Student Volunteering Week 2018 saw 300 Durham students participate in 50 unique volunteering events. An Olympics-themed Sports Day for disabled adults, a tea party for the elderly, and bird nest box making for endangered birds: you name it, students were volunteering to be part of it! In total Durham students volunteered 700 hours of their time over 7 days – thats’ 100 hours a day!
Student Volunteering Week is a national initiative that encourages university students to engage in social action in their local communities and celebrates the impact of volunteering. We asked seven students to share their experiences over the week.
Monday – Wildlife conservation
I signed up for bird nest box making because it was something different! The event took place at Maze Park in Stockton, an oasis close to campus. Whilst we assembled the boxes, Steve, our guide from Teesside Wildlife, explained how they would help increase local biodiversity by providing breeding sites for endangered species.
Once our masterpieces were done, we went on a tour around the park. It was great to get out of the library and explore a new side of Stockton! We learnt about the history of the area and the local wildlife before going bird watching. It was my first time, so I was pretty excited!
Our volunteering was so important considering the huge number of factories in the local area. Sadly conservation isn’t very popular amongst our generation but it’s vital for us to step up and protect the environment for the generations after us. Jessica Setiawan
Tuesday – Historic restoration
I love volunteering because it’s a great way to get out of the Durham bubble and to do something for others. When I saw that I could combine volunteering with visiting the beautiful 900-year old Auckland Castle I signed up straight away!
We spent the day clearing the area around the pond working with other local volunteers. It was an absolute pleasure to work with such a friendly group of people on such a sunny day, learning about the ongoing conservation and restoration work in the area. My favourite part of the day was playing tug of war with a felled tree and hauling it up the slope to our gigantic pile of wood! It was so rewarding to see what can be done in just a few short hours when you work together. Kira Browne
Wednesday – Afternoon Tea Party
After weeks of preparations, the big day finally arrived – our Student Volunteering Week Tea Party! We host these events every month to reduce loneliness in the elderly members of the local community and they are always enjoyed by volunteers and service users alike. Filled with excitement, we watched service users and volunteers gather at St. Oswald’s Church hall. Ten minutes in, and the room was bustling with new volunteers and service users, all chatting away. Our abundance of tea and cake was happily demolished. Performances from DU Jazz and Swing Dance Society made the atmosphere that bit livelier, with some service users getting up to dance along!
We were extremely pleased to see so many new volunteers from across the university. We couldn’t have asked for more, especially from those who helped to tackle the inevitable mountain of washing up! All in all, to have over 50 people come and celebrate Student Volunteering Week with us was our dream come true. We are excited to welcome everyone back for our next Tea Party (14th March) to continue with the intergenerational fun – Lilia Manova and Laura McCracken, co-project leaders of SCA Tea Parties.
Thursday – Community sport
As the Stephenson College SCA Rep, I organised a fundraiser to support our weekly projects. The vibe during SVW is always really positive with loads of people getting involved, so I decided it would be a good time for the event. Here at Durham there is a lot of focus on educational or recreational events, so I decided to organise something completely different: a badminton competition!
People from the local community were invited to play alongside students. Everyone was socialising while they watched various games. Not only was it fun, but it promoted exercise! Whilst it was fantastic that we raised £40, I think the main benefit was getting everyone moving. When you have deadlines to meet exercise doesn’t seem like a priority, but it’s so great for your health!
Organising the competition was tricky because I was outside my comfort zone. I love volunteering because it makes service users happy and that makes me happy, but it’s also the perfect opportunity push yourself and gain new experience – Madhuram Bhatia
Friday – Olympic Sports Day
As someone who’s been a volunteer, a project leader and a service user of SCA, I’ve learned to really appreciate the benefits of dedicating even the smallest amount of time to help other people. The Olympic Sports Day was perhaps one of the best examples I’ve seen of compassion, kindness and understanding, and it was a great demonstration of the fun you can have as an SCA volunteer!
The SCA partnership with GOALS and Growing Together Durham provided local adults with learning disabilities the opportunity to cultivate their independence, skills and wellbeing, as well as having fun alongside some Durham University students. From learning about new sports like Boccia, to seeing someone’s face light up when they hit the archery target for the first time, to parading around with flags in an opening ceremony rivalling London 2012, volunteers and service users alike had an amazing day! – Kali-Rose Smith
Saturday – Children’s Circus party
During SVW my best friend, Yi, organised a circus-themed party for local children. In my experience, volunteering is always more fun with friends! But on this occasion, I’ll admit I got involved because I just wanted an excuse to procrastinate! When is dedicating your time to others not an admirable use of time?
The kids were so excited. They never stopped smiling or running around – it made me dizzy. I’d never volunteered with children before but I learnt that I am surprisingly good at it. Who knew? They all came out with some great one-liners, so overall it was an afternoon well-spent! I think it would be an understatement to say that the kids enjoyed it too since one of them cried when she had to leave! – Zahra Ayub
Sunday – Awards and Celebrations!
As per tradition, SVW2018 was rounded off by an awards evening. It was the perfect opportunity to recognise the fantastic work and commitment of our volunteers. They make a huge difference to the local community, so we believe they deserve celebrating! We gave out a range of awards, including most committed volunteer and college ambassador. Here at SCA, whatever you do is acknowledged and appreciated.
The evening provided a chance to chat and enjoy some entertainment – we were very fortunate to watch a performance by the comedy group ‘Shellshock’ and a dance routine from the Instep Bollywood troupe. These were both fantastic! We love hosting these fun evenings to bring our volunteers together from across SCA’s projects. Overall, the evening was enjoyed by all and it was a perfect ending to a very successful week – Emily Amos, SCA Educational Projects Chair, and Harriet Scott, SCA President.
Find out more about Student Community Action (SCA) and the volunteering projects they run here at Durham.