With it only being a month until the end of Epiphany Term and summative deadlines looming, it’s easy to forget that university is about more than gaining a degree. It’s a place where you meet new friends, find your passions in life and try new things. Over the past two years, I have found that there is no better way to do all those things than by taking part in volunteering. Through volunteering you get to meet people from all walks of life, gain new skills such as communication, and make an impact on the local community through exciting activities. What’s more, gaining all this real-life experience increases your employability, complementing your degree. A study by Oxfam (2017) showed that 80% of employers are more likely to hire an applicant with volunteering experience. So what’s stopping you? Time is often a big barrier but, whilst there is the option to volunteer weekly, you could do a ‘one-off’ session and volunteer just once this year. If you are not convinced yet, continue reading because I’m going to share my volunteering experiences with you!
There are so many ways to get involved in volunteering, you just need to know where to look. Last summer, DUCK (Durham University Charities Kommittee) led me to Peru. Here, I volunteered for 3 weeks at an after-school programme which provided a safe place for the children. It kept the kids off the streets and gave them a decent childhood, as well as a good education to increase their chances of escaping the cycle of poverty in the future. After my volunteering placement was done, I trekked to Machu Picchu!
It has to be one of the best and most meaningful summers I have had. Volunteering is more than gaining skills for your CV. It is the best way to meet new people and get to know other cultures better. It also gives you so many opportunities to try new things and go to new places, like Peru! And all these little things you do greatly impact the local community in the long run.
Volunteering closer to home
Back in the UK, every Wednesday I volunteer at a beautiful farm in the North York Moors through Student Commuity Action. This farm is a safe haven for adults who are physically and mentally disabled. Here, we join in with and facilitate whatever activities they are doing, like woodwork, arts & crafts, and animal care. Sometimes we just take a relaxing walk with them in the woods. One of the reasons I keep on going back is the people. Although I am the volunteer, I always feel like the adults I am volunteering with are the ones helping with all their excitement and joyful personalities. Going to this sanctuary helps me to de-stress and get away from all the university work for a while.
When I can, I get involved in ‘one-off’ events to try new things. One memorable event was when we went Christmas carolling at a Dementia care home. As an international student I can’t celebrate Christmas with my family, so it was nice to share the Christmas spirit with the residents who were also unable to be home with their family! Volunteering brings so much you to and the people who you help; it’s really worth getting involved.
Your Turn to Get Involved!
If anything I mentioned intrigued you to volunteer, get volunteering!
Next week from the 19th – 25th February is Student Volunteering Week, when the whole country will be volunteering together. Student Community Action (SCA) is organising almost 40 activities to give you the opportunity to volunteer, both in Durham and Stockton. With opportunities ranging from conservation projects, to kids’ parties, to horse riding and visting to Fowl Green farm, we have many options for you to choose from. Head to https://www.facebook.com/events/1985326794827946/ for the Stockton timetable, and https://www.facebook.com/events/1587849067918800/ for the Durham timetable.