Student Volunteers Take the Lead

New figures released by the National Union of Students (NUS) show that 31 per cent of students in higher education are volunteering.

The survey also shows that students spend an average of 44 hours a year volunteering.

“With students being faced with an increasingly competitive labour market, this is hardly surprising,” says NUS spokesperson Collette Bird.

“From our research, not having enough time was one of the main barriers stopping students from volunteering,” she continues.

“We recognise that students are busy working towards their studies but doing something for the greater good shouldn’t be about dictating how much time you need to spend on a project for it to really count, or over-thinking what type of action needs to take place.”

 

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Some students may wonder if their volunteering truly makes a difference, but Bird says that the research from the NUS shows that student volunteers are already contributing to their communities.

“We’ve seen the power that students have when collectively organising around common interests and how it can change the world around them,” she continues. “Because it can and it does and it’s time for many others to make it happen in their communities and on their campuses too.”

During the annual Student Volunteering Week (SVW), which ran from February 24 to March 2, student volunteers from all around the country came together to celebrate and promote volunteering.

 

SVW around the country.

One of the celebrated volunteers was Aidan Bannon, a 22-year-old medical student from Queen’s University Belfast.

After a panel of representatives from the NUS, Student Hubs, Workers in Student Community Volunteering and Barclays named him Student Volunteer of the Year, Aidan was surprised and thrilled.

“[It was] one of those times when you have to look twice. It kind of came out of the blue because I didn’t know I’d been nominated,” says Aidan.

 

Aidan getting his certificate from Wendy Osborne, the CEO of Vounteer Now. Photo: Queens University Belfast Students' Union

Aidan getting his certificate from Wendy Osborne, the CEO of Vounteer Now. Photo: Queens University Belfast Students’ Union

Listen to our Skype interview with Aidan and find out how he was tricked into receiving his award!

“It’s always nice to be recognised for the work that you’re doing even if that’s not your initial intent when you’re doing your volunteering. You do it because you enjoy it, because it’s something you’re passionate about.”

Aidan’s been volunteering with The Red Cross in one way or another since he was 16 and founded The Red Cross Society at his university. He agrees with Bird that students do lead a stressful life and that it can be difficult to find the time to volunteer.

However, he still believes that student volunteering is “a really unique opportunity to meet other people to expand your interests and get a greater insight into how society works.”

For Aidan, it’s also provided a much needed break from his academic studies.

“I think in the long-term [volunteering] does make you more productive,” he says.

“I know especially with my volunteering, I’ve had to time manage and it’s obviously gotten a lot more difficult as I’ve gone through my degree, but if I hadn’t been as busy with volunteering, I think that the academic side of my degree would have suffered.”

Aidan believes that everyone works differently and that volunteering might not help all students who are stressed out. But he points out that if you find something you’re passionate about you’ll find the time to get involved.

“Being a student, particularly in the UK now, volunteering is definitely a great thing, not only for your CV but also for yourself and contributing to other people,” says Aidan.

Kajsa Wall

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