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Molly Whyte: What volunteering means to me

Posted on 28 Feb 2014

"I was one of the ‘usual suspects’"…

While at school, I had helped to lead the Sixth Form council and charity committee, assisted in drama lessons and once sang Christmas songs to the elderly residents of a nursing home. When I moved to university, it was with the expectation that volunteering would be a part of my student experience.

Thankfully, I came across Southampton Hub during Freshers’ Week in 2012. They were launching the Schools Plus Southampton pilot scheme and were looking for students to volunteer as tutors. Schools Plus – a national Student Hubs programme aiming to provide support in areas of greater educational need – sounded exactly like something that could help me to make a meaningful impact.

Being part of Schools Plus was a very positive experience. Having just moved away from home, it was useful to have a focus outside of my academic workload and each week I looked forward to spending a few hours in the school.

It was exciting to be a part of a new project and to escape the ‘campus bubble’ through wider community involvement.

Beyond this, Schools Plus showed me how volunteering could function as a pathway to finding the causes that are most important to me. The training and classroom experience confirmed to me that I care strongly about challenging educational disadvantage. As an English and History student, I realised I particularly care about encouraging young people’s involvement with the arts and humanities. These motivations were shaped by my experience with Schools Plus and, as a result, I currently work on campus for Teach First to engage other students with the issue of unequal access to educational opportunity.

My interest in international development issues has also grown as a result of volunteering.

After working with an education and international development charity, United World Schools, as part of the Student Hubs Social Impact Internship Scheme, I got involved with organising the Southampton International Development Conference. Now, I volunteer in a communications role with the Impact International team at Student Hubs.

In addition, my time as a Schools Plus volunteer encouraged me to become more involved with Southampton Hub and I joined the executive committee in the summer term of my first year. Currently, I spend around four hours a week working on publicity and social media for the Hub, letting other students know what voluntary opportunities and events are happening across the university.

As an extension of this, I am working with a great committee to bring SVW 2014 to Southampton. A big focus for Southampton’s local SVW activity will be to widen perceptions of what volunteering can involve. Hopefully we can encourage students to identify what they already do (committee roles, for example) as volunteering, as well as helping them to get involved with new projects and organisations.

It is this range of opportunities available that is part of what makes volunteering such a great experience for students.

It is also a way to meet enthusiastic people, develop confidence and learn more about issues outside of academic life. For instance, The Big Give, a fundraising week run by SUSU RAG last April, brought together a team of students, including myself, who were similarly motivated to make a difference.

Overall, student volunteering is a platform for exploring issues and finding causes that are meaningful to you. Personally, it has been an invaluable part of my university life so far, allowing me to build new interests, skills and friendships.

The potential impact of student volunteering is huge and it has motivated me to make social action part of my life beyond university.

Molly Whyte

Molly studies at Southampton and is Publicity Officer for Southampton Hub and Impact International

Categories: What volunteering means to me