Tuesday, 29 November 2011

KUSU Sports Volunteering Project!

KUSU's VP Communication Lucy Williams gives us the low down on taking part in a special KUSU Volunteering project!

As neither a member of a sports team nor a regular volunteer, I was somewhat apprehensive about spending my Saturday in the gym of an all girls’ school (I spent enough of my time in one when I was a teenager). But there I found myself, along with a crowd of enthusiastic Kingston Cougars, armed with a paintbrush and the promise that this would set me on the path to Be A Champion.

And it was fantastic. Co-ordinated by Lucy from volunteering and Susie from sports, it was great to see the Cougars come together for no reason other than giving something back to the community. The combined effort of our lads and ladies (and a shed load of sustenance from Domino’s) saw the transformation of what was a bleak, lifeless room into a bright and colourful exercise space, which celebrated prominent women in sports, the upcoming Olympics and the mantra of the Waldegrave girls: “Throw yourself into the life of the school.”

Under the Be a Champion scheme, whose aim it is to engage students in the London 2012 Games, sports clubs are encouraged to ‘plan, develop and run a community volunteering event, reinforcing  the Olympic values of Respect, Excellence, Friendship, Courage, Determination, Inspiration and Equality.’ It was wonderful to be a part of this project and so satisfying to know that this gloomy Monday morning, those students are going to be delighted by a brand new sports hall – I just wish I could see their faces!

 All the photos from the day can be found here!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Volunteering with the Scouts!

Another update from one of KUSU's hard working community volunteers. Derryn gives an insight into what he does with the Scouts and why you should get involved!

Over the past 15 years I've gone through every section of the scouting movement, which can not be over exaggerated for the amount of opportunities it has provided me. But when I came to uni I doubted whether there would be any opportunity for me to continue this, how wrong I was.

There is an overwhelming number of local groups, especially in London, some have already put their details forward to KUSU Volunteering but many others haven't. Within the Royal Kingston scouting district alone there are 18 individual Scout groups which make up the 22 Beaver colonies (6-8yrs), 20 Cub packs (8-10yrs), 15 Scout troops (10-14yrs), 9 Explorer units and 1 Network unit (18-25yrs) actively running.
Derryn (on the left at the back)  with The Dittons Scout Group on Rememberance Sunday

 Personally I chose to help with a scout troop, 10-14yrs, at a local group called The Dittons, based out towards Esher. The scout troop leadership within the group was in the process of undertaking new leadership which gave me the opportunity to help start from scratch with the programming, planning and running of the weekly meetings as well as additional activities. I've now been with them a year during which time we've seen our numbers double, so we must be doing something right.

Additionally I joined the local Network unit where as a member it is our responsibility to organise and run the meetings, which provides great opportunity to organise something you're interested in as well as join in on activities you may not usually have the opportunity to.

There are so many scouting opportunities, locally, nationally and even globally where your help will be appreciated in any situation or activity you put your hand to. So get Scouting!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Bloomsbury Festival 2011

As part of London Student Volunteering Fortnight KUSU Volunteers again headed into London to volunteer at the wonderful Bloomsbury Festival. Our Vice President Communications Lucy was there on Saturday to capture a video of events and Catarina who volunteered on the sunny Sunday reports on the second day of the festival. 
Rajan, Catarina, Christina, Emma and Maria at Bloomsbury!
Bloomsbury is located in central London, an artistic and cultural place where you can relax and enjoy a nice cup of coffee while reading a book or listening to some music. The Bloomsbury Festival started in 2006 and has been happening every year since then. The volunteers are essential to making this event work. Important tasks were given to KU students during the festival, such as helping with walking tours, giving directions and information to visitors, distributing flyers and filling out feedback sheets. Among this, KU students also helped to clean up Russell Square after the festival was over.

The volunteering for the event was divided into two shifts. The Sunday shift was occupied by five KU students. Emma Lindner, a third year Law student from England was part of the team of volunteers last year. She described the festival as a ‘mixture of music and art’ where ‘the atmosphere is really amazing.’ 

The team of KU volunteers included students from Nepal, Portugal, USA and Greece. Christina Hutchinson, an undergraduate student from New Jersey said, ‘We don’t have this kind of festival in America, where everyone is so friendly.’ She fell in love with the music around her and confessed, ‘Would be great to have an event like this in Kingston!’

‘As a volunteer, I really enjoyed helping others explore the treasures of arts and culture in this beautiful area of London’, Maria, a second year student from Greece said. Like Maria, many other volunteers felt the same way. The Bloomsbury festival will be back in 2012 for all of those who appreciate art, culture and music.

Monday, 7 November 2011

London Student Volunteering Fortnight 2011

Its all over for another year!  October 22nd to November 4th saw KUSU Volunteering taking part in London Student Volunteering Fortnight.  This is where London Universities get together to organise a range of volunteering sessions open to any student at any of those uni's.

You can find out what other universities got up to by checking out the LSVF 2011 blog to see photographs and write-ups on some of their events.  

Big Woodland Workday

Kingston contributed to the fortnight by working with the BritishTrust for Conservation Volunteers and Kingston University Bio-diversity Action Group to organise a Big Woodland Workday at Kingston Hill Campus. Our hard working volunteers got their hands dirty digging out rhododendrons, bashing brambles, creating wood piles for insects to thrive in and even donned waders and got in the pond to sort out the reed problem! They made a huge impact in making the woodland a better place for wildlife in just a few hours! 

During the fortnight volunteers also made their way back to the Bloomsbury Festival in central London for a great two days spent making the experience of visitors to this lovely festival even more awesome. We were joined by students on both Knights Park and Penrhyn Road campuses to make Kite’s for Women’s Rights on behalf of Amnesty International and just like during Student Volunteering Week the staff from the International Youth Art’s Festival joined us at Knight’s Park to explain why getting involved with the festival is a great thing to do. Video to follow soon for those that missed it!

Finally there was the Olympic Torch on campus on the final Thursday.  Photos from all our events can be found on Facebook. Big thanks to all those that got involved in activities both in Kingston and across London!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Future Flames Tour Comes to Kingston!

Coinciding nicely with London Student Volunteering Fortnight the Future Flames Tour came to Kingston University Students’ Union today. This meant an opportunity to have your photograph taken with the actual Olympic Torch! Several regular KUSU Volunteers came down to take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Students queue for a picture with the torch!
The torch was here because of Future Flames, a dedicated search to find inspirational students to carry the Olympic Flame during the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay. The last day of the tour is tomorrow at Kings College London but nominations will be open until December 20th. A great opportunity for all the hard working student’s who volunteer.  To find out more about the Future Flames campaign check out the NUS website.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Refugee Action Kingston - Summer Youth Project

Although most of the volunteering undertaken by KUSU Volunteers is during term time everything doesn’t just stop as soon as the last exam is finished. As well as community volunteers who continue through the summer and one-off opportunities there can also be the chance to get involved with special summer projects. This summer Refugee Action Kingston who support refugee and asylum seeker families to settle into life in the UK ran a summer youth project. One of the volunteers on that project Sarah reports back on her time with RAK…

I volunteered with RAK over the summer for a week, with the 11-16 year old group and just had the best time!  The kids were shy at first, sticking together with their friends that they already knew, but by the end of the week they were all chatting away and having a great time.  The format was the same on most of the days - English "lessons" in the morning, which were just fun ways of speaking and practising a grammar point followed by an activity in the afternoon.  

This was always different - one afternoon we took the kids ten-pin bowling, another to the Science Museum, we also went sketching down by the river and took them all on a trip to the cinema.  I think its a great project, the kids seem to thoroughly enjoy it and were even talking about coming back next year.  Its a way for them to have fun, get out of the house, build their confidence, for some of them to practice their English and just to spend time with one another and the volunteers.  I also feel like a got a lot out of it.  A great way to give some time over the summer if you're thinking about getting involved in volunteer project. 

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Blast from the past!

If you’re starting at Kingston this September and moving into halls you’ll hopefully find in your new kitchen a copy of Carla’s Cookbook.

This isn’t just any ordinary cookbook but the result of a volunteering project with Kingston Young Carers. The cookbooks were written by Kingston Student Carla to be distributed to Young Carers’ Groups and 6th Form students ready for them to start university. The final product was so great that Kingston University got in on the act and ordered extra for halls. The final batch of these have just been delivered to halls kitchens.

The aim of the cookbook was to promote healthy eating and inspire people to try and cook new things. It ended up being massively successful with requests for copies coming in from Young Carers' groups across London and a fair bit of local media coverage too!

If you’ve just moved into halls look out for it! If you’re new to Kingston Uni, whether that’s just moved into halls or you’ll be commuting from home, welcome and we look forward to meeting you at Fresher’s Fair!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Kingston University Rugby Football Club's First Fun Day

At the start of last year Emmanuel, the Kingston University Rugby Football Club’s Social Sec came to KUSU Volunteering to ask how the rugby club could get involved with some volunteering. We teamed them up with Kingston Young Carers, an organisation that provides fun activities and much needed support to young people with caring responsibilities for a parent or sibling. After a lot of planning from Emmanuel and those involved KURFC’s first fun day all came together on a very sunny day in June. Kingston Young Carers were thrilled with their efforts! Emmanuel reports on the day.

Dave Cougar makes an appearance!
On Wednesday 6th June 2011 myself, Xavi, Twinny, Tim and Adam from  Kingston University Rugby Club, along with 3 important members of Kingston University Students' Union, participated in KURFC’s first ever charity event with children from Kingston Young Carers. It was a hot day with the sun beaming down on Tolworth Sports Ground as the children ranging from the age of 7 to 13 were ready to learn about rugby. Even the carers and parents got involved in the activities. Shuttle sprints, agility hurdles, agility ladders and a passing game of ‘Rugby Duck, Duck, Goose’ were all part of the enjoyment of the day as warm ups to the main part of the day, tag rugby. Having grasped the basic concept of rugby the children enjoyed a couple of games of tag rugby and realised the key to it was quick short passes which was good to see. 

(L-R) Eman, Tim, Adam, Xavi and Twinny
Dave Cougar made a cameo appearance as well giving the children awards for their participation throughout the day. My thanks go out to the members of the KURFC, KUSU members and Kingston Young Carers that without their contributions and efforts, would not have made this day possible.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Pantomime Project

Another update on one of this years great projects from Alison a member of the project group. 

Following a second year drama module ‘Devising in the Community’ two fellow drama students and I decided to run our own project voluntarily in our final year at university. The knowledge gained through the module along with the support of KUSU Volunteering enabled us to run a very successful project, resulting in the performance of a pantomime at a drop-in centre for mental health service users.

As well as a wonderful end result, the process of weekly workshops in preparation for the pantomime was extremely rewarding and enjoyable. Due to the project being completely ours, we had control over what we did and how we did it which was a really fantastic experience and further enhanced our learning. We decided that no body should be excluded from the project and welcomed and encouraged people joining in on all levels, such as prop making, mask making and scenery making, we even roped in a few members of staff. The idea was to have a non hierarchal group, where we were all valid and as important as one another.

Tegan, Sophia and Alison at the KUSU Volunteering Awards back in May

Budgeting for costumes, props, set and programmes was quite testing but also great experience to have to keep within a tight budget…..which we did!! We were able to apply doing something that we loved and felt passionate about to a real life situation and as a result saw fantastic results with the enjoyment of the people who took part and also the audience. Mental Health is an area that has a lot of negative stigma and the drop- in centre where we ran our workshops and performed the panto is visited by members of our community who are vulnerable, isolated and neglected. For them it was especially meaningful that someone would come in on a regular basis voluntarily and help them to create and explore their artistic creativity. We saw huge improvements in confidence and trust towards us and each other and many positive comments regarding the final performance such us ‘we couldn’t believe that Carol could stand up there and play that character’, when Carol rarely speaks to anyone in everyday life.

The performance in progress!
Personally the project made me realize how important it is for different members of our community to mix and show that we do care about each other. We have seen first hand that this really does make a difference to peoples lives. Following on from the project (which lasted three months) I am currently continuing it independently. The help that we received from KUSU Volunteering and the experience of running the project ourselves gave me the confidence to continue on my own. Additionally I am now in paid employment for Mind and although the drama is still voluntary I am very happy to be working within my field of interest. I would encourage anyone thinking about setting up their own project to go ahead and go for it!!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Knit Hats For Babies Project

KUSU Volunteering offers Kingston student's the opportunity to run their own volunteering projects. Rachael our winner of the Project of the Year Award back in May gave us this update on the project that bagged her the award.   

Hi, I’m Rachael, a second year Biomedical Science student, and I run the volunteering opportunity ‘Knit Hats for Babies’!

Knitters met regularly at the Students' Union
The project was started way back in 2009, by an American student by the name of Lisa Ta. She ran the project to knit hats for babies that are currently in the Neonatal Unit at Kingston Hospital NHS Trust. It was an awe-inspiring project, and when she handed over the reins to me, it allowed me to make this project my own.

Since then we’ve had amazing turnouts, especially during Student Volunteering Week. My own personal goal for the project was to make 100 hats by the end of the summer term. We already have over 150 hats, with more than 50 volunteers showing interest in the project. We also make booties and blankets, and it’s not just knitting; I also teach volunteers how to crochet if they so wish!

Rachael and some of the group at our awards
Running your own project requires a serious amount of organisation and dedication, but it pays off when you see how successful it becomes. Budgeting is definitely not my strongest point (this includes inputting how much you’ve been spending into a spreadsheet), but I do have a very money-savvy head on my shoulders, so I can tell when I see a bargain on wool! I have also created a Facebook page, a mailing address, and a Junction49 page to help organise the project. It is difficult to fit the project in to my weekly routine, but it means I can use my free time doing something productive. Besides, once you see your first completed baby hat, I guarantee you’ll be hooked into making more!

I believe the project not only gives people the chance to volunteer for a good cause, but it also allows them to acquire a new skill and show off their creative sides, to socialise with people of similar interests, and gives them a safe haven once a week where they can take a break from the stress of everyday student life. 

Knitting during Student Volunteering Week
For more information about the charity itself visit their website here. For more information about the project or if you’re interested in joining, please contact me at knittingforbabies@hotmail.co.uk.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Orange Rockcorps

KUSU Volunteer Gemma sent us this update on volunteering that she has been getting up to recently... with star studded results!

"2011 was my third year doing Orange Rockcorps. (RockCorps for those not in the know runs yearly and offers those who volunteer on one of their projects a ticket to a gig they organise). This year I managed to persuade four friends who are avid KU volunteers to do the volunteering side - Rachael and Chandy who had never done Rockcorps before and Crystel and Gary who have done a project with me last year. The reasons why more of them didn’t join in was because they were busy either on the day we decided to do the project or the day of the gig, or because the line-up didn’t interest them for the gig. Last year I managed to persuade more of them to do it because the line-up hadn’t been announced yet for the London gig! 

This year they merged both the Manchester and London gigs, which are normally two months apart. They also moved the London venue from Earls Court to Wembley Arena as it holds a greater capacity, which was rather amusing as the tube from Wembley Park closes at 00:30 and the gig overran by an hour, so 11,000 people running to the station making sure they wouldn't get left behind is kind of hilarious - looking back on it of course, at the time it was sheer panic!

Modelling ponchos to keep the rain off at the project!

The project, which was in Finsbury park, was fun. Unfortunately it was raining on the day so we couldn’t do painting as planned but we managed to do lots of weeding instead. It was nice to see the before and after shots. They gave us lunch as well – the standard sandwich, crisps & drink - which is always nice after hard work! 

For the gig itself, Rachael and Gary couldn’t attend so two of my other friends, Hana and Husna, who also volunteer with KU, were able to go.  The line-up for the gig was originally Eliza Doolitttle, Jessie J and Primal Scream when we signed up. Unfortunately Jessie J was advised to pull out by her doctors due to her leg injury, much to my disappointment as I was really looking forward to seeing her but Kelis and Diddy Dirty Money were announced which softened the blow! A special surprise guest which Diddy brought on was Chipmunk which I thoroughly enjoyed. A “to be confirmed” guest was also on the bill which turned out to be Wretch 32 – which most of the crowd seemed to enjoy.

It was such an amazing gig! All the artists put on a great show. Alexa Chung and Nick Grimshaw did a great job of presenting. The DJ between sets knew exactly what songs to play to get the crowd hyped up! There’s something so empowering about knowing that everyone around you earned their ticket and didn’t buy it - such a great atmosphere! It’s been four days and my voice is still sore from all the screaming!

Wembley Arena
For those of you who have heard about Rockcorps and been tempted – once again I’d say go for it! If you’re not able to wait a year then look into the Collective – if you enjoy volunteering or volunteer regularly then seriously, it’s worth it!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Impact Conference 2011

Volunteering is a great way to give something back and gain skills whist doing so, and it can also lead to some unique opportunities. Back in March we offered KUSU Volunteers the opportunity to attend IMPACT 2011. This is a brand new national conference on student volunteering and social action organised by student volunteers for student volunteers which took place in Cambridge. KUSU Volunteer Noha agreed to attend and here’s how she got on.

Noha presents to her group
 Who I am -
I am Noha. I come from Egypt and I am a second year economics student at Kingston University. I volunteer part time mainly at weekends (doing One-Off Projects) and find it great to help others whatever the task is.

What I’ve been doing lately -
On 5th and 6th March I attended the IMPACT 2011 conference. It was a conference run by students who volunteer and graduates who made their way to work as volunteers, most of them work as Volunteer Coordinators.

What it involved -
There were seminars to promote different types of skills a volunteer needs to have, and on different types of topics for example ‘volunteering and development’. There were 3 choices for each session and each session had a different topic, led by a student or a graduate who dealt with that  field as a volunteer. They asked us questions on what we thought. We as students and graduate volunteers were split into groups. In each session we had to brain storm and find different solutions for different problems, which was very good. We had to identify solutions, and present the question and show how we dealt with it as a group. This really influenced me as a person. We brainstormed and found new solutions for every problem identified and proposed by different groups.

The best thing about it -
It really made a change for me. I got to know new people who were from different universities around the UK (including Nottingham University, Oxford University, Cambridge University). It really made me see the real world and how volunteering can influence every aspect of life, it also influenced my main skills needed for any aspect of life- for example it really got me to be more confident and it also influenced my team working skills and leadership skills and these as I said are skills needed in every aspect of life. 

How it’s influenced me -
Because I am from Egypt and because 11% of the GDP comes from tourism, I have found it a big issue that the number of tourists declined drastically after the current protests. It has encouraged me to make a campaign for tourism in Egypt  to raise awareness that Egypt is still secure, and show foreigners other places to go other than Cairo and Alexandria because Egypt has many places for tourism that a foreigner may not know about and these places are a 100% secure. I also found support when I discussed the issue with other students and graduates there, which encourages  me to try my best to implement the idea I have.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Selsey Beach Clean and BBQ!

“It’s going to rain!” We looked gloomily at the weather forecast- it certainly did look as if it was going to rain. This was bad news, because we had a coach booked to head for Selsey, West Sussex to clean a 3 mile stretch of West Beach. For days we worried over every little change in the weather forecast, and they all said different things. Should we cancel?

Our volunteers are briefed and collect thier epuipment
Gazebo 1 - Wind 0

Luckily we took the gamble. We didn’t cancel and were rewarded with amazing weather! Whilst it was raining in Kingston the sky In Selsey was blue and cloudless. Sun cream even had to be passed out; although it was so incredibly windy our gazebo nearly blew away!

Twenty-four volunteers collected an incredible 73.5kg (11.5 stones!) of rubbish from the beach, including rusty metal, cotton buds, crisp packets, clothing and lots of plastic. The Manhood WildlifeTrust, who conduct conservation projects in the area, were thrilled with our efforts.

Volunteers have fun at the beach

It wasn’t all hard work though, there was time for a barbeque (Rhiannon and Lynsey proved to be expert chefs), games and paddling, and two brave souls even went for a swim!

George who took part in the trip said “It was a fun and rewarding day where working in a team really paid off to help the environment. Everyone got stuck in to finding, collecting and recording the rubbish on the neglected beach. Once we had worked up an appetite the BBQ was really worthwhile. Overall it was a great day out at the beach in the sunshine and making it cleaner from a few hours work was very satisfying."

Weighing the rubbish that was collected

Kingston University’s Biodiversity Officer Lynsey Stafford was on hand to provide some environmental know how. Here she explains why the efforts of our volunteers are so important…

As well as making this popular beach safer for the young families which use it, the efforts of the volunteers will also have a positive impact on the marine environment.

The extent to which humans rely on plastic was made very clear to us as we trundled along the beach, picking items up that ranged from bottles to bags, fishing net to food wrappers and cotton buds to cigarette lighters. Most of the litter we collected was plastic, including small fragments that had become indistinguishable. 

The effect plastic has on sea creatures
And that is the big problem with plastic –plastics are non bio-degradable meaning that whilst they break down into smaller and smaller pieces, they will never disappear completely. The MCS (Marine ConservationSociety) say that in some parts of the world, there are more fragments of plastic in the sea than plankton. Plastics can entangle wild animals, or they can swallow it believing it to be food.

The MCS, for whom we recorded all of our litter pick data, have two main campaigns which aim to reduce the litter found on our beaches – read about them here so that you can do your bit for our marine environment!

Rhiannon and Lynsey cook up a feast

You can find all the photos's from the day on our Facebook page here

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

News from Hersham Hounds

Back in February as part of Student Volunteering Week our regular volunteer Marketa updated on the work she does at retired greyhound rescue centre Hersham Hounds. She has kindly provided us with another update on her work...

Hersham Hounds kennels care for over eighty dogs, with some leaving and new coming every week. It is difficult to have any favourites, because the majority of the dogs are friendly and thankful for your attention. However, my personal sweetheart is a dog lady called Princess, a twelve year old resident of the sanctuary.   

It was the first dog I have ever walked at Hersham Hounds; I remember she was shy, but affectionate and we had a great walk together. Princess was abused in the past and when she came to the kennels she was very aggressive, biting both the staff and other dogs. Thankfully, the staff recognized her angry behaviour is caused by fear. It took her a long time to rebuild trust in people and both staff and the volunteers had to show extreme patience and loving care. They were successful in the end – Princess now shares a kennel with another dog and is friendly towards people. I still enjoy walking her, because it makes me realize that volunteering is worthwhile and does make a difference to people, or animals, living around us. 

With so many animals living there the kennels need care and maintainence, so in February and March each year teams of volunteers go in to help paint the buildings. Alex took a group of KUSU Volunteers down in March. Here’s how they got on.

Rachael, Stephanie and Crystal
On 22nd March, a group of KUSU Volunteers and staff headed over to Hersham in their oldest clothes, armed with brushes and huge tubs of green and white paint.  Amazingly, we had incredibly warm weather, and got loads of painting done- Crystal, Stephanie, Rhiannon and I did the indoor exercise yard where the dogs can go during the day, whilst Rachael and Alex (one of the centre’s regular volunteers), sanded down the mural outside the centre’s entrance for another very artistic volunteer to repaint.

Rhiannon and Crystal walk the dogs
                                                                                                    A                                       After a break for lunch in Hersham village we returned to start on the kennels- loads of 
white emulsion paint everywhere: by the time we left everything was so gleaming white, the dogs probably needed sunglasses! 
There was also time for walking the dogs before we headed back to uni, which everyone enjoyed- the volunteers perhaps even more than the dogs!
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