The National Societies & Volunteering Awards recognise the contributions of student volunteers and student-led societies from UK higher and further education institutions. This year Student Hubs is honoured to be hosting the awards in partnership with Organised Fun.
Since Student Volunteering Week in February we have been watching the nominations come flying in. We received over 340 nominations from 52 different institutions. It’s been a joy to read all the incredible things students have been doing over the past year across the country. Our judging panels start this week, and over the next three weeks, student leaders and sector specialists will be reviewing the top 12 nominations in each category – the longlist – and identifying the shortlist (top 6 nominations), winners and runners up.
Today we are excited to announce the longlist for each category. We received so many wonderful nominations, it was really hard to pick the longlist to go forward to the judging panels. We want to recognise everyone this year, and hope that even if you didn’t make it through this round, you’ll still join us on 23rd May in Reading for the in-person awards evening.
Take a look below to see if you made it! We would have loved to include everyone’s entire nomination but to make it more accessible, key details about each nomination has been lifted from their application.
The Wellbeing Award
Recognising those individuals, societies, or projects that have championed student wellbeing. Student volunteering and societies provide a crucial space for students to feel comfortable, do what they love and make friends – and this award celebrates the importance that has on wellbeing.
Bristol Nightline at University of Bristol
Bristol Nightline is a confidential listening service run completely by students to offer support to their peers. The internals of the organisation are completely run by students from the University of Bristol, and students from 3 partner universities are able to use the call and instant messaging (IM) services offered overnight during term-time. This year, the committee has worked hard to revolutionise the service with major improvements that deserve to be recognised. In particular, Bristol Nightline has now established systems to provide crucial support to their own volunteers. Bristol Nightline has seen a dramatic increase in reach and engagement in the past year. As a result of their publicity and social media efforts, they have managed to train volunteers consistently through the year. This has allowed them to open up their service for more nights per week, and as a result they have had 48% more calls (including IMs) this year. Unfortunately, Nightline has also experienced a 100% increase in the amount of suicidal calls, which shows how vital their work is and how worrying the current mental health crisis is. The work Nightline provide allows students to feel heard and helps them to explore their emotions, without the risk of judgement or pressure to make a decision. They aim to help students come to their own conclusions and ultimately want people to feel heard.
Survivors Support Network at Nottingham Trent University Students’ Union
SSN is a safe place and a source of support for self-identifying women at NTU who have experienced incidents of sexual violence, and it is an absolutely incredible resource that has been created and led by students. The entire nature of Survivors Support is fuelled by and revolves around student wellbeing. Despite being almost entirely run by one student in particular, Rose Taylor, SSN is considered by the University to be such a fantastic safe place for students that it is referenced as a resource on a number of lists provided to students. This year alone they have achieved a huge amount for such a small group, and as a community rather than a society they have continued to keep their events and meetings free to attend, championing the kind of accessibility we should all hope to provide to those who have experienced any kinds of violence at or before university.
LOCO Show Co at University of Worcester
This student group has shown a deep commitment to fostering a supportive and inclusive community that prioritises the wellbeing of every single member. Their work has helped members to feel they can state their boundaries and that they will be respected, that they can say no and that them being comfortable is the most important thing. It has helped members to open up but also to see some positives even if they are having a really difficult time. LOCO’s work focuses on every member as an individual and acknowledges the difference of every member, accommodating them in every way they can so that any student can join their society, take part in their shows and have a great time.
Consent Awareness and Sexual Health Education (CASHES) at University of Southampton
CASHES provide year round support for student wellbeing and sexual health in an inclusive and accessible manner for all. They are, for a lot of students, the first port of call for help or advice on sexual health, sexual violence and harassment, and other experiences common in student populations; when they do not feel comfortable speaking to the University or the Students Union. CASHES’ continued work over the summer of 2022 and the 22/23 year has held the Students’ Union to account on nighttime economy issues such as spiking, sexual harassment and abuse, leading to changes in security personnel, more training for staff and security, the hiring of welfare officers at SU events, StopTopps free for all students, and personal safety alarms available for students. They help many students each month with signposting and advice via their Instagram messages on a variety of topics ranging from asking how to order an STI testing kit to helping advocate for students who want disciplinary action against the university for their responses to sexual harassment or helping them to report sexual assault.
Midwifery Rocks at University of Derby
As the first cohort of student midwives at the University of Derby, Midwifery Rocks have worked really hard to promote wellbeing and self-care. Within 2 weeks, the committee discussed, organised and implemented a Festive Tea for Tommy’s, a pregnancy and baby loss charity. Committee members baked cakes to sell, and designed and constructed a willow memory tree with lots of crocheted stars paired with card stars, so people could take the crochet star home and hang the card star on the memory tree. It was a really beautiful event and had wide community impact on families who had lost babies and family members. After a full day fundraising, Midwifery Rocks were provided a real 7ft Christmas tree to transfer the stars onto so that even more people could become aware of the initiative.
The Wellbeing Ambassadors at University of Essex
This volunteering group has focused so much on meeting the needs of the students, and it’s volunteers. The Wellbeing Ambassadors have proven itself to be one of the most responsive volunteering groups. When students raised issues surrounding sexual violence, the Wellbeing Ambassadors responded with an inclusive march in which many people participated. It allowed people to express their thoughts and feelings surrounding the issue through chants, banners, and speeches. Without the Wellbeing Ambassadors, the student body would not have been unified and listened to in such a way. Aside from running events, they also pride themselves as the people students can turn to when they don’t know what to do. The committee is trained in mental health first aid, and can actively signpost mental health services to students who feel like they need more support. They are also planning to talk with Community 360 about their upcoming Mental Health Hub in Greenstead and what kind of services would benefit the large student population most. By advocating for the students in this situation, The Wellbeing Ambassadors ensure that future generations at the University of Essex will have more mental health resources available.
Headucate at University of East Anglia
Headucate is a student led society whose primary aim is to raise awareness of mental health and tackle the associated stigma. It mainly does this by providing its members with training so that they can deliver educational mental health awareness workshops at schools in the local area. Headucate is innovative in its approach to educating others about mental health, quickly adjusting their workshops to run online to continue to engage with local schools. They have engaged with hundreds of University of East Anglia (UEA) students through workshops, social events, and photo campaigns. Headucate is also proud to have made links with local organisations, and the UEA faculty, to provide education, support, funds and awareness.
Exeter University Open Water Swimming Society at University of Exeter.
Cold water therapy is now well known to have significant benefits for both mental and physical wellbeing. Exeter’s Open Water Swimming Society provides a welcoming and friendly space to immerse ourselves in the sea safely. Not only is the cold water beneficial but being part of the society allows members to make new friends from different years and backgrounds through their socials. They are always there to help out with socialisation and support. It’s a really heart warming community that gather every Sunday to swim in the sea as a way of clearing the mind. They’ve sent out multiple resources to promote mental and physical wellbeing, informing members on the perks of open water swimming. In addition to this, they are always prioritising swim safety, making sure that everyone makes the most out of Sunday swims in a safe and effective manner.
Connect at Bangor University
Connect is a volunteering project that invites students of all backgrounds to a safe space this allows them to explore their thoughts and feelings surrounding different topics or have a chat about events in their life. Connect also hosts weekly events such as mindfulness colouring, walks and other wellness activities to help students relax and de-stress. These activities decrease social anxiety when they attempt to talk about sensitive topics such as how they’re settling into university life.
If students are shy or nervous about attending, they can be paired with a buddy who gets to know them so when they attend the session, they are more comfortable, participation is encouraged however, it is not mandatory so many of the students choose to sit on the side-line and listen to different conversations instead of being an active participant. They are also welcome to join online, if they are more comfortable with this, as they can choose to have their camera on, their microphone on, or just type out their responses. This is so they can slowly build their confidence and hopefully, they will begin to start socialising more in sessions.
Afro-Caribbean Society at Ashton Students’ Union
From the beginning of the year the Afro-Caribbean Society (ACS) has been keen to organise events that bring more welfare and wellbeing to their members. They have worked hard to organise appropriate events, as well as creating a space for their members to be able to feel safe, share their feelings and reach out when they need help. Through these activities ACS has created a community for their members where they feel safe and supported. Members feel they can approach the committee and trust that the committee has their best interest for their welfare and wellbeing. Furthermore, by organising such events they have started conversations with their members which otherwise might have not been talked about and/or might have not had any support for. For these reasons, it is important to recognise the amazing work they have done to make their members feel safe and supported.
Paige Shilcock at University of Salford
Paige has been nominated for their dedication to their role as Health and Wellbeing Officer, and going above and beyond to support members of the Cheerleading Society. Paige has been an amazing middle person in this being someone to talk to from all parties and making sure people understand the decisions that have been made so they either don’t leave the club on bad grounds or cause issues in the club after the event. Not once has anyone shown spite or hatred towards anyone in training and this is down to Paige’s honesty and availability with each member as someone they can rely on and trust in any situation.
VTeam Cafe at Essex Students’ Union
The Volunteering Café took over an indoor space in the middle of campus, in an area that would get good passing traffic as students moved between lectures and classes. As students arrived at the café, they were greeted by a member of VTeam and given a brief intro to all the activities available to them. They were encouraged, first of all, to write down a volunteering idea on a post-it note that we could hang on our wishing washing line. We would later use all these shared ideas to help determine what volunteering we offered in future. From there they could sit at a table and take part in a number of micro-volunteering activities including Poetic Legacies, Post Pals, Mandalas and Positive Affirmations, Haiku writing, and the Cultural Welcome Survey. They have been nominated in this category due to their commitment to showing that even small amounts of volunteering can have a profound impact on the volunteer as well!
You can get your tickets to the in-person awards ceremony on Tuesday 23rd May at 3Sixty Reading, at Reading University Students’ Union here. Early Bird ticket prices are available till 21st April!