Volunteer Profiles

It was something I had started in college, mentoring younger students in their first year. I feel that I can relate to younger people as can understand where they are coming from and maybe I can be a positive role model to them. It’s one of those experiences you just can’t buy.” Michael Majek, Events Management, volunteer with Arsenal Double Club and Hope For Children in Uganda

"I first thought about volunteering when I realized that, when applying to study at university level, my UCAS personal statement was pretty thin!" Jonathan Koh, Computer Science, seasonal volunteer in various roles, including GCSE and sports tutor, and Chinese Students Society adviser 

"In the beginning of my second year, I was working at the Freshers' Fair as part of the Student Welcome Team and noticed the volunteering stand. Last year, I volunteered 3 hours a week for the whole academic year and I'll definitely continue this year, too. Through this experience I developed my communication skills whilst gaining work experience and playing an active role in the community." Tania Roquette, B.A (HNS) Business Administration, SHINE tutor

"During my time in the Holy Cross Centre Trust, I have been learning not to get emotionally or personally involved, and we are not allowed to give out our personal contact details. There have been incidents of stalking and other difficulties in the past so they are caring for our safety. Personally, I have never had any problems with anyone. One of the unexpected benefits of volunteering is the relationships I built with other volunteers. My first impression of them was that they were cold as they were considerably older than me and from different cultures but I soon realised that these things did not matter when we all pulled together as a team and everyone took on initiative as well as responsibility". Marissa Lima, Human Nutrition, Holy Cross Centre Trust

"I was initially interested as I was completing a degree project about school furniture and I thought it would be a chance to find out how furniture is utilised within a classroom setting. I also liked the idea of assisting the school and adding a new topic to the after school curriculum. I got far more out of my time at the school than I had ever expected. It gave me the chance to experience a different environment, get a taster of a career and get an insight into the way children view furniture. I found it personally rewarding too. The children appreciated the time I spent with them and the school was very positive about my input too. It's been a brilliant experience all round." Susan Bradley, Furniture Design & Technology, After-School Art Club Facilitator

"As a Law student, gaining practical experience is essential. Volunteering has been the easiest and most relevant way for me to achieve this goal. I previously volunteered for a recycling project but my involvement was restricted to basic office work. It was quite frustrating and I lost enthusiasm quickly. With the Appropriate Adult scheme, I deal with people in demanding circumstances, using my communication skills to appease any friction that may occur between the young person and the police. I'm gaining experience that is relevant to my legal career and know that I am making an immediate difference." Chris Gape, Law CPE, Appropriate Adult Service

"As an international student, volunteering is a way for me to meet new people and get work experience in the UK. This position enabled me to get a footing in the London jobs market. It's well known that employers look for graduates with work experience. Since volunteering, I feel more confident about my chances of finding paid work. The placement wasn't without its problems! Before I could begin creating the database I had to collate all the information from a number of sources. It was quite a challenge - particularly as I only had two hours a week and was under a deadline to get the database finished. However, during this process I met many staff members, improved my communication and time-management skills and learnt how do deal with the challenges that occur in a working environment. I gained so much from this experience and have recommended volunteering to other international students." Donald Mhaiki, Computing and Information Systems, IT Support at Survivors UK

"The volunteering project I have been involved with is officially recognised by the Teacher Training Agency. I volunteer for two teaching projects but still only give up three hours a week. The variety has enabled me to try out different teaching styles and feel more confident in the classroom. It's a chance to work as a personal tutor and get in touch with the National Curriculum. The fact that the project is recognised by the Teacher Training Agency is another big plus. My interview for the PGCE course is coming up and I intend to take my SHINE certificate along as evidence of the work I have achieved. I've also learnt about the specific issues of working with people with mental health problems. Some of the women lack English skills and many of them have poor memories. I've had to improve my communication skills, remain patient and use memory aids such as review sessions and worksheets. It's been quite a learning curve, but a worthwhile and rewarding one." Nafeesa Ahmed, Business Information Technology, SHINE and Community IT Tutor

"My job is mostly deskbound. Volunteering enables me to experience new environments and gain new skills...I've met people of different ages, cultures and religions: all with unique views and perspectives. Volunteering has helped me feel more engaged with the community and more active in bringing about change. I would recommend it to anyone." Debbie Quinlan, Senior Administrative Officer for the Academic Registry, involved in various one-off activities

What other interests do you have?

Cooking, Russian Literature, Cinema, Camping, Backpacking, Puns

What volunteering have you done as a student?

With children, in my area (Hackney) during my first year of studies and then got selected by VSO for a three month placement in Nepal.

Did you find your volunteer role via Reach Volunteering (London Metropolitan University’s volunteer centre)?

Stavroula in the Volunteering Team helped me looking in the right direction.

Did you volunteer prior to being a student?

No, I didn’t.

What were your initial motivations for volunteering?

Firstly CV improving but then also spending my summer doing something different to travelling and spending money with no sense at all.

Have these motivations changed, and if so how?

Definitely, I am more aware of how an individual can effectively make a difference and how valuable my skills can be, even the more basic ones, that wont be appreciated at all in our current society. For example, basic accounting knowledge or IT can save a whole village and help them become more organized and therefore efficient.

What have you gained from volunteering? 

Peer Mentoring skills, and also strongly developed a sense of team work, after living three months with the same people in such a different country/culture.

Do you feel that your volunteering experience has made you more employable? 

I found that in most job interviews I had since my placement I had the perfect answer to the questions they asked me, especially to do with an example when I faced a challenging situation and how we/me acted to tackle it.

Do you feel you have helped others with your volunteering? If so, how?

We clearly saw an impact in the village when we left, and shared a lot of unknown information concerning women’s health that hopefully they will remember and share.

Has your volunteering been challenging in any way? How have you overcome those challenges?

Being the only non-English person in the whole group was the most challenging aspect of the whole experience, also the fact that for the first time I was not able to communicate or understand what was happening around me proved to be quite frustrating especially at the beginning.

The only way to get over that feeling is to accept your role and define clearly the ways in which you will be helpful, forget the role of protagonist, and make sure you are there when needed.

What have been the most memorable moments of your volunteering experience?

Trekking trips with the whole group were the most especial moment, because of the landscape but also for the moments while climbing the mountains, wanting to give up but continuing always keeping up. The after picnics was always great too with everyone contributing with something.

Giving a talk with my counterpart about women’s health for International Breast-Feeding day has also stayed in my memories. Cooking with my host mum despite none of us really speaking any common language was always fun.

What would you advise another student thinking about volunteering?

Do some research, don’t take the first opportunity you see or the ones that look too nice or appealing, in conclusion, easy and still inside your comfort zone, go out, push yourself further. And please, never pay for a volunteering role, I think it loses its essential purpose. ICS has a great programme for 18-25 year olds with different organizations and countries.

Sumangala Sivakumar - Mathematical Sciences - Teaching Assistant

What interests do you have?

Reading literature books, developing knowledge in new technology, supporting students in their maths

Describe the volunteering you have done as a student.

I have done a role as an assistant teacher of Mathematics in a secondary school, covering from year 7 to year 11.

What were your initial motivations for volunteering?

To improve explanation strategy in teaching mathematics and learn about the professional, busy world

What have you gained from volunteering?

I have developed variety of skills: team working, leadership, facing challenges and building confidence.

What have been the most memorable moments of your volunteering experience

The most memorable moment was convincing the student, who had a pessimistic approach towards solving problems, that she can solve if she patiently worked.

What would you advise another student thinking about volunteering?

Volunteering is a first important step to a future career

Did you have direct contact with Met Temps?

Yes

If Yes, how helpful were they?

Excellent

How would you describe the range of opportunities on Met temps?

Met temps supports a wide range of students; from undergraduate to graduates, by providing a variety of job and volunteering opportunities from part time to full time.

Was it easy to register on the Met Temps System?

Yes

Would you recommend Met Temps to a fellow student?

Yes, of course

Any other comments about Met Temps?

Staff are very supportive, professional and approachable.

Rema Aktar - Legal Practice Course - Initial Assessor at Toynbee Hall Legal Advice Centre

Describe the volunteering you have/are doing?

Initial Assessor at Toynbee Hall Legal Advice Centre.

What were your initial motivations for volunteering and have these motivation changed?

My initial motivation was my lack of work experience, both legal and general. I wanted to make sure that I would have a few interesting things on my CV before applying for training contracts. My motivation now however is actually to help the local community alongside improving my chances of securing a good training contract.

What have you gained from volunteering and what skills do you feel you have developed?

Volunteering at Toynbee Hall has definitely improved my confidence and taught me to be comfortable around strangers. I deal with clients on a face to face basis, which has also improved my customer service skills and communication skills.

Has volunteering benefited you in your studies and made you more employable? If so, how?

I am not yet seeking employment, however this volunteering opportunity has definitely benefited my studies, and I believe it will make me more employable in the future. The work at Toynbee Hall fits in well with the course I am studying as I see the legal battles people have to face on a day to day basis.

Has volunteering been challenging in anyway and what memorable moments do you have from volunteering?

It hasn’t been challenging for me. I have only been volunteering for a few weeks now, but my most memorable moment was whilst shadowing, an elderly client had thanked me numerous times for listening to her problems. Although there was not much we could do for her, she appreciated the fact that we were willing to listen to her concerns and act to the best of our ability.

Would you advise a student to volunteer and why?

I would definitely advise students to volunteer. Whilst studying at undergraduate level, I had not even thought about doing anything like this. Volunteering has helped me gain numerous skills which I will need when in employment, and has also helped me get a better understanding of my course. It is important in my opinion for all students to see the practical side to what they are studying as it will give a clearer picture of the career they actually want.

“Do it! It is the most rewarding experience you could do whilst at  London Met.”

Describe the volunteering you have done as part of the Employability Award programme.

I became involved in ‘people’-related roles e.g. advising clients on problems they were having, whether it be family related, property, debt or even welfare benefits. The roles at Toynbee and CAB were very similar, the only difference being was that Toynbee was face-to-face advice with clients, and CAB was via advice line (phone).

Did you find (or were you signposted to) your volunteer role via London Metropolitan University?  

I found my volunteering roles through my own investigations, but the limited communication I had with London Met regarding volunteering was sufficient, and I was provided with direction as to the type of roles I should be looking for.

Did you volunteer prior to starting the Employability Award?

No I did not. I did make several applications, but I was naïve as to the importance of volunteering. I did receive placement at Toynbee Hall prior to applying for the employability award, however this did not commence until after application.

What were your motivations for volunteering?

In the legal sector, it is not enough to just obtain a degree. We are often told to be pro-active in volunteering in order to obtain the required experience and knowledge of how the law is applied.

What have you gained from volunteering?

Primarily, my confidence has increased a lot since volunteering. I feel much more comfortable communicating with people in both a social and professional capacity. My team-working skills have also developed, as my placements required working with large numbers of people. Referring to the above example, the work involved at my placements most definitely gave me the satisfaction of making a difference in people’s lives- something I hope will continue in any future career.

As a result of volunteering have your transferable skills developed?  

Communication is a definite. I struggled with communicating professionally before volunteering, and I now feel confident in doing so. It also changes the way in which you communicate generally, you become more conscious of the words you are using and what you should and should not say.

Depending on the position, mine being CAB and Toynbee, I was able to do a lot of work in different IT programmes, something that I can retain and offer to any future employer. Volunteering has opened me to different work types e.g. a way of doing something quicker and efficiently.

Do you feel that your volunteering experience has made you more employable?  

Definitely. Although I mention communication a lot, all my skills have developed for instance my IT, my team-working, my knowledge of the legal sector. Furthermore, CAB has shown me how different boroughs throughout the country deal with matters differently e.g. Housing. If I was to seek a job in Scotland, I could take this knowledge with me and help potential employers to change the way in which they operate.

I have been offered positions within the CAB as a result of the work and development I have undertaken whilst there, and this is a direct result of my developed skills.

Has your volunteering been challenging in any way? How did you overcome those challenges?

I did struggle with nerves toward the beginning of volunteering, particularly when coming face-to-face with clients at Toynbee. However, I realised that I was there to help, and I was relied upon to give effective, reliable advice, which helped to boost my confidence and provide the service required.

What have been the most memorable moments of your volunteering experience?

Gaining insight into the work I hope to undertake in the future, but also meeting new people. I have met friends for life at both Toynbee and CAB, which is something I will forever be grateful for.

What would you advise another student thinking about volunteering?

Do it! It is the most rewarding experience you could do whilst at London Met. Not only does it give you insight into the field in which you are pursuing a career in, but it also enables you to build upon skills that you cannot do within university. As above, you will meet people that will become close friends, and for that alone I advise volunteering.

‘Due to [...] the employability award I have been able to secure a job position at London City Airport which is directly linked to my chosen field.’

Describe the volunteering you have done as part of the Employability Award programme.

There have been several volunteering work related activities I have done within the university as part of my employability award. I started off by helping to promote the university at the Lord Mayor’s event, where we had our own truck with the London Met banners over them. I then helped out at the job fair where I helped set up for the fair and then headed off to get people involved, handing out flyers and talking to students individually and in groups. I also took part in helping the student union over two days, this involved handing out flyers, talking to students and directing them. And lastly I volunteered to come and help out at the university open days, where new prospective students were able to come in and tour the facilities and talk about life at the university.

Did you find your volunteer role via London Metropolitan University?

All the volunteering roles that I took part in were through London Metropolitan University, I was either told about them at certain events or lectures, or directly emailed by the careers and employability team. The support received by the careers team has been excellent as they do give you that extra push by means of regular emails and meetings. Communication channels have always been through email, weblearn or through lectures which really worked well for me.

Did you volunteer prior to starting the Employability Award?

Prior to the start of the employability award, I have always been involved with volunteering work, maybe not as much. But I have always believed in giving back, last year I was involved in setting up, founding and the successful running of the aviation society which took a lot of hard work as it was a new society and everything had to be set up from scratch.

What were your motivations for volunteering?

My motivations for volunteering at the university was that I believe that London Met has given me the opportunity as a mature student to complete and achieve my dreams, I have also received a lot of support with my studies and activities at University and this has been a great help especially being out of education for over 10 years. I always like to give my 100% at whatever I do and I just wanted to give back, maybe as a token of appreciation.

What have you gained from volunteering?

Volunteering has hugely increased my confidence levels in my own abilities to get things done and the way I manage various situations, I also believe that volunteering and giving something back that yes you are making a difference to someone else sometimes directly or sometimes indirectly, and this is a huge satisfaction in itself. I have also gained self-discipline and self-motivation skills as I have had to manage various activities in certain orders at times.

As a result of volunteering have your transferable skills developed?

My transferable skills have definitely developed, as the skills I have gained can be put into practice in my personal life and also my work life, as well as career development. I have been able to greatly improve my communication skills at all levels. And can easily approach and connect with new people from all different backgrounds.

Do you feel that your volunteering experience has made you more employable?

I have been able to write my CV to a more professional standard which is more appealing to employers, my presentation and interview skills have also improved. Due to these and other factors related to the employability award I have been able to secure a job position at London City Airport which is directly linked to my chosen field.

Has your volunteering been challenging in any way?

Volunteering was slightly challenging, as I am a final year student and managing everything was difficult at first as I am also working, but due to the skills gained I learnt how to manage everything effectively without any activity affecting the other. I have never in my life had a diary to work from, but in my final year I have had to buy a diary to keep a log of past dates and things that I needed to do in the near future, this helped me a lot as everything fell into place as it was all organised beforehand.

What have been the most memorable moments of your volunteering experience?

All my volunteering experiences are memorable moments, as I have met some wonderful people in the process and made lifelong friends.

What would you advise another student thinking about volunteering?

I would always recommend and advise other students to volunteer, as it enables networking opportunities, helps with various aspects of future work related issues such as confidence, self-management, how you are perceived to be presenting yourself to others etc. Volunteering is highly satisfying in itself as you know somewhere along the process you have or may have made a difference to someone else’s life.

‘It has made me more employable as I can work better in a team and know how to prioritise goals’

Describe the volunteering you have done as part of the Employability Award programme.

As part of my volunteering for the employability award I reached out in my workplace with their organized volunteering to help build a winter garden for a London primary school in Islington - to ensure kids have a place where they can grow plants and be proud about their surroundings.

There were 3 volunteer jobs that I took on as a London Metropolitan student first was the Lord Mayor parade representing the London Metropolitan University which I enjoyed although it was raining heavily. Second was helping student union to promote elections and distribute flyers during several day periods which helped other students get involved and raise the awareness about the elections. And the third was the second annual jobs fair which I helped to set up the event before it starting time distribute flyers to students across the campus and encouraging them to join it and lastly making sure the surveys that were distributed were filled out and handed in before students leave the event.

Did you find (or were you signposted to) your volunteer role via London Metropolitan University?

The support I got from Marie was amazing I can’t thank her enough about the motivation and encouragement she gave me. There is a great access for information and the communication is excellent.

Did you volunteer prior to starting the Employability Award?

I did volunteering prior the employability award as I understood the need for it.

What were your motivations for volunteering?

My motivations for volunteering is that I like to help and work together with people to achieve something bigger and better volunteering is something that everyone should do it all hands on and it completely worth it at the end no matter what the cause is as long as it is done with good intentions.

What have you gained from volunteering?

The most things that I did get out of the volunteering is  is making a difference really helps you grow emotionally and physically it gives me great motivation to be involved and helping people. Volunteering has been a great impact on my life as I believe that doing good things are so beneficial for future growth

As a result of volunteering have your transferable skills developed?

I would definitely say my transferable skills have developed my communication has improved throughout as I feel more comfortable approaching new people and having a conversation this also has made me more cautious about my surroundings and how to use problem solving effectively where it is needed.

Do you feel that your volunteering experience has made you more employable?

I would definitely agree that, it has made me more employable as I can work better in team and know how to prioritise goals to achieve the result faster. It has also enhanced my cv and I have gained a lot of acknowledgment during this experience.

Has your volunteering been challenging in any way? How did you overcome those challenges?

For me it was challenging with time management as I am in the 3 rd year and I am working so managing it to have enough time to do my volunteering was really hard, but I would not change anything about it as I am very pleased about the things I have done.

What have been the most memorable moments of your volunteering experience?

My most memorable moments was definitely being proud of finishing the winter garden for the kids it was such a hard day we were all muddy but the results we achieved was fantastic I’m still so proud of all the team that worked with me to achieve that. All of the employability award experience will be memorable as this is my final year.

What would you advise another student thinking about volunteering?

Do it, sometimes it will be though but if you really enjoy the things that you will be doing, trust me at the end of the day you will remember it and years later you can look back and say I was part of something bigger and I have done that, it is one of the most memorable things you will do!

Your role as a volunteer can give you a sense of pride and identity. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals”.

What volunteering have you done as a student?

I have volunteered for Victim Support, a national charity that offers emotional and practical support to victims and witnesses attending court trials.  I also volunteered as an English teacher at a local school and as an assistant psychologist at a local mental health asylum in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Did you volunteer prior to being a student?

Yes, I had volunteered as an Assistant Clinical Psychologist at a regional hospital back home, in Romania. I had also volunteered with the Department of Social Assistance of Sivita Gymnasium School in Galati, Romania.

What were your initial motivations for volunteering?

Being a volunteer has tremendous advantages. I would advise everyone interested in volunteering to start from finding something that they are passionate about.  My foremost motivation for volunteering was to become more aware of the problems facing the world. Personal growth and becoming more compassionate are significant benefits of volunteering. I do have to admit though that initially I chose to volunteer simply for the pride that comes from completing something. Words cannot really describe the sense of accomplishment when you see children’s smiley faces after a tiring long day of teaching and role-playing. Recognition of my efforts also keeps me volunteering again and again along with the fantastic opportunity to learn new things as well as to build upon existing skills. Finally, I don’t think anyone would volunteer, despite all the benefits, if the work was intolerable and they didn’t have any fun. Volunteer work can be hard, strenuous, dirty and frustrating but it is also usually great fun and extremely rewarding.

Have these motivations changed, and if so how?

I don’t think that my initial motivations changed while or after volunteering but what I do have to admit is that now I am more self-aware, have a deeper sense of peace and of the soft emerging energy within. This has allowed me to be less guarded around others. I can now recognise negative ways of thinking, and take simple but effective steps to correct them and I am much happier and confident as a whole.

What have you gained from volunteering?

The most thrilling experience as a volunteer took place in Sri Lanka for over a month while I was volunteering at a mental health asylum and teaching youth. It made me realise exactly how lucky I am to be in the financial situation I am. It also made me re-evaluate a lot of things in my life, particularly the need for expensive gadgets. I have also understood how to cherish every little thing in my life.

Do you feel that your volunteering experience has made you more employable? If yes, how?

Undoubtedly, the experience comes in handy when applying for jobs but I would not say that it is a deciding factor because, at the end of the day, it is my duty to make myself more employable.

Do you feel you have helped others with your volunteering? If so, how?

I would like to think that I helped others with my volunteering because volunteers are often the glue that holds a community together allowing us to communicate with the community in order to make it a better place. However, volunteering is a two-way process; it can benefit us and the communities as much as the cause we choose to help. Volunteering can provide a healthy boost to your self-confidence, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. You are doing good for others, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals.

Has your volunteering been challenging in any way? How have you overcome those challenges?

Volunteering abroad was especially challenging because of the culture and language barriers. It is not easy trying to explain a concept to someone who does not understand a particular language. But with perseverance and consistent hard work I have managed to overcome the frustration, the rage that comes with these difficulties, the narrow-mindedness of different communities or the severe lack of resources. Now, at the end of it, I can say that I am feeling like never before due to a strong sense of accomplishment.

What have been the most memorable moments of your volunteering experience?

By far the teaching periods were extremely fruitful as well as challenging but extremely rewarding. It is heart-wrenching to say your goodbyes to the young kids you’ve tried to be a role-model for after nearly two months spent together. But I have the confidence that they will remember me as I will never forget them either.

What would you advise another student thinking about volunteering?

Volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice and develop your social skills, since you are meeting regularly with a group of people with common interests. Once you have momentum, it’s easier to branch out and make more friends and contacts. And not all is milk and honey. You will come across frustrating situations as well as extremely rewarding stages but do bear in mind that volunteering is not for the weak of heart. More importantly, volunteering is not just a thing that one does to boost their CV. It’s a thing of honour; an action one takes to find inner peace, tranquillity as well as to get out of the rut and to find themselves.

We nominated Peju and she became one of the faces of the MAYOR OF LONDON's TfL student volunteering campaign in 2016-17. Check her blog post here.

I have developed transferable skills such as organisation, event planning and people skills in terms of building a rapport.’

What were your initial motivations for volunteering?

As I finished for the academic year last year I found myself with a lot more time on my hands. I initially was looking for internships related to my field but came across the opportunity to volunteer and really felt like I would like to give back to my local community.

Do you feel that your volunteering experience has made you more employable?

Yes I do feel that my volunteering experience has made me employable. As a youth worker it shows that I am able to work with new people on a regular basis. We have different people coming in weekly as well as the regulars and it is important to interact with them all. I have also developed transferable skills such as organization, event planning and people skills in terms of building a rapport. I would also say it shows my dedication to something I believe in and that I am willing to do something for others with no return.

Has your volunteering been challenging in any way? How have you overcome those challenges?

At first I found it challenging approaching the youth. Although I’m not that much older than them I know around the ages of 16/17 you don’t necessarily want to talk a lot, but as time passed and organic relationship formed. Aside from this on occasion it has been difficult juggling university, volunteering and having a job but knowing that I make a small difference to youth spurs me on, plus the team I volunteer with are extremely understanding and supportive.

What have been the most memorable moments of your volunteering experience?

The first time the youth I work with asked me enthusiastically “when are we doing art again Peju?” Our trip to the Tate and without prompting they sat down and started sketching and making notes about what they saw. One evening we all sat down and just had a really good laugh playing games and looking at amusing photographs.

What would you advise another student thinking about volunteering?

I would advise all students to go for it. Volunteering with youths isn’t for everybody but there are so many different sectors to explore. Some people don’t really want to donate money to charities for fear of their money not being used for what they thought it was intended for. Volunteering is definitely a way to see how your currency - being your time, is spent, as you will be able to see the direct results of your participation.

Volunteering is a fantastic and easy way to make you stand out in the job market which is already extremely competitive.

Did you volunteer prior to being a student?

Yes - as part of my Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award at a local Cub/Scout group.

What were your initial motivations for volunteering?

Developing skill set, giving something back to the community and enhancing my CV/future prospects.

Have these motivations changed, and if so how?

No - they have allowed me to continue developing my overall character and obtain further beneficial opportunities.

What have you gained from volunteering?

In terms of volunteering I believe I have developed confidence in communicating with people in a variety of settings i.e. over the telephone, via email or in person to present my analytical findings. Further internal and external opportunities have been granted as a result of my volunteering as it demonstrates a degree of thoughtfulness and therefore potentially makes one more attractive to employers.

As a result of volunteering have your transferable skills developed?

Yes - attention to detail which has allowed me to complete work to assist BTP officers in their strategic efforts to reduce crime. Additionally I have gained a sense of pride in the fact that I donate my time to a worthy cause around my studies (and now full-time work) which potentially could be a possible career option.

Has volunteering benefited your studies in any way?

Significantly - Volunteering in a sector relevant to my studies (Criminology and Community Policing) allowed me to bring theoretical knowledge elicited from my degree into a practical setting; therefore I developed confidence in my theoretical ability/ academic work.

Do you feel that your volunteering experience has made you more employable?

Potentially as I have not been successful in obtaining a degree level position yet. Recently, employers appear to show a preference to candidates with voluntary experience as doing so shows initiative, dedication and consideration. It will never go against you to have voluntary experience under your belt, therefore I believe that my voluntary experience with the BTP will put me in good stead for the future as I have enhanced a number of skills that can be considered attractive to employers.

Do you feel you have helped others with your volunteering?

Yes – advisingcommuters on how to protect themselves against crime, promoting the new crimereporting service and assisting customers with finding their way on Britain's railways.

Has your volunteering been challenging in any way? How did you overcome those challenges?

Yes - liaising with people who I had not met previously proved somewhat challenging as many colleagues were experienced police officers much older than I. To overcome this I ensured I interacted with as many people as I could and was cheerful to promote a positive working atmosphere. This later proved to be helpful as I was recommended to participate in a Chief Inspector's Master’s degree research project.

What have been the most memorable moments of your volunteering experience?

Identifying a previously unknown crime hotspot on the London Underground network, which has since been subject to strategic crime reduction initiatives.

What would you advise another student thinking about volunteering?

Do it! Volunteering is a fantastic and easy way to make you stand out in the job market which is already extremely competitive. You help an organisation as you work for free, however in return you receive skills development; potential further opportunities as a result of widening your network and something to enhance your CV. Would definitely recommend all students to volunteer at some stage throughout their degree.

Angelica Dunkley studied Law and Social Policy, a degree very much rooted in real-world issues, and gained much practical experience with these issues through her volunteering at Vital Regeneration, on their Re-Evolve programme.

Since 2005, Vital Regeneration has been working to reduce deprivation in London’s inner-city neighbourhoods and promote educational and employment opportunities for people, regardless of their backgrounds or their income. For Angelica, volunteering with the Re-Evolve program was an ideal opportunity and it became more than just the compulsory work placement her course required. "I felt working within this organisation would give me the experience I need in working with individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds," she told us. "Initially I took this position in conjunction with my work placement module, however as I am so excited by current and future projects I have informed my supervisor that I wish to stay on and gain valuable experience that will stay with me for a lifetime." 

Angelica, who also had previous experience working with young offenders while she was at college, had also been working closely with young people from the Princes Trust to plan and organise their activities. This was only one of a variety of activities that she'd been able to engage in, which took her beyond the limits of her course and gave her even more experience, something she encouraged all volunteers to embrace. "I advise volunteers to be very open-minded," she says. "The organisation I work for isn’t solely law-focused. I would also say, once you have a work placement don’t be scared to get involved, you should see yourself as an employee and give your all, just as if you were getting paid. You never know if you will be offered a full contract to work for them in the future."

In spite of how busy all this may sound, Angelica actually only worked twice a week, saying Vital Regenaration were very flexible when considering her timetable, particularly with regard to exams. This was one reason she suggested that all students consider undertaking some volunteering, as well as, of course, the fact it can really broaden their course, widen their learning experience and make them much more attractive employees: "Volunteering gives individuals the opportunity to work in the field of their choice and gain valuable experience, one also has the opportunity to put everything they have learned whilst at University into practise. In relation to one’s CV employers look upon it very kindly to see you have taken your own time to work for a company while still at University."

London Met is probably the most diverse university in London, and perhaps nothing represents this better than our great variety of volunteering roles and the volunteers who undertake them. Take Ighor Melo, the Brazilian business student who took up volunteering with Arsenal Double Club, both teaching and coaching children, but also learning from them and improving his English at the same time. He told us that coaching savvy ten year old London children proved to be quite the challenge, so was it something he had second thoughts about? 

“The experience as a whole was fantastic. I could not expect more from it. I have learned a lot, I met different people that are not connected in any way to the university environment, in a sense it was good to broaden my horizons here in London.” In fact, Ighor stresses that interacting with Londoners outside the university really furthered his understanding of “real” English and was one of the best benefits of his time volunteering. “As a foreign student, my primary gain was the use of the language in a different environment, other than the university.”

Ighor has certainly gained a lot, particularly since he didn’t even intend to volunteer when he came to London Met. “I had an interest in getting involved in something, maybe a university society or the Students’ Union, but this opportunity came up and I could not drop it. It was too good.” Why was that? “I honestly felt it would be a great opportunity to grow as a person and at the same time it would be a boost for my CV.”

He was also right that there are some academic and practical benefits to volunteering and he said that, even though “It feels great to know that your job makes some difference in your community, from a less altruistic perspective, companies do see volunteer experience as an asset, mainly if one manages to combine volunteering with acquiring special or different skills.”

And so, even though he may not have originally planned to volunteer, in retrospect we can see that it’s made perfect sense for a Brazilian business student to spend a little time each week teaching and coaching with Arsenal. He broadened his experience beyond the academic elements of his course, while he was able to improve his English and gain a better understanding of his London community. In fact, from a businessperson’s point of view, he made quite a profitable trade. Just a couple of hours a week brought him new skills and new experiences that he kept, and can build on, forever.

Although Arsenal Football Club are known throughout both London and Europe as one of England’s very best teams, you might not be aware that they’re also heavily involved with several important volunteering initiatives. One of the many London Met students who volunteered with Arsenal is Sarah Kelley. We caught up with her to ask just how it was that a busy Sports Therapy student, who is now planning to take a Masters degree, could possibly find the time to volunteer for as busy and famous an organisation as Arsenal FC.

“The requirements from you as a volunteer are not difficult to manage alongside studying,” was her answer. “Double Club runs at a number of Islington primary and secondary schools and they ask you to help out for one day a week for two hours after school, on a day that is suitable for you. There is no pressure to attend every week, but they ask you to inform them if you couldn't make it for any reason.” In fact, Arsenal encourages London Met students to volunteer, because they’re so local, and understands and accommodates their study schedules.

Students, on the other hand, jump at the chance to volunteer at a high-profile football club, as it’s a big boast for their CV. Sarah benefited from both the name and also the time she spent with children of many different abilities: “I wanted to work with children in the community and felt that the way the Double Club was run and the activities organised was an ideal way to help children learn without them even realising they were working, as all the written tasks were linked to Arsenal football. I also liked the idea of getting involved in football games, something I have not done before. The best part was seeing the children who struggled with written tasks initially, flourish as the weeks go on, and also hearing the SATs results achieved by many of the children who participated in the after school club.”

It’s not so hard to see why Sarah ended up volunteering with Arsenal for three years, since she also gained a great deal of satisfaction from the successful teaching work that she performed. Her time volunteering improved her IT skills and her communication skills with students, as well as gave her a confidence boost and even an FA Level 1 coaching qualification as a result of her coaching experience. She recommended that anyone considering teaching give Arsenal Double Club a go, particularly as those considering a PGCE will need to have gained some teaching experience first: “If you want to teach children, but are not sure what you want to do, then get involved with the Double Club as it offers maths, English, football, science, IT and even some language sessions.” Not that there aren’t other perks, too... “You even get to attend a tour of the stadium!”

As an undergraduate Law student I was struggling to get on with my studies and I came into the realisation that I seriously lack some of the most important skills required to be a practicing lawyer. Moreover, as I was an international student I was not confident enough about my communication skills. I found a volunteer post through Reach, to work with Witness Service at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court as a Witness Service volunteer and applied for it because it was interesting and rewarding. Moreover, the free training provided to develop my skills and knowledge was too good to miss. 

Because the Witness Service was quite flexible about the time and always accommodating my needs, I continued volunteering with them for two years. I used to volunteer one day per week for the first 2 months of every semester and 2 days per month for the third month and I used to take a leave for the final months of the semester. I also took leave for longer than a month during summer when I travelled outside the UK. 

Apart from working with Witness Service I have been sent for three different Trainings with Victim Support London, all of which has helped me to develop my skills and experience. I am able to communicate effectively with people from diverse backgrounds in a professional environment to understand their need and support them emotionally and practically. I can maintain liaison between people from different authority. I have also developed the required skills to answer any of the witness’s queries while having regard to the policy of the Witness Service. 

While I was waiting for the results of my final semester I expressed my interest in working with Witness Service as an employee and applied for the post of Anti-social Behaviour Co-ordinator. They recruited me, as they were well aware about my skills, experience and capabilities. Since June 2006 I have been working with the Witness Service. 

Volunteering has influenced my career choice enormously because when I started my undergraduate law degree in London Metropolitan University, I knew what I wanted to be. But now I know how I am going to be what I wanted to be. 

I would advise all the students to take on volunteering because it is not only about helping the community or the society but also about helping yourself to gain experience and acquire useful skills. Moreover, it can lead you to an opportunity of employment or make you more employable.

The Volunteering England Gold Award is a prestigious award indeed, being the only national student volunteering award that recognises achievement, dedication and leadership within higher education. In June 2010, London Met was proud to present three of these awards to students who had made extraordinary contributions to volunteering in the past twelve months. Among them was Andrew Nyeko, who volunteered on the Youth at Risk Student Leadership Programme.

Andrew volunteered as a mentor and study coach, helping struggling students to improve their attendance and to develop their study and communication skills, but there’s no doubt that his volunteering boosted his own skill set too, helping him to balance his priorities and improve his scheduling. “At the end of the day, it’s all about priorities and good time management,” he told us. “Volunteering has definitely allowed me to develop this vital skill, which I feel will help me tremendously in the future.” But when we asked him if he took the role to help develop these skills, we were surprised to learn that he hadn’t even planned to volunteer in the first place.

“I didn’t originally,” he said. “But when such a great opportunity to not only engage in personal development but also make a positive difference to the life of others came up, it was an opportunity that I could not turn down. It would enable me as a student to develop my leadership skills and, most importantly, it was a great opportunity to make a real difference and play an active part in a community based project.”

He also has a lot to say about how much he enjoyed his volunteering and how he gained an enormous sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in knowing that he’d made positive differences to students’ lives: “The positive change that I was able to witness within the local community easily outweighed the hard work and long hours put in during the project. There were so many great experiences; delivering the project within the local community and having it being received so positively; meeting such like-minded individuals and creating friendships that will last a life time and, lastly, being awarded the Volunteering England 'Gold Award' in last year’s London Met Student Awards Ceremony.” Well, who doesn’t enjoy receiving an award and a roomful of applause?

Andrew suggests all students find volunteering projects that they’re interested in, “I definitely recommend volunteering, but I advise those that plan to volunteer not just to volunteer for volunteering’s sake, but to volunteer in projects that they are passionate about. When things get difficult, your passion will pull you through the tough times and keep you committed.”

Like so many volunteers, he’s got the bug now and we may well see him involved on more projects soon. “I would volunteer again in a heartbeat,” he tells us. Perhaps we should start preparing another Gold Award now...

14 members of staff from Student and Library Services took part in the annual Staff Volunteering Day. Having never taken part in a volunteer away day before, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the morning would be spent learning about the charity, and specifically about the training cycle of their puppies, complete with a training demonstration and a tour of the kennels. Anybody who loves animals would have ooh’d and ah’d and made silly baby noises at the dogs along with the rest of us. Four of us even took up the offer of being led blindfold around a course of traffic cones by some of the more advanced dogs, though I found this prospect far too scary! They did admirably, humans and dogs alike.

Before this I didn’t really know that much about guide dogs and how they are trained. There are three main stages of training: puppy house training in volunteers’ homes up to approximately 12-14 months old; basic training in the training centre learning to lead, sit and ignore distractions; and training in the real world with walkers in areas where guide dogs are required. The walkers doing the last part of the training also match the dogs up with the people who need them and do further training in places their potential owners will be regularly visiting.

Did you know that Labradors aren’t the only puppies trained to be guide dogs and that the first ever guide dogs were not Labradors? There are a number of breeds that have the right sort of temperament.

After a very nice lunch (involving mini pasties and gooey pastries), we got to work! As there were fourteen of us, we managed to put a coat of paint on the walls of two rooms, count and bag-up a load of coins from one of their big dog donation containers, and clean lots of windows, both inside and out. With it being such a hot day, I think we were all tired and sweating by the end of it (I know I was), but it did nothing to diminish the enjoyment of the day.

The Staff Volunteering Day is a great way to meet colleagues you wouldn’t otherwise see, build a bit of team spirit, and just get out of your usual environment for a bit whilst at the same time performing a needed service.  

Lynn Crothall (Academic Liaison Librarian)

On Wednesday 27 July 2011, Metropolitan University Student Services’ employees and True Volunteer Foundation’s volunteers spent a day working at the Holly Lodge Centre as part of their staff away day.

The activity was organised by us in conjunction with its partner organisation, True Volunteer Foundation. We work with over 350 not-for-profit organisations and offer a variety of volunteer roles to the London Metropolitan University’s academic community.  

The Holly Lodge Centre provides an opportunity for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy and learn from a series of hands-on experiences focusing on the rich natural environment in the unique setting of Richmond Park. Activities range from photography to programmes that are linked to the National Curriculum for schools. All kinds of groups are catered for and have included special schools, day centres, mainstream schools, holiday clubs, hospitals and many other kinds of organisations. Activities are adapted to help visitors gain maximum benefit and enjoyment from the Park.  

Karin Kind from Disabilities and Dyslexia Service (Student Services, London Metropolitan University) on her experience of the staff away day:

"Since yesterday I have something in common with Madonna, yes I do!  We both supported a charity called The Holly Lodge Centre, special needs in a special place in Richmond Park. Well, she did it more monetary and I did it with pure work power.

Malcolm, one of the founding trustees of the charity, told our team that we really made a difference as we managed a workload just in one day that otherwise would have taken weeks to complete.

We helped clearing and reorganising a storage room, we planned a stage with disabled access, we helped with the interior design of a future teaching room and we helped with the maintenance of the nature walk. Thanks to that I am in agony today but to be able to enjoy and learn about Richmond Park, including its wildlife and fascinating history and to have a fantastic day with colleagues, compensates this in many ways and I definitely would go through this “agony” again for such a day."

 

 

 

 

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