Student Volunteering Week – How to get involved with volunteering
What are you passionate about? Most of us have a charity or cause that is close to our heart - perhaps several of them. It's impossible to help them all, and giving money can often be tight (especially on a student budget). Perhaps you could give your time instead for 2016?
Volunteer work is something that has always interested me. Since graduating, I have been involved with two separate organisations, the first being Peterborough Soup Kitchen (which involved helping the homeless and those going through a tough time at a food bank), and also Peterborough Rape Crisis Care Group.
I absolutely love my work at PRCCG, but the training was so intense that I had to give up with the homeless help. It involved over 100 hours of weekly training sessions, assessments and studying towards a qualification in sexual violence. Volunteering can be a huge commitment and it requires a huge emotional investment as well, which is perhaps why they're always short of volunteers.
Long hours at University and busy social lives can eat into the majority of your time, but why not give partying a break and try something new by helping out a charity? There's no doubt some courses would allow for it time wise, but you’ll need to plan ahead to dedicate it to a charity. Volunteer work is not only altruistic, but it can look fantastic at job interviews, and really give you a sense of purpose and fulfillment, too.
The end of February between 22nd- 28th marks Student Volunteering Week, which just highlights what a unique position you're in to be able to lend a helping hand. Once you're stuck in a 9-5, it may be harder to volunteer around rigid work hours. A word of warning, though – it’s better to plan your volunteering with your charity of choice in advance to avoid being turned away if a lot of volunteers happen to helping that particular day or week.
Whilst it's true that there are often waiting lists and vetting checks that need to be done, there are loads of different things that can make a difference. You might find yourself on the phone lines of a bullying helpline, bag packing in Asda to raise money for Cancer Research, or even teaching in an African school. It all just depends on the direction you want to take things in. If you're qualified in a particular area, you can even go one step further. My friend volunteers with the ambulance service and regularly gets involved with real, life-saving work.
There are of course a few things that you must consider. You'll need to think about what you might be able to offer as a volunteer. Perhaps you're fantastic at art or another creative skill? On the other hand, you might be empathetic and great with people! Any kind of skill can be of great use to an organisation.
If you’re at a total loss about where to start, you are not alone! The Student Volunteering Week website will be able to give you loads of pointers, as well as your Student Union. Do-It is also another great website geared towards volunteering that’s well worth a visit to get you started. Keep your eyes peeled for volunteering opportunities advertised around campus it is likely that there will be lots to get involved with to mark the occasion beyond of Volunteer Week in a bid to generate interest. Most universities also have societies which regularly offer volunteer opportunities. For example, I know that the feminist societies can point people in the right direction when it comes to helping women in particular.
CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) is a charity for mental health issues in men, and they have developed ways to engage with students. Both male and female students can get involved by promoting them at exciting events. Yes, that counts as volunteering! You will find a lot of festivals give out free tickets to people wishing to represent certain charities for a few hours as well, so it's always worth a little research.
Whether you give an hour shaking a charity tin at some shoppers, or you devote months of your life to something you care about, it all comes from the same place. It's not about you... but you still deserve a pat on the back!