Student volunteering: working with a major charity

Students can volunteer with charities while they are at university to learn new skills, make new friends and ultimately boost their career prospects

February 22 2018
student volunteering while at university.

Case study: fashion students from the University of Manchester and volunteers with the British Heart Foundation

First-year University of Manchester students from the BSc fashion management and BSc fashion buying and merchandising courses have been volunteering in the British Heart Foundation’s Stretford shop for the second year running. 

Every week for 10 weeks, up to three students visit the shop to create window and in-store displays. The students are free to be creative, with BHF shop staff on hand for advice on how to display stock donations to maximum effect to entice customers into the store.

The BHF has a close relationship with the University of Manchester, regularly speaking at the institution’s welcome week as well as receiving cash donations. This volunteering scheme offers first-year fashion students the opportunity to gain visual merchandising experience in a retail environment, while learning about a successful business and effective seasonal merchandising.   

Patsy Perry, course leader and senior lecturer in fashion marketing, says: “Gaining retail experience is important for our students to be able to move into the industry after their degree. As well as students gaining part-time retail work during their studies, volunteering with the BHF has been a great way of advocating the university’s focus on social and environmental responsibility.”

For BHF staff, the partnership has helped provide inspiration for future displays and add a more modern twist to visual merchandising, while the extra help has given them time to concentrate on other tasks.

Ann Long, shop manager at BHF Stretford, said: “I am very impressed with the enthusiasm of the students and how they interact with staff and volunteers. The students show initiative and their [shop] windows and [in-store] displays always look impressive and fashionable.”

student volunteering at British Heart Foundation

Students Alicia Violet Kellington and Ali Alalyawi

Case study: Tom Barnes, biochemistry student at the University of Hull and St John Ambulance volunteer

“Before joining, I had always pictured St John Ambulance volunteers in black and white uniforms, tucked away in the corner of a church fête, however, I couldn’t have been more wrong. My introduction to this fantastic modern organisation started at the University of Hull, where the St John Ambulance Unit was recruiting for student volunteers.

“The training was in-depth, fun, engaging and very different to what I had expected. I was also easily able to balance the work around my studies. Volunteering with St John Ambulance has given me so many opportunities, such as training as an emergency medical technician, becoming an internal communications officer, and even running a half-marathon. 

“Volunteering has stretched me both physically and emotionally. As I prepare to graduate after four years at Hull, I have been reflecting on my time as a student volunteer. Being with St John Ambulance has helped develop my self-confidence, allowed me to make new friends, and learn vocational and life-saving skills.

“St John Ambulance has changed me immensely and given me the confidence that I need to succeed after leaving university. If you want to learn something new, learn to save a life.” 

student volunteering at St John's ambulance

Case study: Kate Johnson, zoology and animal behaviour student from Bangor University and volunteer at Guide Dogs Cymru

“Volunteering is something that I always wanted to do, but I never had the chance. After attending a canine calming session held by the Guide Dogs charity, I contacted the organisation to see if I could help out in my spare time.

“The people were all welcoming and supportive. So far, I’ve taken part in a local supermarket collection and helped to put on another canine calming session at the Bangor University Students’ Union. I’m looking forward to getting more involved.

“Volunteering makes you think about things in different ways and consider things from other people’s perspective. I enjoy being around the dogs, but I also like helping people. I wear glasses and I can’t imagine what it must be like to live with serious sight loss.

“It’s nice to hear what a positive impact guide dogs have on their owners and to understand how it gives them a big step towards independence.”


Student volunteering with guide dogs

Read more: what are the benefits of student volunteering?

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