Thursday 26-02-2015 - 17:17
Bristol University student Conor McGlacken was named Student Volunteer of The Year 2015 earlier this week so we asked him to volunteer some of his time to join us in the Hot Seat, and he of course obliged.
How does it feel to be named Student Volunteer of the Year?
It’s a real privilege, the standard of the shortlist was so high any one of us would have been a deserving winner.
The award is a great opportunity to raise the profile of Engineers Without Borders UK and our work towards a world where everyone has access to the technology they need for a life free from poverty.
I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve got through volunteering with EWB and for all the great people I’ve met, especially the wonderful committees I’ve been part of at the Bristol branch.
Can you tell us a little bit about Engineers Without Borders and what you’ve done with them?
EWB-UK is an international development organisation that removes barriers to development through engineering.
The national organisation and a network of student branches engage young people with the vital role of technology in tackling poverty, building skills and impacting directly through internationally focused projects.
I began volunteering with the Bristol branch, first as an outreach coordinator running workshops with local school children, and now as society president. EWB-UK engages students at every level of the organisation, and I hold a position on the Board of Trustees, representing the student body as best I can right at the top of the organisation.
What’s next for you? How are you building on your volunteer experience?
I’m spending nine weeks in Tanzania from June with the Engineering World Health Summer Institute program, learning about the challenges of donated medical equipment.
Up to 70 per cent of medical equipment in Sub-Saharan Africa is broken, a huge issue, and it’s an area that lines up with my academic skills and industry experience.
I managed to secure funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering for attending conferences and training courses. Volunteers sometimes get squeamish about spending money on themselves, but what universities and professional bodies care about and fund is student development, so we should tap into that to be as effective as possible.
What does student volunteering mean to you? Why do you think it’s important and what impact has it had on you?
I’ve written a blog about this for Student Volunteering Week. In short, I think it’s a sign of a dysfunctional economy and society that we as under-qualified students are the ones left trying to tackle these issues. That’s a situation that should set off alarm bells!
Students who want to be effective long term, post midweek free time and post student loan, should have an exit strategy. You’ll have to read the blog to find out more!
Would you recommend students’ unions do all they can to encourage and support volunteering?
You can follow Conor on Twitter at @ConorMcGlacken, and find out more about the work of Engineers Without Borders UK, Bristol and Engineering World Health at @ewbuk, @EWB_Bristol and @EngrWorldHealth, respectively.