Monday 11th February marks the start of Student Volunteering Week. Lasting until 17th February, the week is run by the Student Volunteering Network, a support network for anyone in higher or further education participating in volunteering activities. Entering its 18th year, SVN collaborates with various institutions across the UK to arrange events and encourage students to sign-up to volunteering opportunities.
So, why should you volunteer? Well, not only can volunteering compliment your CV nicely, allowing you to stand out against your competitors, but it can also help to develop particular skills which may be transferrable to your future career. Networking is also a huge benefit of volunteering, as you have the chance to meet others like yourself, with the same aspirations and interests. This is particularly useful if your volunteering placement is related to your future career. Consequently, you may be more employable than those without volunteering experience. However, it can be difficult to know where to begin as there are so many opportunities out there. I found that the best place to start is at the University of Reading itself, as they offer a range of opportunities on campus that are easy to sign up to, and flexible enough to arrange around your prior commitments to your education. Therefore, I have compiled a list of volunteering opportunities below which may help you to get started.
Before even starting university in September, all students are paired with a STaR mentor whom a new student can turn to if they have any questions or queries about the university. After the first year, any student can apply to become a STaR mentor and you are given training for the role. You can find more information here.
Students in Schools
If you’re specifically looking for something off campus, you can apply to volunteer in a local school through the university’s ‘Students in Schools’ scheme. The university will place you in a nearby school where you can help school children during their early education and act as an assistant to the teachers. Find out more and apply here.
Alternatively, you can volunteer with the Reading Students Union through their various societies or Junior Common Room. After staying in halls for a year, you can apply to become part of the JCR committee. The role includes being a port of call for first-year students staying in your halls and collaborating with other members of the committee to arrange events. Raise and Give society (RAG) also welcome volunteers to help raise money for various charities. You can find more information here.
If none of these takes your fancy, I would advise you to keep an eye on your university emails. I am constantly receiving emails about volunteering and work experience opportunities, which resulted in me spending five weeks in South Africa during Summer 2017! To help you out I have formed a list of businesses external to the university that accept volunteers!
• Royal Berkshire Hospital
• Reading Festival
• Reading Voluntary Action
Don’t forget that any volunteering placement counts towards the Reading Experience and Development (RED) Award so I would recommend signing up to that as well. Make the most of your university experience!
By Piers Thurston