Across the UK, students and staff at colleges and universities are celebrating the impact of social action in their communities. Student Volunteering Week, taking place from 20-26 February, is a great way for you to find volunteering opportunities that suit your interests and ambitions, while tackling issues you care about whether that’s educational disadvantage, social isolation among older people or food waste. The #iwill campaign promotes social action among 10-20 year olds and aims to get as many young people involved in volunteering as possible by 2020.
A 2016 report by the Behavioural Insights Team and the Cabinet Office found compelling evidence that young people who take part in social action initiatives, such as volunteering, "develop some of the most critical skills for employment and adulthood in the process”.
We asked four students to highlight why they would recommend volunteering and how community work has helped them. You can read what they said below.
Molly Whyte is the communications manager for Student Hubs, a charity that encourages student to take part in social action. Sam Newell is the communications and public affairs officer for the #iwill campaign.
Grace Kendrick, student engagement coordinator, Bristol Hub and student at the University of Bristol
I recommend getting involved in social action because giving up time to support causes you are passionate about can help you to learn about yourself. Volunteering has offered me a whole range of skills that I can apply to my future plans. Tutoring in schools has given me a chance to develop my active listening, empathy and mentoring skills, which can be applied to a whole range of careers that involve working with people and clients. Similarly, organising events in my local area has allowed me to develop teamwork and leadership skills, which are also essential within any workplace.
I intend to enter the law profession after university. Volunteering has allowed me to understand my own strengths and I now hope to work with clients directly. I have also become more focused on understanding the values of the firms I apply to, as I see the importance of ethics and sustainability.
Even if you have never participated in social action before, it will provide you with a chance to support your local community, meet new people and figure out what you are good at. Be confident and open minded about the work you are doing — and about yourself too.
Deborah Mansell, #iwill ambassador and student at Bath Spa University
My life would look very different if I had not started volunteering. It is a great opportunity to meet new people and to feel part of the community. You never know where it may lead and everything is worth a shot. It is so rewarding and has developed my skills, from marketing events to running sports for eight-11 year olds.
There are plenty of ways to find social action opportunities. A lot of universities advertise opportunities on their careers hubs or have societies focused around social action. Otherwise, check out vInspired’s website, your local library and ask around to see if any of your friends are doing something you could become a part of. A lot of people volunteer silently.
Sam Presley, Code Plus coordinator, Southampton Hub and a student at the University of Southampton
Coordinating Code Plus for the Southampton Hub has been a great experience. In one and a half years I have grown Code Plus from a pilot project to a team of 37 volunteers. The student volunteers deliver weekly learn to code sessions and collectively engage with over 85 children per week, inspiring them to create future technologies.
Code Plus has given me an excellent opportunity to develop my leadership, project management and communication skills, all of which will be valuable to me in my future career. Recruiting, training and leading the team of volunteers has been hard work, but the results more than make up for it.
Student Hubs' encouragement and resources have enabled me to use my skills and make a real difference to the children in Southampton. I really appreciate the enthusiasm and commitment of the Hub network. Get involved if you can!
Five tips to make the most of your university experience
Craig Bateman, #iwill ambassador and student at Durham University
Don't underestimate the impact that you can have on other people — a kind word, a generous gift, your time and support can make a great deal of difference. You, and your thoughts, are deeply valued, and can go a long way in helping to improve other people's lives for the better. Don’t hold back — take every opportunity. As Gandhi once said: “be the change that you wish to see in the world”.
That said, I also recommend getting involved in social action because it has a great double benefit. Taking part in social action helps to develop your character, while building your interpersonal and employability skills. You help yourself at the same time as helping others — whether you’re campaigning against a particular form of global injustice, or caring for a vulnerable neighbour. A small deed of kindness and generosity can have many significant positive impacts.
Student Volunteering Week is led by the UK Student Volunteering Network in partnership with Student Hubs, the National Union of Students and the #iwill campaign. Visit the SVW website to find an event near you and check out #SVW2017 on social media.