Volunteering has always been a big part of my life and before I came to university I knew I wanted to get involved. Durham University Student Volunteering and Outreach is the student-led volunteering organisation that oversees all volunteering activities within the University.
There are around 40 different projects to get involved in and range from sixth form tutoring, to supporting the elderly community with technology; the ever-popular dog walking and volunteering in foodbanks across County Durham. The vast array of volunteering opportunities through DUSVO means that there is something for everyone to get involved in!
Making a real difference
My own personal volunteering experience has predominately been shaped through my involvement with Children Achieving Through Student Support (CATSS).
CATSS is one of the flagship projects within DUSVO and has both a primary and secondary division. The project seeks to provide respite care for 40 local children aged between seven and 14 from hard-to-reach backgrounds across two-day trips and a week residential over the Easter holidays.
By hard-to-reach, we mean that our children are often from disadvantaged backgrounds so may struggle to access new opportunities. Additionally, some of our children are young carers, either to parents or other siblings.
Our action-packed timetable provides children with the chance to try new activities such as rock climbing, a trip to the farm and a day to the beach and simply enjoy being children. This provides valuable respite care and support for children who do not always have the same opportunities that many other children have.
I have volunteered with CATSS Primary throughout my time at university, first as a Team Leader, then as Activities Project Leader in my second year. Finally, this year, I was the primary Co-ordinator for the project – leading the administrative side of the project, liaising with the DUSVO office and leading the application process.
I knew I loved volunteering for CATSS after finishing my first residential as I could see the difference CATSS had made to the children on the project – it was amazing to see how much the children had grown in confidence and I would encourage any students to apply to join the CATSS volunteer team when they open in October!
Queens Award for Voluntary Service
I think volunteering is one of the most rewarding things you can do at university, both for yourself and the wider community – I know that the people I have met on CATSS have become some of my closest friends as we bonded over our incredible experiences on the project.
I am thrilled that DUSVO has won the QAVS award and I would just like to say a big thank you to everyone in the DUSVO office over the past three years who have made my time volunteering such an amazing experience and I would encourage anyone to get involved with any volunteering project – it’s never too late to start!