Written by Mary Winn, Volunteering Assistant
In celebration of Student Volunteering Week, we spoke to Sally (Equality, Liberation and Access Officer) and Vanessa (Student Living Officer) about why volunteering has been such an important part of their university experience.
Sally and Vanessa are both equally passionate about the perks of giving up your time for good causes, but their journeys have been different. Throughout her degree, Sally volunteered for Nightline and homeless shelter Julian Trust, whilst Vanessa’s involvement has been with Ujima Radio and creative collective, Come the Revolution.
Despite the differences, both officers agree that volunteering helps students to make friends and get out into the Bristol community. According to Sally, volunteering is “the perfect way to find people who think like you do.” She describes Nightline as a community of humble and hard-working individuals, who are not only committed to the project, but to each other. When it came to bursting the Bristol bubble, she started going to Julian Trust with a group of friends but felt so welcomed by the local volunteers that she would go to the shelter by herself.
Vanessa’s work with a community radio station was situated in Broadmead, and Come the Revolution had screenings at the Watershed, the Arnolfini and the Malcolm X Centre. When I ask about Ujima Radio, Vanessa replies that it’s all about empowering young people of colour and giving them the opportunity to find their voice in the community. She started volunteering because she wanted experience in the creative industry, and because she wanted to see an increase in the engagement of people of colour.
She emphasises that volunteering doesn’t have to conform to the stereotype of litter picking and foodbanks—although these endeavours are vital too—but that it can be a way into a creative career. Her experiences in the third sector have taught her to speak up for what she believes in, empowering and equipping her for the future.
‘But how could I possibly make time to volunteer?’ we hear you cry—and it’s a good question. Sally points out that some volunteering roles don’t demand much from students. She refers specifically to Julian Trust, where she only volunteered once a week and still felt like she was making a really important difference. Vanessa points out that the busier you are, the more you get done, and that being forced to timetable her work properly made her work more efficiently. What both officers drive home is that it’s a release from academic stress and something that gives you perspective when work is overwhelming. It’s a reminder of a wider world which is easily forgotten.
To sum up the benefits of volunteering, the officers conclude that it’s about learning about yourself, about others, and about the world. Volunteering exposes you to people who are different from you, confronting you with new mindsets and ideas. It gets you out of the library and into a refreshingly contrasting environment. And these little things culminate in a perspective-broadening experience which is fundamentally good for your overall wellbeing.
Find out more about how students have made a difference.
Nominate yourself to Chair the RAG, Volunteering and Sustainability Network.