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!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

KUSU Volunteers making the news!

After our recent award ceremony on May 11th KUSU Volunteers got a write up in the local press. Here is the clipping from the Surrey Comet. You can read it online here. The online version is accompanied by a picture of volunteers who contributed time to the Knit for Babies project. 

As well as local media coverage for our awards KUSU volunteers also featured in Saints Alive which is the local news letter for All Saints Church. The article resulted from our Student Volunteering Week link up with Cathedral Camps. 

Finally you can check out the hard work of three KUSU Volunteers Leo, Maheen and Paula who all took part in local museum Dorich House’s Cultural Olympiad (that’s the arty bit of London 2012 in-case you didn’t know) project. The project documented how our homes reflect our personalities and our interests, and Dorich House is the perfect museum for this because it’s a home turned into a museum- the house used to belong to sculptor Dora Gordine and her husband Richard Hare, also an art collector. Each volunteer involved chose an object from the museum to investigate. The chosen objects are now on display at the Geffreye Eye Museum in London. You can read all about it here.
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