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Fiona Ellison: What volunteering means to me

Posted on 24 Feb 2014

Student Volunteering Week is something I’ve been involved in ever since I was a student…

When I was at University SVW culminated in a wonderful conference, bringing student volunteering leaders together to celebrate our collective achievements and learn and develop how to offer even more wonderful volunteering opportunities. Going to that conference and being involved in volunteering changed my career path and ultimately is the defining factor that has brought me to work for NUS, working to develop student opportunities and leading on our support for SVW.

Through the support and encouragement I received whilst a student I created and developed a number of sports volunteering initiatives – many of which continue to run to this day.

That experience opened up a huge number of opportunities for me to both improve my volunteering opportunities as well as realise what a career in the voluntary sector could look like.

Moving on to be a Trustee of Student Volunteering England and then Volunteering England, when they merged together, developed a real clarity in my mind about the need and value of a really strong support network to allow student volunteering to fluster. Having that infrastructure and support network to allow students to create volunteering opportunities that both mean something to them and that have real benefit to local communities is really important. Something of the double benefit that the recent Step up to Serve campaign has at its heart.

That desire to develop and support students to create fulfilling opportunities, and to celebrate those successes, is something I love about the ethos behind SVW.

Having led on the support NUS provides for SVW for a second year has been a fantastic experience.

The energy and enthusiasm that student volunteering teams put into supporting student volunteering manifests itself into a hugely vibrant and dynamic environment.

Working across the campaign I’m exposed to the vast myriad of student volunteering activity – from the incredibly well resourced student volunteering teams, to those providing support as part of other elements of their role to the passionate student leaders focused on making the world a better place there is activity happening at every turn.

The opportunity that Student Volunteering Week (SVW) provides to shine a spotlight on the incredible work that student volunteers do is something that I really relish.

This year to tie into the start of SVW the research team at NUS have been doing some fascinating work looking at compiling an accurate picture of the modern day student volunteer. From the number of hours they contribute, to the types of activity they do to how they engage in volunteering. There is some really interesting information coming out of this piece of work and I’m excited to see it be launched with at the start of SVW.

Tying in with the launch of the research sees our very first Good Deed Day. We wanted to showcase just what all the student volunteers look like when they head out into their communities on mass! Hearing about the plans from student volunteering teams is fantastic and it’s great to be able to coordinate this range of activity. I’d love to see as many student volunteers as possible come out of the shadows and really show the true impact they have on their communities – something that can often go un-noticed and that definitely is not often reflected in the media and press.

So if I was to sum up SVW 2014 in one word? Inspirational.

From the nominations we’ve had for the Student Volunteer of the Year, to the project ideas from student volunteering teams and the numbers coming out from our research on the state of the student volunteering sector. It’s all really rather inspirational.

I can’t help but think back to my time as a student volunteer and the impact that volunteering had on my journey to where I am now. It really did inspire me.

I truly hope that SVW 2014 has that power to create change whether it be for students to realise the potential of volunteering, education managers, Government and funders to see the value of investing in volunteering support and the press to really showcase the contribution that students make to their communities.

I really hope you’ll join me in playing a part in making SVW a wonderful success.

To connect with Fiona, follow her on twitter @fiona_ellison

Fiona Ellison

Fiona is the Student Opportunities Manager and NUS lead for Student Volunteering Week 2014

Categories: What volunteering means to me