Connecting communities, inspiring futures: Can student volunteering fill the void?

This week, actions will speak louder than words as students from all over England participate in a range of volunteering events that demonstrate their commitment to the community during Student Volunteering Week.
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The Independent Online

This year, the week will focus on ‘Inspiring futures; connecting communities’. This reflects the personal and professional value of student volunteering not only to the individual; but also their future employers and local communities.

A group of MPs from across the political spectrum have also thrown their support behind the week with over 50 signing up to an Early Day Motion laid down in Parliament by Rt Hon Alun Michael MP celebrating the contribution made by the many student volunteers across the country.

David Lammy MP, Minister of State for Higher Education and Intellectual Property at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills also had nothing but praise for the Week and student volunteers:

“To all those student volunteers - I’m sure I’m speaking to the converted. They will already know how valued they are, how much help they give where it is most needed, and how it can give them a renewed sense of self-worth."

Co-ordinated by Volunteering England, the national volunteering development agency, and sponsored by Santander, Student Volunteering Week is a national campaign that seeks to raise the profile of student volunteering.

Justin Davis Smith, Chief Executive of Volunteering England explained why Volunteering England felt student volunteers needed their own awareness week:

“Student volunteering impacts not only on the future employability of students, but also enhances the relationship between communities and educational institutions. There are too many negative stereotypes of students around and it is time that we celebrated the contribution they make to our society.”

Christianne Carrick of Santander Community Relations, corporate sponsors of the Week, added: “Volunteering is a crucial component to building healthy communities, and through our support of Student Volunteering Week we are providing opportunities for students not only to gain valuable experience in preparation for the world of work, but also to promote citizenship and a deeper appreciation of organisations that rely on voluntary support.”

“As an employer and graduate recruiter, Santander recognises the value of voluntary experience in enhancing the employability of students and graduates alike.”

David Marchant volunteered with Community Development Agency for Hertfordshire whilst studying for a degree in Business studies

“I work with members of the board to help develop a community garden project. The project will help educate members of the community on the importance of healthy eating and also give them first hand experience of doing so, as well as all the other benefits working outdoors brings.

“The position was advertised at my University and I volunteered to give myself a new experience and challenge, while helping others.

“Working in the voluntary sector is very different to the private sector, and the time I have spent here has helped me realise that. I have had to attend meetings, contact external people and originations as well learn new processes.

“I believe the time I have spent volunteering will greatly help me in the future. Possible employers will hopefully be impressed with the year I have spent here.”

The Week is getting a lot of support from graduate recruiters, large corporate firms and MPs to name but a few, it is the efforts of the students that should really take centre stage. With hundreds of events going on around the country.

Below is just a small selection of the events that will be happening:

Students from London universities and colleges are cleaning the River Thames foreshore near Westminster.

University of Southampton is organising a tea dance for local residents, with student volunteers playing music and giving dance lessons.

Nottingham Trent University is organising a drumming workshop for children with disabilities and a soup kitchen for the homeless.

Students’ Union at the University of Worcester is inviting charities on campus to meet students and show them what's on offer.

Students from the universities of Coventry and Warwick will come together for the Big Challenge - a number of joint one-day volunteering projects across the city including, designing murals and conservation projects.

The University of Manchester is having a volunteering speed matching event. Based on speed dating, the event will introduce new student volunteers to voluntary organisations.

And in the North East, University of Durham’s Student Community Action student volunteers will be helping out in local hospitals and schools. And, Student Community Action at Newcastle University will be organising one-off conservation activities at Newburn Countryside Park, helping rangers with tree planting and fence repairs.

* If this has inspired you to get involved with student volunteering, please visit