Student Volunteering Week reminds us that, supporting others is one of the kindest and potentially most life-changing acts you can do. Volunteering isn’t just for wealthy people who want to “give something back”; it’s not just for people who are fulfilling their community service commitment either; it’s a chance for YOU to step up and support others!
From my own experience, I know that possibilities to volunteer are endless!
When I first started volunteering, I was in secondary school and helped at Vauxhall City Farm for a month. I looked after the animals and supported the staff where I could. I also gave tours to visitors, taking them around the farm and talking about the animals. Did I mention that I love animals?
I then went on doing something more challenging, working with vulnerable adults aged 23-65. Considering I was just a college student, it was a heart-breaking experience. I saw people break down under the burden of their addictions and, to twist the knife, I became witness to an act of abuse committed by a member of staff. At first, I didn’t quite know what to do, but eventually, me and another volunteer decided to step forward and reported the incident to the Head of Department. Thanks to our “whistleblowing”, the victim was provided with bespoke support, allowing them to move forward. In this case, my volunteering was truly “life-changing”.
During my time at college, I was giving tours to prospective students, showing them what the college had to offer and explaining the different courses and specialisations available, as well as the difference between B-Tech and A-levels. It was fun!
Probably the most exciting experience I’ve ever made volunteering, was when I was working for a children’s organisation. My specific job role was…wait for it… a “Playworker”! What on earth is a “playworker”? Well, besides data protection, legalities, and the care aspect, the job is exactly what you would expect it to be. I spent a lot of time with the children (2 to 12 years old), essentially playing and having a great time. I would take them to the park, engage them in craft making, prepare food with them, and so on. We would have water fights and just do what you would do with any child on holidays!
In my six months with them, I grew quite attached to the children, even the troublemakers. One boy will always stay in my memories. He was deaf and with time, he found a way to teach me how to communicate with him. Leaving was definitely bittersweet.
Loving working with children, I then started volunteering as a student pediatric nurse on an intensive care ward for babies. Emotionally, this experience was very difficult for me, as I grew close to my patients as well as their parents. In any case, it was definitely the most labour intensive experience, but also the most rewarding. I learned a lot!
As you can see, there are so many ways you can give your time and volunteer for the benefit of the community. Volunteering not only gives you the opportunity to help those in need but also allows you to expand your own social and professional networks, find support for yourself and build your skills. All of that whilst doing something you truly believe in! And, if that doesn’t convince you, remember that it always looks good on your CV!
Written by Roopa Mehta.