Every year, Student Volunteering Week (SVN) aims to celebrate and showcase the impact of volunteering. Last year, over 55,000 students got involved. In this post, CBOS PhD student Alisha Tuladhar describes her experience of volunteering, and explains the many different options available for students who want to make a difference.
Volunteering is good for you!
Research suggests that volunteering can enhance happiness and wellbeing, improve depression and even extend life expectancy. Student Volunteering Week is organised by the Student Volunteering Network (SVN), with support from Student Hubs and the NUS. This week is a great opportunity for students and academics not only to find out more about ‘volunteerism’, but to act on it.
Volunteering to me extends beyond regular activities such as helping out at a day-care centre or local charity shop. Volunteering can also mean contributing your time and skills towards an organisation that needs it.
Last year, while studying for my Masters at the University of Bath, I participated in the Zurich Community Challenge. Groups of students were paired with local organisations - we listened to their needs and offered real-time solutions. My team was paired with Volunteer Centre Bath and Beyond, and our task was to create a video promoting the Centre, which could be shown to potential company managers to convince them of the various benefits of volunteering and the process of getting involved. The Centre has often struggled to get companies on board so we felt that a video would be a good way to engage them. We all had some experience of video-making and were aware of the impact it could have if this message was well delivered. I learnt a lot about team work during the process, especially because the group was rather diverse and everyone had different ideas, but this led to constructive criticisms and eventually to a worthy creation.
Now, I volunteer during weekends and evenings for the Circular Economy Club (CEC) as a PR Coordinator. My role is to contact, network with and write to relevant media outlets and publications about the activities and events of the CEC. I write press releases and articles promoting the concept of Circular Economy. As this is also my PhD research topic, my volunteering in this field has really helped me think about the impact my research could have on practitioners. I am able to network with budding entrepreneurs, established consultants or leading scholars working in the CE field, and this brings a different dimension to my work and is helping me to build valuable relationships for the future.
How can you volunteer?
If you’d like to get involved with a volunteering project, there are many routes available to you. Here are five ways to get started.
- Through the Student Union (SU):
The SU, and particularly the Student Volunteering Team (V-Team) holds numerous events and information sessions for anyone interested in getting involved with Student Volunteering Week. From Food Drop to bake sales, there are plenty of opportunities to contribute and make a difference. Looking beyond this week, the SU holds a database of volunteering opportunities.
- Zurich Challenge for Master’s Students / Student Research Co-op for PhD Students
For the past 4 years, Zurich Community Trust (on behalf of the Zurich Life business in the UK) have been working in partnership with the University of Bath’s School of Management. They seek to encourage small teams of students to volunteer their time and/or skills in October and November to add value to local charitable organisations. Zurich staff have engaged in these challenge projects for over 20 years and a member of Zurich's staff who has already completed a successful challenge project mentors each of the student teams. Many different organisations get involved, for example the Alzheimer’s Society, Foodbank, Macmillan Cancer and the Royal United Hospital.
- Volunteer Centre Bath and Beyond
Volunteer Centre Bath and Beyond also has a database where you can search for opportunities that interest you. Allow yourself about 15 minutes to create your volunteer profile. Once set up, narrow down your choices according to your interest area and they will get back to you in a few days.
- John’s Foundation
NGOs often have limited budgets and resources, but their efforts can have a high impact on society. Volunteering does not need to be standard fund-raising - you can contribute via office or too. For instance, the St. John’s Foundation in Bath is expanding its activity programmes for the over 55s in Bath and the surrounding area. This has led to an increase in enquiries and more people attending activity sessions – leading to a need for more volunteers to help in office based tasks.
- Virtual Volunteering
What if you could volunteer from the comfort of your desks? Often, we spend hours on Netflix or Facebook - why not swap this for virtual volunteering? You can blog, prepare project plans, help set up websites, do SEO, create videos…the opportunities are endless!
Student Volunteering Week is running until Sunday 25th February and there is still time to get involved – visit the SU website for more information.
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