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SVW: A chance to say 'Thank you'

Posted on 1 Feb 2016

Today we're bringing you a staff perspective on Student Volunteering Week from the Student Volunteering Network, an organisation of workers who support FE and HE student volunteering across the UK…

Student Volunteering Week is a chance to celebrate. It champions on a national stage the student volunteers’ hunger for knowledge, their desire to always do better, and their want for a fairer world to live and grow old in.

“Student volunteering week is an excellent way to showcase what the FE sector already does, as well as to launch new projects to engage with new groups of students. It’s a great opportunity to be built into enrichment activities or work experience as part of a Study Programme. Many Colleges are also able to work with local schools or Universities to build bridges and foster a better sense of community.” - Tony Payne, Student Activities Manager at Canterbury College Students’ Union

It’s a chance to say Thank You. To graciously recognise the time given to our charities, community groups, schools and non-profits by those studying in both HE and FE institutions across the UK. One group of people looking to say thank you however may not be so obvious…..

In many educational establishments across the country, passionate individuals championing the student volunteering cause, are there helping to positively transform lives through volunteering experiences. They come in all shapes and sizes, from Volunteer Coordinators in Student Unions’ supporting students running their own projects, to Employability Managers in Universities/FE Colleges, seeking to place students in voluntary opportunities that match their career/life goals. Whatever their job description however, they understand and hold dear their responsibility in helping to create engaged, understanding, and compassionate citizens of the future. For many it leads to a high level of job satisfaction.

“I enjoy working with a range of volunteers in a campaigning organisation and finding out their reasons to volunteer, which are often powerful and inspiring. When you work with a volunteer for a couple of years you see how they develop in their role which is brilliant to watch. Their motivations are typically altruistic and make a clear social impact which is enormously rewarding to help facilitate.” - Matthew Webber, Student Engagement Manager at the University of Central Lancashire Students’ Union

“I gain real satisfaction seeing that moment when students realise that the wonderful things they are learning in lectures can actually translate directly into real world situations. Volunteering gives them the opportunity to do that. For example we have a student studying events management who is now helping an east London charity with some of their key events.” - Joe Crook, Volunteering Manager at the University of East London

This enjoyment is echoed by many more in the Student Volunteering Sector of Work. Like any employment however, there are of course challenges.

“Sometimes volunteers can be seen as a source of free labour rather than members of the team who can bring new and exciting ideas. Students can bring a lot more to charities than they might be aware of so trying to educate them on the benefits can be difficult. Another challenge can be working with students who are trying to balance all of their studies and other commitments on top of volunteering.” - Sarah Amphlett, Volunteer Manager at Keele University Students’ Union.

Empathy and patience are definitely must have virtues of a Student Volunteer Worker. Many experience on a daily basis the need to manage a student’s expectations, without wanting to dampen their enthusiasm for creating positive change. Not wanting to see a student’s project fail can also lead some to occasionally step in and rescue the situation, only to forget that failure, where possible, is a significant part of the learning process for the students involved.

Relays@UPSU Coordinator Jo Reed discusses a potential school’s outreach session with a keen Plymouth University student, focussed around sport, culture and education.

Examples of the dedication workers in student volunteering exhibit can be seen on a weekly basis. Using the Student Volunteering Network mail base, members frequently engage in conversations with each other, all seeking resolutions to the challenges of the day.

For those of you unaware, the Student Volunteering Network (SVN) is a free membership based organisation, which seeks to support, develop and provide networking opportunities for workers in student volunteering. It’s an exciting time for this voluntarily run initiative, as it is currently undergoing a revamp with a new website, online resources area, newsletter and much more, all due to be launched later on this year. The annual summer conference is also very much a key event to look forward to.

Such an organisation of course would not exist if there was not the large contribution students make to communities up and down the UK. I’d like to thank on behalf of the Student Volunteering Network, every student volunteer out there. Thank you for inspiring us, for giving us stories of hope and compassion to tell others, and for your efforts in helping to transform the world around you for the better. Student Volunteering Week is all about for you – Enjoy It!!

Join Today

Should your work involve supporting student volunteers in an FE or HE institution, why not join the 178 strong SVN mailing list, and start networking today.

Jonathan Noades

Jonathan is the Volunteer Coordinator at the University of Plymouth Students’ Union, and Chair of the Student Volunteering Network 2015-16

Categories: Advice