February 06, 2015

Volunteer Voice: The Benefits of Volunteering

We’ve just reached the half way point in Term 2 and with most of the volunteering projects in full swing, its seems like a good time to start thinking about the benefits you are gaining from your volunteering.

Former Warwick student, Navneet, has written a blog post sharing with you the benefits she gained whilst volunteering with WV.

Navneet Sandhu: The Benefits of Volunteering.

Going into my final year at Warwick and starting my new role on the Warwick VolunteersExec, it is only natural for me to start thinking about what I have done in the last three years and what I can take with me into the future. What stands out to me most are my volunteering experiences.

As a fresher, having done a few charity projects in High School, I knew that volunteering was something I wanted to get more involved with at university. Yet, as a nervous student starting my law degree I was also concerned about the time commitment and balancing a heavy work load. So having signed up to Warwick Volunteers, I spent my first year doing sporadic volunteer work throughout the year. I took part in one-off events like the Big Challenge, and having really enjoyed that, got involved in sessions at Tocil Wood.

From volunteer to project leader

Surviving my first academic year and learning to manage my time better, I was ready to take on bigger projects and dedicate more time to volunteering. Having found out about the Project Leader opportunities at WV, I put myself forward. Despite my fears that I had not done enough volunteering in my first year, I found that Warwick Volunteers were not looking at how much volunteering I had done, but people who were genuinely enthusiastic, reliable and hard working. I was given the role as Project Leader of the Christmas Party and my volunteering at university has carried on from there.

nav_holding_a_sheet_smaller.jpg

Employers are impressed

Many students, like me, go through similar experiences of volunteering not realising the value that volunteering brings to their future career prospects. It is a misconception that unless you are want to work in the ‘Not for Profit’ sector your volunteering experience counts for little. It was not until it was pointed out to me and I started applying for vacation schemes and internships in my second year that I realised how applicable all of my volunteering experience actually was: ‘Please describe an achievement of importance to you’, ‘Please list the activities outside of academic study that you have been involved in during the last three years’, ‘Give details of any positions of responsibility you may have held’…

All of these questions I could answer with my volunteering experiences. Although none of it seemed relevant to my legal career at the time (volunteering like others for the new experiences, making new friendship groups and helping out in the local community), it was surprising how much of the volunteering I had done as a team player and leader was directly relevant to the job. I found that even corporate law firms had active Corporate Social Responsibility departments and Pro-bono projects. My volunteering work linked directly to this, as well as the skills needed in the day to day job.

Great for competency questions

As an average twenty year old who had little ‘real world’ examples outside of school, volunteering is how I could best show that I had worked in a team, could give effective presentations, communicate tasks to others, and that I could reflect on success and failures and overcome obstacles. It was surprising how many employers were genuinely interested in my volunteering- I have been asked countless times at interview about the role I played in each project and what I gained from it.

Employability skills and personal growth….

As well as improving my employability, volunteering at Warwick has inspired me to do more outside of University and develop as a person. Having come back from spending seven weeks in Romania as part of the BREDEX programme (British Romanian Educational Exchange) where I taught English to students, I found that I was independent and able to be challenge myself in new and unfamiliar situations. I can reflect on this experience and the last two years as a huge learning curve.


January 23, 2015

One off volunteering. Give a little time. Make a big impact.

one-off volunteering graphic

Let’s face it, despite our best intentions it isn’t always possible to commit to regular volunteering. Sometimes our study and work commitments put a stop to even the most steadfast volunteering ambitions. If you find yourself in this position rest assured that Warwick Volunteers can still offer you opportunities to get involved in some volunteering action.

Feedback from our student and staff members tells us that you would like more chances to get involved with flexible, low commitment volunteering opportunities. That’s why we have created a brand new programme of one-off volunteering events especially for you.

This week we visited the Growing Communities project. It's an amazing community garden built by local volunteers and it utilises unwanted materials. In just four hours we were able make a big impact. We built a new wormery, painted a huge shed, cleaned up the hot house, and helped to construct and line a new fish pond. Everything needed to take part, including wellington boots, waterproof jackets and gardening gloves were provided by Warwick Volunteers. We even provided free transport from campus.

Growing Communities Shed

Some of our one-off volunteering opportunities are so convenient that they actually take place here on campus and allow you to drop in for as little or as long as you are able to. In December, around 40 volunteers gave a little time in the SU Atrium to help our friends at YMCA transform unwanted junk into upcycled Christmas trees and decorations that were donated to the community.

volunteers make an upcycled Christmas tree

Our members tell us that volunteering is a great way to give back to the local community whilst making new friends, increasing confidence and developing skills. We have many more one-off volunteering opportunities coming up, including a Canal Clean Up in Leamington spa, a range of decorating, gardening and mural painting projects at local primary schools, and another trip to the fantastic Growing Communities Garden.

Getting involved is easy! Just look out for one-off volunteering opportunities in our weekly email newsletter. If you are not yet a member it’s easy to sign up. Just email your student number to volunteers@warwick.ac.uk. It’s free to join. You can also find more information on our Facebook page.


January 07, 2015

Volunteer Voice: What volunteering means to me

With most of our volunteering projects kicking off this term, it seems apt for our first blog post to be from one of our most active volunteers last year, sharing her experiences.

Courtney Giles: What volunteering means to me

"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 spent 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.

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.

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 successfully ran a term of sessions and built up a group of members who came along on a fortnightly basis to take part in arts and crafts, Unihoc, basketball, Wii games, pool and table tennis, among other activities.

Courtney

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 gave 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!

"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".


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