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Courtney Giles: What volunteering means to me

Posted on 1 Mar 2014

"I think University is a perfect time to either start volunteering or carry on doing more volunteering, as there are such a variety of experiences available tailored specifically to students and their interests, so volunteering could not be made any easier or more accessible!"

I have loved volunteering since the age of 14 and have worked on variety of activities, including teaching music, working one to one with a disabled child teaching drama and being a Brownie leader. However it is my work with Phab that I spend most of my time doing. Epsom Phab is a club for disabled and able-bodied young people, where my parents are club leaders. It is a youth club in which we do lots of activities; I have helped out there officially since the age of 16 on club evenings, and also on trips and an annual holiday.

As soon as I started at the University of Warwick I sought out the local Phab club, as Phab is a national charity, and started volunteering at Kenilworth Phab through Warwick Volunteers.

Campaigning for Phab

In December 2011, two months into my time at Uni, we found out the youth centre where we hold Epsom Phab was going to be closed down. With such a big youth club (around 120 members and 50 volunteers), our large youth centre fitted us perfectly. We never had closing the club as an option, for many of the young people, it is their only social experience each week and we wanted to protect this. I entered a competition through the NUS, “I am the Change”, and was so excited to find out I had won in March 2012. Through the NUS we ran a successful campaign, ‘Save Epsom Phab’ and managed to ensure we could keep our youth centre open for an extra year, allowing us to continue searching for a new venue, which we managed to find and have moved in as of January 2014.

Starting a new project

In my second year of University, alongside Kenilworth Phab, I started my own project through a competition supported by Santander. This was called ‘Reaching for the Stars’ and was running musical theatre sessions with local children, which culminated in a show. I found this project highly rewarding as the children had such a great time taking part, and it was good to be able to take on a leadership role and start something new for others to enjoy.

Working with NUS, other students and young people on the ‘Save Epsom Phab’ campaign for me, demonstrated the power of young people working together to achieve something important to them, and I decided to start my own Phab club at University. I set up Warwick Youth Phab in April 2013, and managed to find a committed group of students to aid me in the running of the club. We have successfully run a term of sessions and have built up a group of members who come along on a fortnightly basis to take part in arts and crafts, Unihoc, basketball, Wii games, pool and table tennis, among other activities.

Taking on leadership roles

Around the time I set up Warwick Phab, I also decided to run for the executive committee of Warwick Volunteers, and was elected as events officer. This has given me the opportunity to see more students volunteering in action and develop my understanding of the positive impact students can have on their local community. Volunteering has been a highly important part of my University experience, I am really pleased to have been presented with so many opportunities there and I think University is a perfect time to either start volunteering or carry on doing more volunteering, as there are such a variety of experiences available tailored specifically to students and their interests, so volunteering could not be made any easier or more accessible!

SVW 2014

For student volunteering week, as an exec, we have decided to run a 24 hour volunteering event where we will present many opportunities to both new and regular volunteers over a 24 hour period to give them a taste of what Warwick Volunteers offers and to give them a chance to get more involved. We are being supported by Santander and the opportunities we are offering include a disco for attendees from a local social club for adults with disabilities, a litter pick, a sponsored walk for a local charity, mural painting at a local primary school among many others.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my progression through student volunteering, from being a volunteer, to leading a project, to being on the student executive committee for Warwick Volunteers. I hope during my time at Uni I have been able to encourage others to get involved, and hopefully the successes of current student volunteers will be built upon in the future.

Courtney Giles

Courtney is a student at Warwick

Categories: What volunteering means to me