Tuesday, 16 February 2016
This week marks National Student Volunteering Week and students in Worcester have certainly been putting in their fair share.
Last year, students at the University clocked up more than 30,000 hours of volunteering. But this academic year – with six months still to go – they are already at over 18,000 hours.
Taylor Cornes, a second year trainee primary school teacher, has taken up a range of voluntary roles, both at the University and in the wider community. She recognises that volunteering has helped her as well as giving her the opportunity to help others:
“I work as a student rep’ for my course, as well as a Brownie leader near home,” she said. “The student rep work has really boosted my confidence. I used to be quite shy, but I have had to develop the ability to work with all kinds of people. It is hugely rewarding to be entrusted with representing my fellow students and making sure their voice is heard. These days I take everything in my stride, even facing up to the challenge of chairing a big meeting!”
When Taylor isn’t representing the student voice on campus, she volunteers in the community as a Brownie leader with the same pack she herself attended as a child:
“I love my work with the Brownies. The girls are all quite shy when they join, and it’s wonderful to watch them develop their confidence and skills as they get older and prepare to move on to guides. They see me as a role model, and it is an amazing experience for me as a trainee teacher to work with children away from the classroom. At Brownies I take on a slightly different role - as a friend rather than a teacher.”
Debbie Doyle - a second year Archaeology and Heritage student - loves volunteering so much, that her tireless efforts have caused some to ask if she is volunteering ‘too much’. So what drives Debbie to volunteer so much of her time?
“I used to work in aerospace engineering,” she said. “It was a respectable job, but I didn’t enjoy a minute of it. I just thought, ‘there’s got to be more than this’. Volunteering has always been my antidote to that feeling. It is the ‘more’ that I was looking for.”
Debbie certainly appears to have thrown herself in to as many voluntary roles as she can find at the University. As a member of the ‘Fresher’s Crew’, she greets new students and helps them settle in to university life. As student representative for the Institute of Science and the Environment, she ensures students have a voice across the University. But beyond specific roles and responsibilities, it is volunteering in general - in all its many and varied shapes and sizes – that appeals to Debbie:
“These days I think volunteering is old-fashioned human kindness rebranded. If you knock on a door and say you’d like to help, people might be a bit suspicious. If you say you’re volunteering for Worcester Uni, there is a sense that there’s an organisation they can trust behind it all. So if you call it volunteering, I think people accept the help more readily.”
“I’ve never been one to say ‘that’s not my job’. When you put your hand up to volunteer, you are basically saying that you will help. So when people come to you and ask for that help, you have to find the time.”
Charlie Russell is a first year Criminology and Sociology student at the University. Having battled through a considerable set of challenges in her life thus far, Charlie sees her voluntary work as a chance to give something back:
“I’ve been homeless a couple of times in my life, both as a child and as an adult,” she said. “When I was in trouble a lot of people helped me, and I’d like to give something back – balance up the karma a bit I guess.”
Charlie’s first voluntary role at the University was as a student representative for her course. And having caught the volunteering bug, she has since gone on to establish a Vegans and Vegies group for her fellow students:
“I’ve always been passionate about veganism. At the YMCA I campaigned to make sure that vegans and vegies had their dietary needs met. Here at the Uni’ I’ve setup a Facebook group where people can share ideas and support each other, and I’ve established a Vegans and Vegies group through the Student’s Union which is on the verge of being rubber stamped.”