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Batool Raza: What volunteering means to me

Posted on 25 Feb 2014

When I was in college, the word volunteering made me think of working in a charity shop or standing in the street collecting money for a cause…

I’ve actually done both of these and have to say that they are both worthwhile experiences where you can simultaneously help a great cause and gain valuable skills. However, what I want to stress is that since I started university, I discovered the massive range of ways we can volunteer that isn’t limited to those two things, and that can provide us with experiences and skills we can take with us into our futures.

I have been involved with a variety of volunteering projects, ranging from painting a children’s playground to organising fundraising events.

During my time at Imperial I can link my volunteering to two schemes that have provided me with the encouragement and motivation to get involved.

Firstly, Imperial College Charity Week is a student-led week packed full of fundraising activities including bucket collections on campus, a quiz night and a dinner by the end of it all. I got involved with running an event as part of Charity Week, called Smoky Not Smudgy, a fashion and beauty event for girls. It brings together students and their families for a day of pampering, shopping and fashion shows, with all the proceeds going to help vulnerable children. Being part of an event committee meant I took on a variety of tasks that involved a lot of planning before the event and a lot of running around on the day! Not only did I have loads of fun, but I also now feel that I have some event organising experience which I can carry forward to other volunteering projects I might get involved with or in fact my future career.

Secondly, Imperial Hub’s Social Leadership Award scheme is something that I have recently completed and it encourages you to go the extra mile in tackling social issues through volunteer work (amongst other things). As a result of the motivation this gave me to get involved with different community projects and take on a leadership role as well, I got to meet and interact with people who I probably wouldn’t have had the chance to meet otherwise. At the same time, I learnt a massive amount about people and their experiences.

One of the projects I undertook was as a mentor for 16-17 year olds for The Challenge Network, which is a summer programme where young people design and implement social action projects in their communities. Not only did this develop my leadership skills which increased my confidence, but it also gave me a chance to interact with younger people whose position I was in only a few years ago. They asked me for advice about applying to universities and the confusion over which subject to take, which are thoughts and feelings I’m all too familiar with! So even aside from the overall value of young people doing social good, I feel there was a mutual benefit for both me and them that was more personal and I got a deeper understanding of their positions and perspectives as the young people of today, and they got a perspective and some advice of someone a few years ahead of them.

The Summer Reading Challenge for Westminster Libraries is also something I got involved with, where children up to the age of 12 would aim to read a number of books during the summer holiday. I would talk to them about their books and award them prizes for every one they read. Not only was it nice to see them talking excitedly about the story they had just read, but it brought back my love of reading which I had left behind for a while. To my shock, a few months later I was invited to an event at the Lord Mayors Parlour, along with others, to celebrate our contributions as volunteers!

My main point is that, as students, we want both enjoyable and valuable experiences alongside our studies, and volunteering can give us that in a number of ways. It’s not just the ‘feel-good’ factor that makes volunteering worthwhile, but actually the mutual learning experience and good fun we can get out of it too!

Batool Raza

Batool is a student at Imperial College London

Categories: What volunteering means to me