Monday, 31 December 2012

The London 2012 Games.... Part 3

The London 2012 Games.... Part 3

The third and final installment of KUSU Volunteer Sara Ann Hope's Olympic diary.


Getting to meet a hero: Sara with comedian and 2012 Games champion Eddie Izzard
Sunday August 12th, Shift 11: 8am – 12.30pm
This has just become the best day of my entire life. I haven’t lived my whole life yet, but I doubt it will get better than this… I just met Eddie Izzard! Eddie Izzard, who I have idolised since the age of twelve, just came into my office and thanked us all for what we’ve done. He is the very reason I volunteered in the first place and there he was, shaking my hand.

I still can’t believe this has been real. It doesn’t get much better than this.

So, there you have it. London 2012 from the perspective of someone who lived it.

Yes, we had reservations – people weren’t sure it would work, or it would cost too much, or we wouldn’t win anything. But when it came down to it, we delivered!

I saw so much enthusiasm and happiness in those two weeks, and all in a city that is famed for its rejection of social interaction unless absolutely necessary.

The world came to tea this summer, and boy were we ready for it! I can honestly say this is the best thing I have ever done… amazing to think when I only applied because my mother told me to.

So London 2012 was such a success I’m planning to volunteer at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014. And all this from someone who is scared of sport like most people are scared of spiders.

Who’d have thought it?


Monday, 24 December 2012

The London 2012 Games... Part 2

The London 2012 Games... Part 2

It's time for the second installment of Sara Ann Hope's 2012 Games diary (missed the first part? Scroll down to read it!)

Friday August 3rd, Shift 5: 6am – 2.30pm
Amy lost the key to the cupboard full of keys this morning. It was like searching for a needle in a stack of needles, only less… pointy.
Got sent home sick from shift today which wasn’t very fun but on the plus side did get to watch a commentator try to talk about a volleyball game between Germany and Germany. He resorted to saying ‘brown-haired Germans’ and ‘blonde Germans’ just to differentiate.
This is seriously one of the weirdest jobs I’ve ever had- and I’ve worked with small children.

Saturday August 4th, Shift 6: 2pm – 11pm
Checking the Volley Ball Stadium doesn't blow away!
 Left monitoring two venues again today as we have the Men’s Race Walk on The Mall. Race Walk – the only race you can win by acting like a duck. It was extremely distracting trying not to laugh.

Today I learnt how to calculate wind speeds so that the volleyball court doesn’t blow away. It may seem silly but as it’s only a temporary venue we have to be careful it doesn’t get too bad and do a ‘Wizard of Oz’. Shame about it being temporary but I kind of see the point – the Prime Minister probably wants his garden back.

Amy found an incident in today’s log noting injured wildlife found at another venue - A pigeon named Harold sadly passed away at 11.45am. He clearly lived long enough to be named though so it’s not totally depressing news. Like I said, weirdest job ever.

I wish you could have seen the VCC’s (venue Control Centre's) reaction to Ennis and Farrah winning their races. The place went mental!! Naturally we had cake and chocolate to celebrate. Very pleased I got to share the moment with other people and not just alone in my flat.

Sunday August 5th, Shift 7: 5pm – 1am
Shift off to a great start as I set off all the metal detectors and have to be frisked by one of the soldiers. Forgot to remove my belt buckle like a complete fool – still at least it shows our security teams are on the ball.

Only four shifts left now! Can’t believe it’s all going so quickly.

Bit of excitement in the VCC tonight as we are all put on blue alert after a bomb scare. Some idiot from the newspaper grabbed his bag as it was going through the X-ray machine and ran off into the night pursued by several burly policemen. He didn’t get away with it for long and we all cheered as we saw him get frogmarched back to the checkpoint on the CCTV.
Nothing malicious to report, but still quite exciting behind the scenes here. Made even better by the fact that no one except us knew what happened – We are just THAT good at our jobs, haha.

Modelling the Games Maker uniform waterproof!
Tuesday August 7th, Shift 8: 1pm – 9pm
Prince Harry was in the house tonight – though I suppose it was to be expected as we are kind of working in his granny’s back garden.
Also had David Beckham, with three cute little boys in tow- as opposed to Harry’s decidedly un-cute and frankly rather terrifying army of body guards.

Wednesday August 8th, Shift 9: 4.30pm – 11.30pm
MIKA performed today and as the only one in the VCC who knew who he was I was the only one singing along. Not even going to pretend to be embarrassed because I GOT TO WATCH MIKA!!

Tea was a cheese and appleslaw sandwich. Who is doing our catering, Heston Blumenthal?

Saturday August 11th, Shift 10: 1.30pm – 8.30pm
Clare Balding replied to my tweet today inviting me along to Greenwich Park to say thank you for my work. She’s invited loads of the GMs to say thanks live on air which would be totally amazing. That and of course I’d get to meet Clare Balding who is fantastic, win/win.
Yet more sweets and ice cream today – think once I’ve finished I’ll go into immediate sugar withdrawal.

Just the Women’s Race Walk and Men’s Marathon to go… I don’t want to go back to reality!

Come back for the thirds and final installment of Sara's Olympics Adventures next week- same time, same place!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Blast from the Past: The London 2012 Games.... part 1.

The London 2012 Games.... part 1.

December: it’s cold and gloomy outside. It seems a long time since the sunshine and excitement of the London 2012 Games, doesn't it? Well, the legacy’s certainly not over- lots of people who enjoyed volunteering then have kept it up.

Regular blog readers might already know Sara, who’s an enthusiastic volunteer and received the KUSU Volunteering's ‘Best Newcomer’award last year. Well, over the summer she volunteered as a Games Maker with the 2012 Games. Her report’s so exciting we couldn’t ask her to cut it down to just one blog post, so it will appear in three parts over the coming weeks...

Sara with the Olympic Torch
London 2012 – My Olympic Games- Sara Ann Hope Part 1

I don’t know whether any of you noticed some stuff that went down in London over the summer, you know, a little something called THE OLYMPICS!
I jest of course. You can’t have been in the country over those months without being bombarded with Olympic fever. For most people, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity that they’ll tell their kids about for years to come.
And where was I you ask? Well… I was there!
I was chosen along with seventy thousand other volunteers to be part of the Games Maker team, helping to make London 2012 happen. You may have seen us running around in our very stylish purple shirts, (made from recycled plastic bottles in case you didn’t know.)
I was a Data Loggist based at Horse Guard’s Parade and The Mall (right in the centre of things, near Buckingham Palace) for the full two weeks of the games, and here’s a bit of what I got up to…

Saturday July 28th, Shift 1: 3pm – 1am
17.45pm – First shift going well. I have “wisely” been left in charge of both venue logs, since the previous Loggist went off shift just after five.
Cavendish abysmal in the road cycling and the female fencers didn’t even make the semi’s! On the upside the rowers were both quite successful... and attractive.
Not quite sure what my job here actually is… is this bad?

01.00am – First shift over. Tired but happy, going home on the tube. Still not sure what my job is but I seemed to do it quite well so I’m counting that as a win. Spent a lot of time staring blankly at the monitors as people refused to do anything unsafe for me to write down… so selfish!

Sunday July 29th, Shift 2: 3pm – 1am
16.00 pm – Marginally more successful start to today, as I now know what my job actually is… I think. Also, I brought both a book and a phone today so I plan to spend the frequent hours when everything is running smoothly reading about feminism and playing angry birds.

20.00pm – It’s apparently a good thing that I have nothing to write down – means the venue is operating at peak performance. So much so in fact, I just got to go into the stadium and watch some Beach Volleyball! It was possibly the weirdest sporting event I’ve ever seen. The crowd did a giant Mexican wave and formed a conga. Every so often people jumped onto the sand and we all had to dance the Macarena. MAD! I loved it though, made me feel very patriotic… despite the fact that I’m British and the match I was watching was Netherlands vs Spain.
Beach Volleyball in action

Went back to the venue control centre to find a lot of cake lying around for us to eat. I do enjoy the night shift.

02.00am – So tired! Walked home past the Ritz hotel today and the doorman waved at me. It’s amazing how friendly everyone is when they see you in uniform – a man yesterday with a brilliant moustache stopped me in TESCO and commended me on doing a fantastic job. It’s made London a much happier place to live!

Also, TEAM GB’s FIRST MEDAL WAS WON AT MY VENUE!!! Alright, so it wasn’t me who won it but I’m smiling like it was…  the atmosphere’s pretty electric here at Venue Control.

Tuesday July 31st, Shift 3 – 5.30am – 3.30pm
10.00am – Not off to best start as I missed the last night bus and didn’t make it in until 6am. Didn’t actually matter in the end as the office I work in doesn’t open until half past and they only wanted me in this early to give me breakfast… No, I’m not quite sure why that’s necessary either, but it was lush so I don’t think I have a right to complain.

Talked to two people today – very enthusiastic lady at the bus stop, and a nice old chap on the tube (also a GM.) If we succeed at nothing else with these games they’ve certainly got London talking!

Wednesday August 1st, Shift 4 – 3pm – 1am
 GB medals still pouring in, brilliant! Also met the third Loggist, called Dick, today. Lovely man – very organised.

Venue control filled with sweets again. Is it obvious the games are sponsored by Cadbury’s? Though to be fair if I get fed another Nature Valley bar by catering I may scream.
We’re out of the volleyball by now and it’s a little disheartening being surrounded by about fifteen screens all showing your team losing. The CCTV does sometimes come in handy though – last night I saw three men dressed as dinosaurs coming out of the venue. And tonight one drunk guy tried to put his coat on and accidentally punched his mate in the face. It’s the little things that make the job worthwhile!


The next installment of Sara's Olympic Diary will be out at the same time next week!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Switching on the Kingston Xmas Lights!

Natalie and Helena - 2 KUSU Volunteers!
Hello my fellow Kingstonians!! I’m Helena, a 2nd year Law (LLB) student currently studying at Kingston University. I recently volunteered at the 'Kingston Christmas Lights Switch-On' which took place on 15th November 2012. It was promoted by KUSU Volunteering and organised by Kingston First. Approximately 50,000 people gathered in Kingston town centre to experience the beginning of the festive season. I decided to volunteer for this event since I am a part of Kingston, and wanted to be more involved with the community and also obviously represent Kingston University too!

Stilt ladies!
There were many activities and responsibilities that I was assigned to do, for example set up signs around Kingston for the event, give out leaflets to everyone in the town centre, set up the radio headsets for everyone and assist the general public if they had any issues or needed help with directions. I also got to escort the skating Christmas pudding, roving stars, and skating angels around town which was really exciting! The children loved these attractions and took lots of pictures all evening. The buzz started when Radio Jackie started blasting music in Kingston town centre and the crowd cheered for almost four hours non-stop! 

My favourite moment of the day was obviously the 'switching on of the lights' at 6pm. The lights were turned on by various people, including actors from the Rose Theatre dressed up as Prince Charming, Cinderella and Santa Claus, and also by several volunteers, including myself!

The Christmas market was also open with food and hot drinks for everyone; it was lovely to see families having a really good time. I also really enjoyed helping out with the children activities as the response they all gave was amazing and made my day :)

The event was fantastic; there was always something to take part in or get involved with and it was definitely seven hours productively spent! I also had the chance to meet other volunteers from Kingston University which was great.

I believe that volunteering is rewarding and if you love to help out - then go for it! Every volunteering experience is different and can leave you with various skills and experiences that will stay with you for life. 

In the future I will definitely take part in more One-Off Volunteering opportunities, and now that I love volunteering I might get started on a Student-Led Volunteering project too!

So get volunteering!! Good Luck!

Monday, 26 November 2012

KUSU Volunteer blogs about London Student Volunteering Fortnight 2012!

KUSU Volunteer Amanda
“Hi my name is Amanda and I’m a 3rd year Biomedical Science student at Kingston University. I recently took part in a One-Off Volunteering opportunity - a Rhododendron Clearance at Kingston Hill campus during ‘London Student Volunteering Fortnight’. One-Off Volunteering is great because even if you have a really busy schedule you can still find the odd opportunity to volunteer.
Rhododendron bushes are an invasive species which outcompete native plants, reducing the biodiversity of the area. The aim of the event was to clear them away and improve the campus woodland environment. I absolutely loved the prospect of getting my hands a little dirty and it was enormously amusing to hear everyone shout “timber” every time a rhododendron bush was chopped down. I must say I was fully pumped for a good day of tree pruning but guess my surprise when a few worms popped up where we were working for a visit - I’m not very fond of worms!
Volunteering is great fun. It’s a wonderful chance to meet new people, use your free time to get involved, gain new experiences and make a contribution to your community. KUSU Volunteering reimburse your volunteer travel and lunch expenses, plus volunteering always looks good on your CV. It doesn’t get any better!”
Blog by Amanda Dandagama Mudiyanselage

As well as the Rhododendron Clearance, students took part in several other volunteer taster events as part of London Student Volunteering Fortnight (LSVF). Students learnt how to knit hats for babies in neonatal units in hospital, as well as helping build and paint a labyrinth for the community to use! Check out the pictures on the KUSU Volunteering Facebook page.
Kingston students and London students also took part in six other volunteering projects across the capital, making friends, helping others and boosting their CVs. More details on these projects can be found on the LSVF website.

Missed out on LSVF? Don’t worry, KUSU Volunteering can help your enjoy volunteering opportunities all year round - have a look at the KUSU Volunteering website. We’ve also got National Student Volunteering Week coming up at the beginning of February, so keep your eyes open for that too!

Best wishes,
Jemma Houghton and Alex Britton
KUSU Volunteer Coordinators

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Music raises Money for Momentum!

KUSU Volunteer Erika
Hi my name is Erika and I am a first year Radiography student at Kingston University. Two weeks ago (29th of October 2012 to be exact!) I helped out at the Momentum Opera Evening, (Momentum is a charity supporting children with cancer and life-limiting conditions) which took place in Teddington. It was a One-Off Volunteering opportunity, with a wide range of volunteering roles available, such as helping on the bar, allocating seats etc. I helped out by selling raffle tickets and programmes for the opera evening and I absolutely loved it! Whilst I was there I got to see amazing performances (by opera singers and a boy choir that sang in a Glee style!) and alongside the other volunteers, I helped to make the evening a success! I signed up to volunteer because I had some free time available. If you have any free time then give volunteering a go! You meet new people and you’ll always have something in common with the other volunteers – the thing which made you want to volunteer in the first place!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Volunteer Event Supporter - Prostate Cancer UK

Hi my name is Natalie Flower and I’m a third year Child Nursing student from Kingston University. On Sunday 7th October 2012 I volunteered at the Royal Parks Half Marathon for Prostate Cancer UK in central London. It was a One-Off Volunteering opportunity and my role was to cheer on the runners as they ran past and to give out jelly babies to give the runners more energy! One of my friends volunteered at the event last year and when she told me about the experience and how much fun it was, I thought it was something I would like doing too. 
Cheering the runners on 
What I enjoyed most was the look on the runners’ faces when they reached the cheering team as they seemed really grateful of our support. We gave them the boost to keep on running. What’s also great was that the charity reimbursed me for my travelcard, so the day didn’t cost me a penny.

Volunteering makes you feel good about yourself, whilst helping others; it gives you the chance to meet new people and do things you wouldn't normally do. I have already signed up for my next One-Off Volunteering activity through KUSU Volunteering and look forward to many more! I’m also going to put all of my volunteering experiences on my CV as next year I will be looking for a graduate job and my volunteering will increase my employability. 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

LSVF2012 is coming....

“So, what’s a Labyrinth?”

“Isn’t that a book by Kate Mosse?”

“I thought Kate Mosse was a supermodel...?”

The rest of the KUSU staff look confused, as well they might. We’ve just been explaining what our plans are for LSVF 2012, and this year they include something quite unusual.

LSVF stands for London Student Volunteering Fortnight. It’s a special event just for students in London, and the idea is that lots of different universities put on “taster sessions” of volunteering, and anyone from any of those universities can go to any of the sessions- so a student from Kingston can go to a session put on by UCL, and one from City University can come to Kingston.... it’s a great way to try volunteering and meet students from other universities, get to see different parts of London and try something new. It’s been running for a couple of year now, and has been a great success (check out the photos of what happened last year).

The famous Labyrinth of Chatres... come and make ours look as beautiful!

So where does the Labyrinth fit in? Well, we know you guys are busy people, so we’re also planning sessions on Campus. One of these is going to be a Labyrinth-building session. Labyrinths have been used for thousands of years by people from all over the world from Ireland to China, Scandinavia to India, crossing cultural and religious boundaries. The idea that walking a path round it gives you time to think and reflect, make decisions, and exercise the puzzle-solving parts of our brain. Because it’s circular and unending, and it’s something everyone can do, it’s also come to represent inclusivity and community- which is why it’s perfect for volunteering. As part of London Student Volunteering Fortnight, we’re going to be holding a Labyrinth building workshop- everyone can volunteer to paint a stone to help build a beautiful thing for the community to use, and we’ll be inviting local residents and youth groups to come and try it out too.

If you’d like to get involved, you can just show up- it’ll be taking place in the Quiet Room (next to the Prayer Room on Penrhyn Road campus) from 6th -8th November.  Bring your friends, classmates, lecturers, housemates.... if you live locally you can bring your neighbours and family!

If you want to exercise your creativity, we’ll also be knitting hats for babies in neonatal intensive care units in hospitals the day before the Labyrinth building (5th November 12 noon-2pm in the KUSU Offices), or if you prefer outdoors work, we’ve also got a day of conservation work clearing invasive Rhododendrons at Kingston Hill campus on Saturday 10th November.

 If you fancy something off-campus then there are lots of other events happening across London- painting schools, gardening for older people, marshalling a half-marathon: check out the events listing on the  LSVF blog for more details and to book.

Right, time to go and order a very large dust sheet and an awful lot of knitting wool.... 
Alex Britton and Jemma Houghton
KUSU Volunteer Coordinators 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Caribbean Culture Day - Student-Led Volunteering Project

Hi my name is Latisha and I am in my third and final year studying Business Management at Kingston University. On 14th August 2012 I volunteered to help out on a Student-Led Volunteering project - the concept of which was a Caribbean Culture Day for young teenagers with Afro-Caribbean heritage.

The day started at 9am in Hackney, where I met up with Nadine (the project leader and fellow Kingston University student), the other volunteers and the young teenagers taking part in the project. When everyone arrived, I helped to escort the teenagers to the Tabernacle (an iconic music and arts venue), situated in West London. Thankfully, my travel expenses were covered by KUSU Volunteering!

Soca Dancing warm-up
The Caribbean Culture Day was split into three activities. The first activity consisted of Soca dancing, whereby the teenagers took part in a dance workshop taught by MLM (Muzik Lil Muzik). They first learnt a bit about Soca music and the annual Notting Hill Carnival, before taking part in a warm up session to get them ready for the dance choreography which followed after. I made sure everyone kept hydrated by giving out cups of water. I also got to take part in the dance workshop! The choreography was amazing and once mastered everyone did a cooling down session.

In order to adhere to the Caribbean concept, Caribbean cuisine was also provided; my lunch was again paid for by KUSU Volunteering! Providing a Caribbean lunch was a great idea - not only were the children learning about Caribbean culture throughout the day, but they also got a taste of it! There was rice and peas, salad, chicken, and a tasty fruit punch to wash it all down. Thankfully the weather was lovely so we were able to sit outside the venue and eat.

The second activity was Mas making: Carnival costume making and the chance to learn more about the art form at London’s very own carnival village. Before starting the young teenagers were introduced to ‘Broken Feathers’ who were the main leaders of the activity. ‘Broken Feathers’ design and create costumes for the performers at Notting Hill Carnival. ‘Broken Feathers’ taught the class about the art of mas making, before letting the young teenagers try it out for themselves! Everyone was split into four groups. Each group had a different concept; agility, power, speed or balance; they also had a letter, V, O, F or A which represented the overall theme of ‘Virtues of Athleticism’.

Each volunteer choose a group to help. I helped the group that had the letter A and concept Agility. My group had to design the letter A on a big piece of paper ensuring that it also showed the concept of agility. This was my favourite part of the day as it brought out the creativity in me! You could see everyone was thoroughly enjoying the day. Each group had a chance to show each other their work which involved a lot of cheering and clapping followed by a little break for everyone to rest.

The last event was Steelpan playing. The children first listened to the history of the steelpan and Soca musica, before watching the professional Mangrove Mas Band play. The kids then got the chance to play and record themselves playing the steel pans. Considering the fact that none of them had played steelpans before, they were all quite good for first-timers! The day ended a little after 6pm - we all took pictures outside the venue and then escorted the children back to Hackney. Check out the photos from the day on the KUSU Volunteering Facebook Page

I enjoyed taking part in the Caribbean Culture Day, as it taught me more about my culture and was great to see the young teenagers so interested in their heritage. From previously volunteering in a school, I love helping and working with children and from the sound of it I knew this event would be interesting and enjoyable. Volunteering is a way of giving back and helping others. You get to experience a different environment and meet new people who can be inspiring and motivational! I would definitely recommend volunteering to anybody. This experience has made me want to continue volunteering in schools and helping people with disabilities. The whole project as a whole has also inspired me to do my own Student-Led Volunteering project. In what, I am unsure, but I’m meeting Jemma Houghton one of the Volunteering Coordinators from KUSU Volunteering soon to talk about it further, so I will keep you posted!

Monday, 8 October 2012

My Buddy and Me

My name is Bisi Olukanni and I'm in my third year of my Psychology degree at Kingston. I volunteer for Kingston's Buddy Scheme
The main idea behind the buddy scheme is that you meet with someone who has some form of learning disability and as their buddy your role is to help them enjoy life. On average I would say I meet with my buddy Millie twice a month. Millie has Aspergers Syndrome. At first glance she doesn't appear to have any disability. However, individuals with this type of disability tend to be very socially withdrawn and as a result become isolated. As her buddy I meet with her and take part in a variety of activities so that she feels happy and comfortable to go and have fun with a friend. 

The type of things we have done so far are ice skating, swimming, going to the cinema and Chessington World of Adventures. Our next meeting we have planned  to meet up just for a gossip and a little retail therapy!
Millie and I at Chessington about to go on a ride

What got me so interested in volunteering as a buddy was the thought that many young people with learning disabilities don't get opportunities to socialise and make friends. I wanted to do what I could to help others to build social skills. It's very rewarding knowing that you do make some one's week by planning a day out, and your friendship could provide them with the confidence to go out and make their own friends and prevent them being taken advantage of! Additionally, I study Psychology and  this role seemed like a fantastic way to get experience working with people who I am likely to work with in the future and have fun at the same time!

Since I started volunteering as a buddy I've learned a great deal about the types of issues that can arise when working with someone who has a learning disability for example, mood changes. Before being assigned a buddy you undergo training which helps you combat any problems and explains who to contact if you need further assistance. After completing my training I felt very confident and I have yet to experience an issue I couldn't resolve. After making friends with Millie I feel much more open about who I talk to and who I befriend and it has really widened the type of people I have around me and improved my own social skills.

What I enjoy most about volunteering with the Buddy Scheme is that it allows me to take a break from the stresses of uni work and have fun with a great friend. The activities you do are a joint decision so you can have input on what activity you want to do. It's a mutual relationship, you are NOT their carer but an honest friend that will help them understand how typical friendships develop i.e. sometimes you have to compromise! Also, the Buddy Scheme cover your expenses, so excuses- it's a chance to make a friend, learn about them and their disability and have fun for free!

Millie feeling anxious about getting on the ice!
Over the past few months that I have been meeting with Millie we have had some great moments - the funniest moment was when we went ice skating at Guildford Spectrum and neither if us mentioned that we hadn't done it in a long time - that was our first mistake! We were a little apprehensive about stepping on to the ice so managed to persuade the staff to let us use a 'Penguin Guide' - this is usually what really small children use. For the whole two hours Millie and I spent the whole time 'skating' with a tiny penguin in front of was rather embarrassing especially as I still managed to fall over...but was such great fun and we made the most of it. We won't be going ice skating again in a hurry!!   

Me putting on my skates
Upon completion of my degree I am hoping to go on to do clinical training, which would mean after another 3yrs I will be a Clinical psychologist! I can't wait to start on my career path. Volunteering has helped confirm that this is a job I want to do and has made me more employable through this experience. 
Most importantly it has helped me see the benefit of volunteering and why it is so important for communities that we have volunteers to help others lead a fulfilling and happy life. For a few hours a month you get fantastic returns and I will continue to volunteer as long as possible.

I hope to see more Kingston Students volunteer in the future, it's worth it! 

Monday, 1 October 2012

Green Impact Auditing

Third Year Kingston University student Aija
Hello everyone my name is Aija! I’m originally from Latvia and this semester I will be a 3rd year student at Kingston University studying International Business on placement.

I really like how Kingston University operates in a socially and economically beneficial manner in terms of their immediate local setting and in wider regional and global contexts, as well as acting as a lead in the local community in terms of best environmental and sustainability practice. I too am passionate about the local environment and recently took part in a really interesting environmental volunteering opportunity.
On 16th July 2012 I volunteered on the ‘Green Impact Auditing’ opportunity which was advertised by KUSU Volunteering and facilitated by the Sustainability Hub at Kingston University. Kingston University run ‘Green Impact’, an environmental accreditation scheme, which allows departments to make their workplaces greener. The aim of the ‘Green Impact Auditing’ event was to showcase how much Kingston University does in terms of recycling, investing in more efficient equipment, encouraging biodiversity and Fairtrade etc. The ‘Green Impact Auditing’ volunteering opportunity took place over one day and consisted of two parts. In the morning KUSU student volunteers received free training on how to audit ‘Green Impact’ activities, before receiving a free and delicious lunch, which we all enjoyed, before getting to actually conduct audits of the departments in Kingston University in the afternoon!

Even though it sounds scary and serious, the training was brilliant and we conducted the audits in pairs so that we could support each other. I’d already noticed how eco-friendly Kingston University was when I first arrived here, and it was an honour to get the chance to help Kingston University receive recognition from Green Impact for its energy-saving and recycling policies and efforts.

I’m really glad I volunteered on this. It added another dimension to my knowledge of sustainability for which I am thankful. I recommend you try volunteering at least once. It’s fun, you learn new things, develop your skill-set and it may even prove useful in helping you score additional points when you go for interviews.

In the future I intend to continue with One-Off Volunteering opportunities as they are never the same and bring joy to participants for the volunteering they have done and the help they have given to the community.

I’m looking forward to receiving a certificate at the Green Impact Award ceremony in October 2012 for my volunteer contribution - It’s something that I can put on my CV!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Thames River Clean – A Guide to Student-Led Volunteering

KUSU Sub-Aqua and Kayaking Club Volunteers
I am well known for my ideas of sheer inspirational genius. They are ideas of such intellectual brilliance that tiny mortals cower in terror at their mere suggestion. As a result, conversations in my club (Sub Aqua) often go a little like this;

Myself: “Soooo, Tom”
Tom (our beloved Diving Officer): “No.”
Myself: “Hey, I haven’t even said anything yet!”
Tom: “You’re right, my bad, go on.”
Myself: “I was thinking…”
Tom: “No.”
….and so forth.
In all seriousness, I had a good idea, possibly a great idea……but it was a tiny bit ambitious.

I have volunteered through KUSU Volunteering before and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I’ve helped paint a school gym and cut down Christmas trees etc and it’s been great….but. That’s been my problem. But….

You see I’m a SCUBA diver. I love diving. I love teaching it and I love the fact that from time to time, people even pay me to do it and what I really, really wanted, was a way to use my sport to do something... to make a difference, as well as shine some positive light onto KUSU.

So I had this idea. I’ve been underwater in parts of the Thames before – acting as a Rescue Diver for charity swim races, including Human Race swims and The Big Swim – and while I’d been under I’d often seen bits of litter and debris down there. So I figured that my club could put some divers into the water, pull some junk out and then bask in the praise that would be due us. After all, how hard could it be?

Quite hard as it turns out. Why I ask questions like that, I have no idea.

What I’m hoping, right now, as you read this, is that you’ve got an idea. An idea that you can’t quite bring yourself to suggest to people because obviously it’s crazy. Or an organisational nightmare. Or (shudder) might involve that most terrifying of beasts – whisper it, health and safety. So here is my advice to you;

Do it.

Volunteers from KUSU Netball, Ladies Football, American Football, KUSCO, KUBAG, Veolia and Thames 21.
Chris Elliott the student who created this project can be seen top row on the right hand side.
If I took nothing else away from The Great River Clean of 2012, it was this; that every time I found an obstacle that prevented me from going ahead, there was someone to help me past it. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of work involved. It was an ambitious idea after all. But the simple truth is that if you have the enthusiasm and the patience to make your idea happen, then it can.

When I needed help slaying the health and safety Daemons, I was able to get advice from the British Sub-Aqua Club and from KUSU Volunteering Co-ordinator Jemma Houghton. When it turned out that I needed to write a Method Statement to get permission, Lynsey Stafford from Kingston University Biodiversity Action Group (KUBAG) showed me how (if you’re thinking “what on earth is a method statement”  then believe me, I sympathise). Surface cover on the river – the Kayaking club offered their support. Shore support? Thames 21, a local river cleaning charity offered us training, equipment and advice. When I needed help working with the council, Jana Bentley at KUSCO opened doors, as well as invited Veolia Environnement to provide both skips and manpower for the day. More manpower needed onshore – Susie KUSU Sports Co-ordinator mobilised assistance from the Netball, Ladies Football and American Football clubs. Diving equipment and transport needed; local Dive shop Aquanauts SCUBA and Snorkelling Centre provided. No parking available; the Royal Bank of Scotland the Co-Operative Bank and Hart’s Boatyard supplied. Private space to raise money for RNLI; the Ram in Kingston let us use their back garden. Problems, problems, problems. Solutions, support, assistance.
Bucket collection for RNLI. 
I’m not going to tell you that getting your idea off the ground will be easy. Maybe it will be, maybe it won’t, but it can be done. So take that first step. Head into the KUSU Volunteering office and say hello. We took an ambitious idea and with a level of assistance that frankly surprised a cynical Cornishman like me, made it happen. And if the two skips overflowing with junk don’t convince you, the photographs will.
Two skips full of rubbish pulled out of the Thames in Kingston
So many, many thanks to all those who helped in both the planning and the damned hard work on the day. To quote Joss Whedon “We have done the impossible, and that makes us mighty”.

Blog by second year Kingston University student Chris Elliott.
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