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What’s the point of volunteering?

Student Volunteering Week is all about celebrating the opportunities and joy that can be found in the most unusual of places. It’s about discovering that we are so much more than the multitude of boxes we can be confined to.

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Picture of volunteers having a conversation

Student Volunteering Week runs from the 13th - 19th February 2023. It aims to celebrate the impact of student volunteers in tackling social challenges in their communities. But that all sounds very corporate to me, so let’s reframe that. Student Volunteering Week to me is all about celebrating the opportunities and joy that can be found in the most unusual of places. It’s about discovering that we are so much more than the multitude of boxes we can be confined to. That we are capable of growth, knowledge and understanding beyond (and including) anything that can be taught in a classroom. It’s about celebrating the diversity of humanity and how a well rounded and holistic life view can enable us to find pockets of peace in a busy world.

Students and pensioners enjoying spending time together at a CommuniTEA function in the SU Cambridge space

Historically, volunteering can be traced back to medieval times, when there were individuals who were kind and pragmatic and shared their resources, such as finances, time, property or belongings, with others in their community. This type of ‘giving’ contributed to the making of healthier, stronger and safer communities. I’m pretty sure there are a ton of examples of this in religious texts and philosophical readings, even before this time and from around the world. Around the 19th century, organised volunteering grew in popularity in the West, with places like the YMCA & British Red Cross setting up shop. This looks a lot more like the types of volunteering we see today, although COVID did find us returning to the more organic styles of giving, with many people offering to help their neighbours, friends and family to stay safe.

Volunteer holding a hedgehog

Given the current climate we are living in, volunteering is as relevant now as it has ever been. If the emotive moral and political implications don’t motivate you, there’s more to consider pragmatically too… It can enhance your future prospects both professionally AND personally. A professional example; if you’re studying law and sign up to be a “courts volunteer” with the Citizens Advice Bureau, you’re going to become familiar with the courts procedures, the experiences of witness and their families and you’ll be meeting people who already work in the field. A personal example; if you already know that you’d like to start a family, you might volunteer at a creche or nursery to get hands on experience of spending time with and nurturing children. Volunteering presents you with infinitely more opportunities to access training, learn new skills, to step up and take on additional responsibility than you are likely to find in a regular paid role. It also gives you a foot in the door to paid work within those organisations. There are lots of opportunities to practice your new skills, to meet new people, make friends and even have fun. There is a whole new world of modern volunteering that is just waiting to be explored. I think that it’s also worth mentioning here that people who volunteer tend to have better physical and mental health, contributing to their overall wellbeing.

Volunteers tend to a garden

So, what are you going to do now? We will be hosting our own ARU Volunteering Week from 27 -31 March 2023. During this week we will host two volunteering fairs, Cambridge on the 28th and Chelmsford on the 30th, along with a variety of other workshops and activities. Make sure you come along to meet some of the organisations that we partner with, ask your questions and see if there’s something there for you. Keep an eye out for more information over the coming month!

In the meantime, you can browse our current opportunities to see if there’s anything of interest to you or book a meeting with me, Devika, to talk about what you might be a good fit for you.

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