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Rachel Waterworth – How volunteering led me to where I am today

Posted on 16 Feb 2014

A little while before heading off to the University of Exeter I spoke to one of my brothers friends at a party. He was just finishing his time at Exeter and while he was there had got involved with the Raising and Giving Society (RAG). He told me many stories of how much fun he had and the friends he’d made, that I immediately wanted to find out more. He told me exactly how I could find them once I’d arrived – by looking out for their purple tops.

First year

By the time it got to fresher’s week I had one goal, to get involved with RAG. After much pestering and a round of interviews I found myself as a fresher’s representative for my halls. I didn’t know this was going to be the best decision I ever made.

Throughout my first year I got to know people all over campus who were on different courses, living in different halls and spanned all years of university life. I became close friends with my fellow reps, many of whom are still great friends of mine today. We helped out at all the RAG events throughout the year and put some of our own on in our halls and the union. It was a great introduction to life volunteering with RAG.

Second year

In second year my friend, and fellow rep, Emma Payne and I became RAG Week co-ordinators, and gained one of those elusive purple tops. As RAG week co-ordinators we were in charge of filling two weeks of the year with events raising money for RAG. Balancing my volunteering work and my course work gave me invaluable skills and when an event sold out it left you feeling like you were on top of the world. Seeing thousands of students throughout the week enjoying something you helped create was fantastic. Working in a pair, alongside a wider committee, and with other volunteers and a supportive member of staff meant you always had someone to turn to and a friend to lend a hand.

Third year

After a University wide vote, in my final year Emma and I became RAG Officers. At Exeter the RAG Officers oversee all of the committee and its activities, offering support and help to all the volunteers. It was in this final year when together we led 42 of our fellow students, and all the other amazing volunteers, to raise just over £80,000 for a number of local and national charities, that I really got the bug for fundraising. When attending our cheque presentation at the end of the year and learning of the difference our efforts would make meant all the late nights, early starts and lengthy meetings were well worth it.

It wasn’t just the work I was supposed to do that was exciting it was everything else that came with RAG too, it was going on a megaraid to another city with students you hadn’t met before and donning some fantastic fancy dress, it was flyering on campus even when it was raining and cold as you wanted to help out a friend and it was going for a quick drink with the committee after a meeting and getting to know each other better. It was also learning how to write and agenda for a meeting, taking notes and chairing that would be incredibly useful once I found myself in an office setting.

Career

It was my experience at RAG that got me an internship at the British Heart Foundation. Here I am two and a half years later working as a Development Executive within the Major Gifts team (an area of fundraising I didn’t even know existed before). I am now responsible for running our giving programme, Heart Pioneers, which manages donors giving over £1,000 a year. I run our mailings programme, acknowledgement of donors and much more. All the experience I gained in RAG has been invaluable both in my working life and my life beyond.

I couldn’t recommend volunteering at university more to anyone else, be it on a committee of a sports society (I also was involved with the Trampolining Club), by going out in the community with societies like community action or running a society of your very own that supports something you have a passion for. It is through volunteering that you will meet hundreds of people you never would have otherwise and create friendships (that I hope) will last for life.

Rachel Waterworth

Rachel was a student at the University of Exeter. She is now a Development Executive in the Major Gifts team at the British Heart Foundation.

Categories: What volunteering means to me