Young People and Community Work
Student Volunteering Week is a week in the UK which gives young people the chance to be at the forefront of promoting a wide range of different social issues and interests. From the sustainability agenda to social entrepreneurship, this is a week to definitely get involved in. Student Volunteering Week celebrates student volunteering in three ways. The first is by improving student wellbeing, the second is by developing students’ employability and thirdly it contributes positively to the wider and local community life.
For a little bit of context, the SVW began in 2001 although student volunteering and social action in the UK have a long history, from investigating university settlements and missions in the 19th century, to work camps for the unemployed and Student Community Action after the Second World War.
Last year, SVW ran from the 10th to the 16th of February. Typically your college or university’s unions and societies will be looking to organise different events and appeals - all in the name of charitable work. And lots of fun. Now to further explore what SVW celebrates.
At any given time, approximately 50% of Americans engage in some form of volunteer work. “Volunteering at university has improved my well-being a lot and gives me a regular routine beyond studying and time to socialise with people I might not have met otherwise,” Kelly Wing, a linguistics student at the University of Cambridge, says about the benefits she gets from volunteering. Students who volunteer report that they gain a lot of benefits from it, particularly due to improved mental wellbeing. Why is it so beneficial to one’s mental health? There is no ulterior motive, obligation, responsibility or contract with volunteering - that in itself brings a sort of peace. Multiple studies have shown ‘feel good’ hormones being released as a result of being able to do good for other people and benefitting society. A chance to disengage from the stresses of your own life, volunteering can be seen as a mini-break or a healthy escape.
Does volunteering improve employability? Student Volunteer Week has been the stepping stone into new found interests, hobbies and career paths for many. Volunteering is seen to offer individuals the chance to develop new skills, extend networks, build CVs, try new vocations and gain experience. Consequently, it is a good pathway into employment. This may all seem a bit vague, or sceptical-worthy, but it is important to consider the broader picture. Whilst it may just seem like you are making ‘new friends’ or vague ‘acquaintances’, they can be the very lead you need to future opportunities.
And finally, the positive contributions to society as a result of volunteering are self-explanatory. The Trussell Trust shared Susan’s story, a lady who attended a Holiday Club run by her local food bank. For many parents like Susan, offering food at the club makes a big difference: “Having the hot meals provided with this club has been nice, so I’ve only had to do a cheap meal in the evening, like a sandwich.”
The clubs offer a range of fun activities helping to alleviate the boredom and isolation that many children face during the long holidays. They also provide an opportunity for parents to socialise and know they’re not the only ones struggling during the holidays, as well as offering families a chance to spend some quality time together.
The opportunity to interact and engage with different types of people will fundamentally allow you to realise how broad the world is out there. You’ll learn new things, about society, people and yourself. Seize as many opportunities as you can and make the most of the Student Volunteering Week!