember a meeting with the founder Kate (oops!), I offered to volunteer partly due to British awkwardness, but also because I could see immediately how certain Kate was of the project’s impact.
My exposure to Student Hubs during university and as a graduate staff member for the Oxford Hub meant I understood how useful volunteers can be for small organisations. I said yes to volunteering with Turtle Dove, and you’ll be happy to know I’ve remembered all the events since!
One of the key aims of Turtle Dove is to support young women who are at risk of becoming unemployed. They do this by providing work experience opportunities such as hands-on assistance at weddings, charity events, afternoon teas for the elderly and Christmas community events. The young women they work with are an inspiring group. Some of them deal with complex family situations, health problems, difficulties in education or having to adjust to a new city with few friends around for support.
One of the best events I’ve worked with them has been a Christmas fundraiser – Rowan’s “Winter Warmer” annual event. Rowan is a local charity that runs an Arts Centre to support people with learning disabilities. The centre itself opens up behind a non-assuming semi-detached house as a wonderfully designed (and much bigger than expected) space. Beautiful hand-crafted cards, gifts and decorations made by their students were sold to the merry masses. Our role for the evening was serving mulled wine. It was easy to feel a warm glow (no wine on the job though) about the great things happening locally.
These little exposures to the lives of others who share this city have allowed me to understand Cambridge as a living place full of energy, commitment and laughter. Volunteering has helped me to break through the unknown and anonymous spaces around me.
Whether you’re close to home or not, volunteering is rarely as selfless as it may first seem. It’s given me a sense of community and helped me settle into this new city. I’m grateful that Student Volunteering Week can make volunteering accessible to many more young people and encourage social action as a lifelong habit.
Join Sarah and share your social action experiences using #IVolunteerBecause on Facebook and Twitter. Let us know what you’re up to during Student Volunteering Week using #SVW2018, too! You can find activities taking place through your local Hub.