Four types of student volunteering you didn’t know were volunteering

Wednesday 22-02-2017 - 15:15

This week is Student Volunteering Week – a time where we reflect on the positive impact students make to communities and causes in their spare time. Students’ unions provide an array of student opportunities to engage with – many of which are types of volunteering - but not commonly referred to as such. With that in mind, we spoke to Tom, Shona, Mackinlay and Jess - for students who are expanding the definition of what volunteering is and can be…

Tom Hunter (Nottingham Trent Students’ Union)
President of the Tennis Club

What do you love about volunteering?

I enjoy interacting with other people in the club - while there are lots of interactions with the tennis team itself, it’s also good to work with those that aren’t on the team - i.e those that just want to play tennis

What made you decide to volunteer?

I was asked by a staff member to run the ‘just for fun’ sessions but the club itself started because I thought it would be a good idea for people to get to know each other and to bridge the gap between the social side and the competitive side of the club.

I decided to run for President as I had loads of ideas about how I could make the club even better and I knew that I could only make this happen if I got involved. I’ve enjoyed tennis for years and it’s great to be involved in something I love.

What would your advice be for someone wanting to volunteer?

Get involved with the SU, sports champions! Be confident and know what you’re doing about the sport and make sure you’re having fun as well!

Read more: here’s an article that Nottingham Trent Students’ Union wrote about Tom.

Shona Smith
RAG Raids Co-ordinator of Carnival RAG at Birmingham Guild of Students

What do you love about volunteering?

It's an opportunity to be involved in different activities that you wouldn’t normally do. For instance, it can vary from helping someone organise a bucket collection one week to doing things 'back at base' for hitchhikes, and then stewarding an event the next week. There are so many different options!

What made you decide to volunteer?

Someone asked me to! The first time I was involved with Carnival was during Freshers. I'd never heard of it, I just thought "that sounds quite fun" and ‘got completely sucked in by it all. Doing all the activities together bonds you and it’s like a big family. I didn’t even know what RAG stood for at first.

What would your advice be for someone wanting to volunteer?

It opens so many different doors up for you. The skills you develop from being involved, the opportunities that you wouldn’t normally try, the teamwork, communication etc. 

It's also important to volunteer in something that you’re interested in and what skills you want to gain from it. Maybe think about the career you want to get into which volunteering could help with.

Mackinlay Ingram (Falmouth & Exeter Students’ Union)
President of Don’t DisAbility Society, FXU Women’s Officer and Disability Students Officer

What do you love about volunteering?

I think being at university isn’t just about studying, but it’s about discovering who you are as a person. Volunteering helps you to do that. Many people who are involved with the Don’t DisAbility Society have told me that if the society hadn’t been there, they would have dropped out of university.

We run a campaign called ‘Don’t DisAbility’ week, which is all about using your difference to make a difference. We run lots of activities to help break down stigma surrounding disabilities, and also to fundraise for relevant charities. For example, we’re organised an information fair with charities and support staff from the university, so that students can easily find support. We’ve hosted a huge quiz called ‘can disabled people have sex?’; it’s called this as it’s one of the most common questions I’m asked, and I think it’s important to address questions like this openly and with humour. I would love to spread the word about Don’t DisAbility Week across the UK, so I encourage anyone reading this to run one!

What made you decide to volunteer?

My perception of Volunteering has changed dramatically since I have come to Falmouth University, I used to feel it was just giving up my own time for the sole benefit of someone else. Now I know this isn't the case. I came to university to be Beyoncé's manager, but alongside this, I soon realised I had the transferable skills from my management course to use my difference to make a difference. As a disabled student and a women I saw a huge need to advocate on behalf of the voices that are not heard and to make positive change, this translated into becoming the Women's Officer, Disabled Students Officer and founding the Don't DisAbility Society. I did not realise it until being asked this question but all of this I do voluntarily, but I would not have classed it as volunteering under my previous definition because I too benefit so much from the work I do for others.

What would your advice be for someone wanting to volunteer?

Volunteering can be anything from sitting with someone for 5 minutes, or picking up litter every weekend. It’s whatever you can fit in, and my advice is to choose something you love doing or having personal experience in. You could be turning someone’s day around. It’s so rewarding AND as a bonus it looks amazing on your CV.   

Jess Foster (Canterbury College Students’ Union)
Volunteer President and a member of NUS’ Further Education Zone committee 

What do you love about volunteering?

It’s so rewarding seeing things come to life, and particularly having people listen to you, like senior leaders in the college. My role is all about being the student voice and representing students’ views in important meetings. I believe that education isn’t just about passing but it’s about learning. With volunteering, every day is a new adventure. Even if it’s hard work sometimes, it’s still an adventure.

What made you decide to volunteer?

My reason for volunteering is to give back – I had poor GCSEs, I didn’t get into sixth form or college, and I felt vulnerable and didn’t know what to do. My college accepted me even though I didn’t have the right grades. I was giving this fantastic opportunity so I got involved with the SU so that I could give back and make sure that everyone at my college was having the best educational experience possible.

What would your advice be for someone wanting to volunteer?

I was really scared when I started volunteering, and I shouldn’t have been. It can be a rollercoaster as you’re learning new things every day, but go with it and try not to be scared.

Volunteering gives back to you so much. You learn lessons and have great experiences that what you get back is invaluable compared to what you give in.

My role is a political volunteering position, which can be off-putting. I don’t feel like a particularly ‘political’ person, and sometimes I have no idea what anyone is talking about. I’ve learnt that this is okay, and it’s fine to Google it afterwards! You don’t have to be a ‘perfect’ candidate and you don’t have to be overly political to be an elected representative. There’s always space for more learning, and for shaping your own views and politics along the way. 

Read more: find out more about Jess’ work here

Student Volunteering Week 2017 runs from Monday 20 – Sunday 26 February. For more details on what’s happening throughout the week, please visit


Features, Student Opportunities, Union Development

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