Student Volunteer Team 2014/15 – Training day

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Getting down to some serious planning

In anticipation of a busy start to the academic year in September, we thought it wise to get our new Student Volunteer Team as prepared as they possibly could be before they break up for summer. Our first training day took place on Wednesday 4th June at Coventry University’s Jaguar Building. The main purpose of the day was for the team to get to know each other, and hopefully form some key partnerships (and maybe some friendships) along the way.

The weather certainly didn’t decide to be kind to any of us. Thankfully the heavy down pour didn’t deter the team from attending, and by 10:15 we were well on our way. The day began with some ice breakers, designed to settle nerves and for names to be exchanged. After some rather suspect catching by the V&E trainers during the ‘Did you catch that name’ introduction exercise, we were soon all acquainted and ready to learn. We then got to know each other a little more by designing shields for one another stating our position in the team, where we’d like to be in five years, and the top three items we would need on a desert island. It’s perhaps a sign of the times that an i-pod was on most people’s lists, (despite the fact that electricity might be hard to come by!)  Continue reading

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What Students Think About Volunteering

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The Student Volunteer Team (SVT) held an Easter themed event last week to gather the views of students about all aspects of volunteering. Considering the end of term is fast approaching, this was a great opportunity for students to reflect on the volunteering work they’ve done this term, and to receive a free chocolate egg as a reward!  Students were asked about what volunteering means to them, why they chose to volunteer and how they think it will help them in the future. Here is a summary of the results collected on the day!

Why did you choose to volunteer?

There were a number of reasons put forward in answer to this question, but the two most popular answers were quite familiar to us. The number 1 reason why students chose to volunteer was to improve on their CV and gain employable experience. The second most popular answer was to give something back, either to the community as a whole, or to people in particular need of support.(Out of the 29 feedback forms we received, 11 had stated the former reason and 8 the latter).

Perhaps not surprisingly, students are clearly considering their future and how the skills they have developed at University will help them to secure that dream job. This reaffirms the idea that volunteering is a great source for practical, real world experience.

Beyond this, students apparently see volunteering as a way to feed their social conscience. Doing good and helping others is a popular reason why students volunteer, putting to bed the unfounded assumption, held by some, that students bring no benefit to the city in which they are studying.

Other reasons put forward included having fun, meeting new people and pursuing a personal interest.  Continue reading

Student Volunteering Week 2014 – Good Feedback All Round

Now that the manic planning sessions and crisis meetings have been resigned to memory and another successful Student Volunteering Week has come to an end, it is important to look back on what we have been able to achieve, and what we have managed to learn for next year. Where better to turn than to the feedback we have received from our students, staff and partner organisations. We are delighted with the vast amount of positive comments directed at us, and will endeavor to act on any areas highlighted for improvement. Here is a summary of that feedback.

Volunteer Speed Matching – 19/02/14

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Our speed matching event was an opportunity to provide students and community organisations enough time to sit down with one another and discuss their potential working relationships. In a similar format to speed dating, groups of students listened to a 5 minute pitch from 12 of our community organisation partners and had the chance to ask them questions about the volunteering experience they offer. We then ‘matched’ up our students with the organisations they were interested in by exchanging contact information. The fact that we held this event in place of our usual February Volunteering Fair meant we were eager to find out what our organisation partners felt, and whether changing the make up of the fair was wise decision or not. Here is what they had to say… Continue reading

SVW Thursday: CUSU Students at Coventry Food Bank

Continuing the success of Monday’s micro volunteering activity for ‘Good Deed Day’, CUSU volunteers attended Coventry food bank on Thursday 27th February. It was a fantastic opportunity to take some of our cherished student volunteers away from the stresses of coursework deadlines for a day and witness firsthand how beneficial our volunteering programs are. These pictures only tell part of the story. If you’re interested in gaining the full experience, look out for more opportunities to volunteer at your local food bank.

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The volunteers spent the day working as donation coordinators, helping sort through all the food stocked at the food bank and checking whether items were in date. The food bank seeks to provide much needed assistance to those residents that need it when it comes to the everyday activities that most of us take for granted, such as feeding and clothing ourselves. Continue reading

SVW Monday: Micro Volunteering, CUSU’s Good Deed

As part of Student Volunteering Week, CUSU V&E arranged for our students and staff to take part in Micro Volunteering, a 10-20 minute online activity that contributes to worthy causes on your behalf. The day was very enjoyable and created a real sense of accomplishment for all involved.

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There were five opportunities for participants to choose from, spanning the broad scope of micro volunteering. Firstly, working with PostPals, an online charity that asks for people to send in feel good messages to children suffering from severe illnesses, e mail messages were sent to a variety of children from our students and staff. It’s amazing how easy it is to put a smile on a child’s face by doing something so simple and free. Some of the other activities included playing online games and reading short pieces about world hunger. By doing this, money is donated to a charity by the host website. When did doing good become so straightforward?  Continue reading

Student Volunteer Week – All bases covered

As anyone who works in Student Unions will know, a week can fly past in the blink of an eye. That is certainly how things are going here at CUSU. Thankfully, we are well on our way to delivering a successful Student Volunteer Week for 2014.

CUSU V&E are a forward thinking institution, and we recognise the importance of providing a wide range of activities to attract the varying interests of our student body. Our SVW will be covering all bases, so if students want to volunteer on campus, off campus, online or offline, there will always be something to get involved in.

For those looking to make the world a better place in their lunch break, laptops will be placed in the Students’ Union on Monday 24th (better known as Good Deed Day). Here, students will be able to take part in micro volunteering, either by writing letters of support to children suffering from illness, raising money and stationery by playing games, or translating videos into different languages to help non-English speakers understand important youtube videos. This is a small investment that stands to deliver great benefits to others. So basically a win win situation.  Continue reading

Student Volunteer Week – One month to go!

In exactly a month’s time, University campuses around the country will be celebrating Student Volunteer Week (24th-28th Feb) in a variety of weird and wonderful ways.

As the name suggests, Student Volunteer Week is a celebration of students who choose to give up their spare time to make a difference to the lives of others, and gain some invaluable experience along the way. The fact that so many students decide to sacrifice a weekend or a night out in order to better themselves in this way, is deserving of a week of recognition, and Coventry University Students’ Union is fully on board.

We will actually be kicking off our celebrations a few days early on the 19th of Feb with our very first ‘Speed Matching’ event. This is a new experiment we’re trying which will give students the opportunity to learn more about our key community organisations in a speed dating type environment. Each organisation will have a few minutes to sell themselves to students, and CUSU V&E will match any students who express an interest in working with them. In this way, our students are given more autonomy to learn about potential partners, while the organisations get guaranteed exposure to all who come along.

As ever, we will be working closely with our Student Volunteer Team to promote the event via social media and to document the big day. Keep your eye on our facebook, twitter and website to find out how we get on.

Moving into Student Volunteer Week itself, we have a number of events lined up. CUSU V&E will be showcasing the fast growing phenomenon known as micro-volunteering where students can do good by playing games and writing e mails. We want our student body to think of volunteering more widely, and to realise that it doesn’t have to be time consuming or back breaking. Our SVT events team have been hard at work, hammering out the details and making sure the event is a success. Continue reading

Not Just For Christmas?

Not long after the firework displays have vanished into the ether, and the halloween masks are put away for another year, our collective attention turns to Christmas. We eagerly await the John Lewis advert campaign, the endless deals on snacks from Tesco et. al and that all too familiar, feelgood message: Christmas is a time to consider those less fortunate than yourselves.

Any sentiment that expresses concern for one’s fellow man ought to be welcomed, especially if you’re involved in the third sector. But if Christmas in particular is a time for giving, what does that say about our attitudes to voluntary activity throughout the other 11 months of the year? Increasingly, charities, homeless shelters and food banks are noticing acute spikes in the numbers of people approaching them in the run up to Christmas, so much so that not everyone is guaranteed a Christmas volunteering opportunity if they leave it too late to register their interest.

There are practical things to consider here. Firstly, some charities are arguing that the amount of time it takes to train and vet new volunteers is greater than the amount of time the volunteers actually spend volunteering. In extreme cases, this may lead to charities losing their ability to help everyone, and the payoff from training new volunteers becoming virtually non existent. Secondly, those who engage their giving side over Christmas tend to donate what they have, without knowing enough about the charity and what their service users actually need. Again, in the worst case scenarios, charities may be forced to store items that their service users will likely never be in need of, limiting the capacity to take in more useful donations.  Continue reading

The Benefit(s) of Student Volunteering

Put a group of people together in a focus group type situation and ask them to come up with reasons to volunteer.  While they may come up with several colourful and inventive reasons, the two most likely to stand out from the list are ‘to increase employability skills’, and ‘to give something back to the community’. These are certainly the primary reasons we include on our website, and other promotional material intended for students.

Understandably, gaining employability skills is a more pressing matter for most students than thinking about how they are benefiting the community. Attending university and holding a degree no longer guarantees you the job of your dreams. Looking around themselves in lectures, students are reminded just how much competition there is in their chosen field for jobs. Add to this the hundreds of lecture halls around the country, and one starts to see the benefits of having placement experience through volunteering.

This is not to say that students are disinterested by the impact their work is having, because this isn’t the case. But it does often come down to the work of staff when promoting the social impact of their volunteers, and telling those warm, fuzzy stories. Basically, ‘you do the work, and we’ll tell your story’. Continue reading

Micro-volunteering: The Pros and Cons

To clarify; despite the subtle differences between the phenomenon known as ‘micro-volunteering’ and ‘online-volunteering’, I am choosing to speak about the two interchangeably for the purposes of this blog piece. However, if you’re particularly interested in a more concise definition of the two, there are some fascinating pieces around that I’d encourage you to check out.

 

Generally speaking, micro-volunteering is defined as volunteering that can be completed in short periods of time. In the majority of instances, this is done remotely, online. There are a few notable benefits to volunteering in this way. It certainly addresses the problem most people put forward as a reason they don’t volunteer; that they just don’t have the time. Micro-volunteering allows you to be flexible with your hours, there are no travel expenses incurred, minimal manual labour and no dress code. Let’s face it, volunteering at home in your pjs does sound pretty tempting. Continue reading