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Student Volunteering Week hits RGU

Posted on 16 Feb 2016

Today on the blog we're off to Aberdeen to catch up with Robert Gordon University Students' Union and find out why they're looking forward to Student Volunteering Week next week…

Changes are happening at RGU:Union and we’re gearing up for a flurry of activity to tie in with Student Volunteering Week. Gone is the shoehorning of the charities and community organisations into the Refreshers Fair. Soon to be gone is the clunky old website. February is the month of our Big Volunteering Fair, a much improved online portal and much more besides.

The centrepiece of our week’s worth of activities is the volunteering fair, optimistically entitled RGU:Union’s Big Volunteering Fair, but it looks likely to live up to its billing. We have a space on campus with room for about 40 stalls and we’ve got a full house of 40 organisations signed up already.

The idea is to promote volunteering directly to our students so they can meet the people and hear the stories face-to-face, learn more about the work each group does, the people they help and the many ways to get involved.

A dedicated volunteering fair is of course something of a risk – including the charities and community groups in the Freshers and Refreshers fairs guarantees a big crowd. But is it the right crowd? While we don’t expect the same kind of student turnout for the volunteering fair, there is at least the promise that anyone attending is definitely interested in doing some voluntary work.

The buy-in form local and national charities has been amazing, so we now need to deliver enough students to the event to make it a success. If we fail to do that, we may struggle to get as many organisations next time we try to hold a similar event, so the pressure is on.

We’re relaxed though, as we’re confident in the offering and in our ability to engage our students in volunteering projects. We’ve worked hard to plug any gaps and have a ‘something for everyone’ approach, with opportunities in areas including fundraising, healthcare, befriending, sports, arts, media, marketing/communications, IT/design, environmental projects , working with young people, older people or vulnerable groups, and more besides.

Another focus for the week will be the launch of the new volunteering module for our website, signalling the inevitable and overdue demise of a Wordpress-based system, to be replaced with searchable databases, online hour logging and the chance to apply for roles directly through the site. It is something which other universities offer and it’s certainly better to be late to the party than sat at home with a mug of hot chocolate, trying to pick something to watch on Netflix. We’re now very much at the party, throwing some shapes.

We’re also using the week to launch our ESN Society’s Social Erasmus project, which focusses on engaging exchange students through volunteering, allowing them to settle into their new city, meet people and develop skills and confidence.

RGU RAG, busy as ever, are running a big campaign on the 25th of February to coincide with the volunteering fair, where they will be encouraging students to give blood and sign up to both the organ donor and marrow donor registers. This will be taking place just above the area where we hold the fair, so one should help the other along nicely.

Our whirlwind week rounds off like an Olympic gymnast, with our Mental Wellbeing Society running their annual Sock It To Eating Disorders campaign, raising awareness and funds to help the cause, and featuring, apparently, a washing line full of socks positioned outside the RGU:Union office. Its purpose is still something of a mystery to us, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens on the day. This is why we love our students!

So it’s a crammed schedule for our first ever dedicated volunteering week, but it is proof that volunteering is very much part of the fabric of student life at RGU.

Stevie Kearney

Stevie Kearney is the Student Development & Volunteering Co-ordinator at Robert Gordon University Students' Union in Aberdeen.

Categories: Institution spotlight, Universities