To wrap up eight years of work with the University of Winchester and the wider community, Winchester Hub hosted a celebration event on Tuesday 20 September. This wonderful evening was attended by staff and trustees from Student Hubs, former Winchester Hub staff members, student alumni, community partners, and colleagues from the University with just over 40 people in attendance. This provided everyone the opportunity to reflect on the amazing impact that the Hub has created since it first launched in the city, and the experiences it has created for so many people.
The History of Winchester Hub
Since 2014, Student Hubs and the University of Winchester have worked together to champion student leadership and engagement with social action through Winchester Hub. In those eight years, we’ve had fantastic successes through our impact on students, the local community, and the wider university. Over our time together, we are incredibly proud to have engaged over 3,600 students in social and environmental action through practical volunteering opportunities, skilled placements, events and training, as well as supporting students to incubate their own community programmes and social enterprises. We have also worked with over 100 community partners, reaching 3,800 residents, ranging from the elderly to children, from all walks of life. Read more about the impact the Hub has had in our eight year impact report.
In light of a new strategic direction both from the University of Winchester and Student Hubs, a difficult decision has been made to end our partnership in its current structure, which means the closure of Winchester Hub. You can read more about this decision in our joint statement from Student Hubs and the University of Winchester.
Celebrating the Hub
Before Winchester Hub closed its doors, we wanted to celebrate the hard work put in, and impact created, by so many students and staff members and create a space to do this with the people who have supported us throughout the years.
It was important to take this opportunity to highlight the amazing work and impact that the Hub had over the years, as well as make sure we were sharing what we have learnt. We set up a poster exhibition so that we could showcase our history, and our flagship programmes including Schools Plus, the Social Innovation Programme, and Woolly Matters. We also took the time to reflect on our work with the community and our student leaders; we featured a collection of photos and newspaper clippings that served to display the joy of social action and the effect of Winchester Hub’s presence in the city.
Everyone in attendance was able to reminisce on the parts they had played over the past eight years and many people enjoyed spotting photos of themselves from their time volunteering or taking part in community events.
We were also able to celebrate the partnerships and the individuals who have contributed to Winchester Hub’s success through a number of speeches given throughout the night. There were four amazing speakers who shared their reflections including the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Winchester University, Liz Stuart, Student Hubs CEO and former Winchester Hub staff member, Sim Dhanjal-Field, and two student alumni, Flo McLoughlin-Jones, Schools Plus Coordinator 2014-15, and Rosanna Foster, Communications Coordinator 2019-21 and Intern 2021.
Reflecting on her time as an intern for Winchester in Autumn 2021, Rosanna said
“I completed those two weeks as a different person. I’d battled anxiety and gained so many new skills in doing so.If a two week internship can do that much for one individual, imagine how impactful Winchester Hub’s projects could be semester after semester, year after year. And they were, for not only the individuals representing the committee, and volunteering, but importantly, those being supported by our work.”
While Sim reflected on how the community can continue to empower students and champion work within the community.
“Winchester is a complex city and its needs are continually changing. Partners in similar places need different things, like students, every school is different, every care home, every youth centre. Community groups and organisations love working with students and are craving more opportunities to meaningfully engage with the university community as well. When approaching this work, do not take any assumptions into those partnerships – be open to listening first.”
This event provided a space for everyone to look back on their time at Winchester Hub in whatever form it took. For me personally, this marked the final stage in my journey with Winchester Hub, having started out in 2018 as a volunteer for Woolly Matters as a knitting novice before building my skills and becoming project coordinator in 2019. I then had the opportunity for further skill development and a chance to build relationships with the community by taking on the role of committee President during 2020/21. I was lucky enough to be able to continue my work with the Hub when I took over as Programmes Manager in October 2021, meaning I have now been connected to the branch for over 4 years.
It was wonderful being able to come together with colleagues, and my fellow student volunteers to share our memories and reminisce on what we were able to do during our time as volunteers and on the committee, reflecting on how projects were formed following conversations with community partners to the way we were able to build strong relationships with the community. While it is sad to think that we won’t be continuing our work in the same way, it is amazing to know that we have well and truly left our mark on the community.
Winchester Hub has brought so much joy, lifelong friendships and valuable skills to so many people, including to me, which I will be able to use going forward. Students have been supported through their volunteering and it has been brilliant to see them go on to do such great things.