Last night, we celebrated the National Societies and Volunteering Awards at the Reading Students’ Union. Over the course of the evening, I heard about the incredible achievements that student groups and individuals had this year and I was blown away by the talent, passion and determination in the room. Today, we wanted to share with you the runners up and winners for each award!
The Wellbeing Award
This award recognises those individuals, societies, or projects that have championed student wellbeing this year. It is crucial to support students to feel comfortable, that they feel safe to do what they love and make friends – a huge well done to everyone in this category who ensured wellbeing played a part in their activities this year.
Well done to our winners of the Wellbeing Award, the Wellbeing Ambassadors at the University of Essex! Their work around meeting the needs of students has been incredible this year and deserves the celebration! For example, 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. Through advocating students on a variety of topics, the Wellbeing Ambassadors ensured that future generations at the University of Essex will have more resources and support available to them. Well done!
The Volunteering Cafe took over an indoor space and provided the opportunity to share their ‘wish list’ of volunteering opportunities for the year to come. Shoutout to the VTeam for hosting a variety of micro-volunteering events from the ideas of students, from Post Pols and Haiku writing to the poetic Legacies and Cultural Welcome Survey!
The Survivors’ Support Network created a safe place and were a source of support for self-identifying women who have experienced incidents of sexual violence. Well done for the incredible amount achieved by the group, as well as for keeping all events and meetings free to attend. Particular shoutout to their leader, Rose Taylor, for their hard work.
The Event Award
This award recognises a brilliant event organised by a society or volunteering team. The events nominated showed real innovation, and provided a fantastic experience for attendees, whilst also making a difference. I would have been delighted to have attended any of the long-listed events this year!
Congratulations to the winners of the Event Award, the Trashion Show by the Fashion Forward Society at the University of Bristol. The Fashion Forward Society has adapted to incorporate a more sustainable perspective to the fashion industry, challenging fast fashion issues and building spaces for university students to understand how they can enjoy fashion in a sustainable way. The Trashion Show raised £1000 for Bristol Hub, selling out their event and engaging over 20 designers in making showstopper pieces out of recycled materials. A huge well done to the quality of this event and the awareness raised for both a local charity and sustainability in fashion.
The Nutrition Society was new this year – but that didn’t stop them being innovative and inclusive! A shoutout goes to their ‘Blue Poops’ event, championing and sharing cutting edge research around gut health and mental health – their baked blue muffins will go down in the Events of the Year!
The Tea Party hosts older members of the local community at Bangor for Christmas and Easter parties. Running since 1952, the tea party celebrated its 70th anniversary of providing intergenerational fun, bonding the students and community together!
The Opportunities for All Award
This award aims to recognise those who are thinking and engaging with equity, equality, inclusion, diversity and liberation work. Being able to encourage wider participation and to reduce barriers is incredibly important in volunteering and social action for all.
Congratulations to Falmouth and Exeter Asian Society at the SU (Exeter and Falmouth Universities) for winning the Opportunities for All Award. As the society reached the largest number of students (Asian and non-Asian) in Cornwall this year, they have had a significant impact on campus life. Notably, this year it has organised the celebration of core Asian festivals like Diwali, Lunar New Year, and Holi (soon will be celebrating Eid) – each of these festivals have been celebrated for the first time ever on campus.Well done!
Amelia has worked across a variety of roles, including Games and Fandom Representative, Secretary for RAG and the Department Rep for History. We wanted to particularly highlight her championing of intersectional inclusivity and accessibility, as the university has highlighted how much this will have a long-term positive effect on students to come.
Mu’sab is currently president of the UoG Islamic Society, supporting prayer facilitation and activities for over 400 students. Well done for bringing such passion and encouragement to all students and for supporting prayer spaces to be accommodating and equipped for users practising a variety of faiths and religions.
The Collaboration Award
To collaborate is to innovate, and this award recognises those that have worked alongside others to achieve something special. It takes time, energy and dedication, but can have a huge impact on the groups around us and this year’s collaborations are incredible to learn about!
Congratulations to the RAG Team and Paramedic Society at the University of Worcester Students’ Union. Their 24 hour CPR training marathon supported 300 people to take part and now confidently administer CPR! Not only did they manage to support all these students and staff to have a better awareness of CPR, but they also raised money for two charities, Beat the Clock, a charity that strives to ensure there are more local and accessible defibrillators and Blood Bikes, in honour of the late student paramedic Shane Davies, who unfortunately passed away this year. It sounds like an event all of us should go to!
The two runners up for the Collaboration Award were The Charity Showcase (shoutout to Oluwanifemi Wilson-Adu, Kieran Phillips, Edward Lee, William Tennison, Dorothy Akuamoa) at Essex University Students’ Union and Nott Oscar Awards at Nottingham Trent Students’ Union.
The Charity Showcase team produced the first ever charity showcase, raising vital funds for a local charity whilst also giving students across the university the opportunity to perform on the main stage on campus. Raising over £1,200 and attracting 150 members, a huge well done is given from us all.
The Nott Oscar Awards was also a first! Inspired and fuelled by the collective passions of five societies, this event celebrated the Film Society, Filmmaking Society, Swift Society, Drama Society and Events Society in their incredible achievements.
The Development Award
It is important to recognise development and growth. This award recognises outstanding development opportunities created through student volunteering and societies, helping students to grow and achieve their full potential.
Well done to the Women and Law Society at Exeter Students’ Guild for the Development award! This society hosts a series of skilled workshops and also provides opportunities to apply lessons that are spoken about. For example they run informal mock interviews and assess applications to support their peers. Some of their stand out events include Networking 101, an interview skills workshop, transferable skills, a LinkedIn masterclass and an application workshop with Herbert Smith Freehills.
The Cosplay Society is one of the newest at York, and has done some excellent work creating a safe space for students. A particular shoutout goes to their Big Cosplay Forum, hosted at the start of each term, as an opportunity for novices and experts to get involved with cosplay in a safe and non judgemental way!
The Strathclyde Speakers has been delivering and facilitating workshops with professional speaking coaches for over three years. With 75% of people being affected by the fear of Public Speaking, the society has created a professional programme with award winning coaches!
The Community Award
Communities are vital towards us creating sustainable, meaningful change. This award aims to recognise individuals, societies or projects that have had a positive, meaningful impact on a wider community. This could be the student community, or the local, national or international community.
A shout out to Jayden Bookout at Royal Holloway, University of London, for their Community Award last night. Jayden has engaged with a wide range of projects and initiatives throughout this year, including establishing their own Homeless Project to support people in the neighbouring boroughs that might be experiencing homelessness. As well as this she has personally volunteered with a number of different organisations including the Englefield Green Brownies, a new community café in Staines called “Talking Tree” and Berkshire Women’s aid where she held the role of Refuge Assistant. She has also participated in the Royal Holloway ESOL project which delivers training sessions for Ukrainian, Syrian and Afghan refugees. In her “spare” time, Jayden has also put her extensive research skills to good use in the last year, participating in Community Research, a stream of volunteering activity that links together students with organisations that require research to be undertaken!
The Cultural Welcome Project interviewed students, particularly international students, on British Slang and Culture. This in turn created the “Cheat Book” to help hack the English Language. A particular shoutout goes to Thomas Williams and Tanyel Mustafa for creating this project.
Education for Choice ran workshops to local secondary schools to educate young people on abortions, contraception and other decisions surrounding pregnancy. Well done for building more access to this education and empowering the next generation to make confident informed decisions regarding their own sexual and reproductive health.
The Committee Excellence Award
Our penultimate award recognises a team, or committees’, achievements. Working together is a pillar towards creating meaningful change and we want to celebrate those outstanding teams that have done tremendous work this year.
Well done to the Sheffield PLAN society at the University of Sheffield for winning the Committee Excellence Award. Sheffield Professional LGBT+ & Allies Network is a career focused society established in September 2022. They help members of the community by liaising with a range of organisations and companies from different sectors to feel self-assured from day one. Well done to a society who has provided many students with the confidence to feel like themselves at work, regardless of their background, sexuality or gender identity.
Southampton Hub have gone above and beyond with their creativity. The committee has supported the delivery of six long-term volunteering projects, engaging with 168 student volunteers and supporting 702 members of the community! As well as this the committee have hosted 11 one-off events, reaching an additional 82 students and 77 members of Southampton!
Women in STEM have improved employability of their members with a variety of workshops, hosted roundtable discussions to discuss topics such as body positivity, mental health and gender bias, and have supported over 100 members to ask questions and network for different grad schemes.
The Extra Mile Award
This is our only individual award, and is to recognise someone that has overcome significant challenges to volunteering or society involvement. We wanted to ensure that students who went above and beyond were celebrated, especially when they have continued to volunteer in spite of personal difficulties.
A huge shoutout to our Extra Mile Award winner, Alfie Benson at the University of Essex. Alfie has been nominated due to their commitment to supporting volunteering at Essex and going above and beyond in their dedication over the past two years, whilst also navigating other challenging responsibilities. Alfie has drastically improved the quality of the Numbers Project and the impact of this has been seen far beyond the university bubble in local schools.
Taylor has been a champion for LGBTQIA+, BAME and Neurodivergent students across their university. A particular shoutout goes to their ‘sensory reduction sessions’ that allowed more inclusion for neurodivergents, but also received lots of praise for positive mental health across the board.
Rose has been the Community Leader for the Survivors’ Support Network and has had a tremendous impact on those around her. Congratulations for making runner up and for being such an instrumental part to the group.
To say it was an incredible night of watching and celebrating some incredible students and their groups is an understatement. A huge well done to all long-list, short-list, runners up and winners for your incredible achievements this year. Additionally thank you to Rosie Hunnam and Organised Fun who created and have led the awards since 2020, and our sponsors, the UPP Foundation, Burges Salmon and Nick Smith Consulting. The event could not have happened without everyone’s support and energy, and we look forward to working in strategic partnership with Organised Fun and the UPP Foundation to plan the future of the National Societies and Volunteering Awards.