Friday, 27 January 2012

KUSU's annual present collection!

A Christmas-themed blogpost today! Although Christmas is over we couldn’t let it totally disappear without a report on our annual present collection.

This is held each year, students and staff are invited to donate toys and gifts to local charities who need them. This year they went to two charities: Shooting Star CHASE and Refugee Action Kingston (RAK).

Lovely donations round the KUSU tree!
Shooting Star CHASE supports children with life-limiting medical conditions who aren’t expected to reach their nineteenth birthday, providing nursing, advice, practical help and –perhaps most importantly of all- emotional support. The presents donated by Kingston uni were dropped off on Christmas eve, and used at their two hospices, particularly for kids staying over the Christmas period, and by their staff when they visit families at home.

The second charity these lovely toys went to was Refugee Action Kingston. RAK provides advice and support for refugees and asylum seekers. They run lots of services, including helping with legal queries and English and IT teaching. Since many refugees and asylum seekers arrive in the UK with very little, an important part of the practical help RAK provides are their Clothing Collection Days. These are a bit like a giant jumble sale, offering donated clothes, homeware and baby equipment. Toys and toiletries from Kingston staff and students make a special addition to these- particularly in families where money’s tight and new toys just aren’t usually an option.

A massive thank you goes to everyone who donated something, the quality of the gifts was particularly high this year, and we’re looking forward to making just as great a difference to local families next year.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Volunteering as a Trustee

Kingston University Students' Union like any other charity has a board of voluntary trustees. Trustees are the people in charge who make the big decisions about a charities finances and what work they should be doing. Becoming a trustee is a great way to get valuable experience of how a board works, make a real difference to other students' university experience and go some way to re-dressing the general lack of representation of young people on trustee boards. 

Back in November during Trustees' Week and London Student Volunteering Fortnight we asked KUSU trustee Myriam to give us the low down on what her role involves. If your a Kingston Student and interested in becoming a KUSU trustee next year find out more on how to get elected here.  

I became a trustee because I am thinking of running for an executive position at KUSU next year and this was good preparation. By sitting on the trustee board I can influence and improve KUSU, which is great and gives you a sense of making a real difference for people. 

One of my main duties is making sure that the charity spends it funds in the right way, and during meetings approving new documents. The best part of being a KUSU trustee is being part of a board which has the power to influence and change things for the better. 

I think it’s great that there is some extra attention for trustee’s this week. A lot of people don’t understand what it is we do, and don’t understand how important it is. I think this could really raise awareness and hopefully, when the ballots open again next year for KUSU, a lot of students will put themselves forwards. 

Friday, 13 January 2012

Do Some Good

A few of the
charities with
actions on
'Do Some Good'

We first explored the growing craze of quick online volunteering actions or “micro-volunteering” back in March when we spent some time researching (and getting distracted by!) our picks of the online volunteering options offered by Help from Home. 

Microvolunteering is a type of volunteering which continues to grow and the next logical step was always going to be the smart phone. Do Some Good is an app created by mobile phone company Orange that’s free to download on any network. On its launch the range of actions was rather limited and it was only available on the iphone. The launch was clearly deemed a success though, as there are now over 25 actions and users of Android, Blackberry and Nokia phones can also jump on the bandwagon. 

The question is are the actions worth doing and will they actually do some good?  I’d say, so far, ‘yes’. Whilst you probably won’t be able to do all 28 actions (I’ve managed 9 so far) there are a good mix of activities ranging from surveys that are super-quick to fill out, plenty of opportunities to use your observation skills and camera to feed information back to charities, and opportunities to share your knowledge on different issues. 

It’s certainly a great platform for charities to reach new audiences and collect data from a wide range of people. So far 7628 photos have been donated to photofoundation for charities to use in their publicity, and 1755 people have used their language skills to translate bite-size pieces of “how to guides”. It’s helped the NSPCC understand how to target their advice, the Antony Nolan trust find out how we feel about blood stem cell donation and Marie Curie understand how people would want to volunteer for them in person.

Whilst this hasn’t changed my mind that micro-volunteering won’t ever come close to how much fun getting out there and volunteering in person can be, this is a great way to distract yourself on the train and far more productive than Angry Birds!

Friday, 6 January 2012

Kingston Hill Pond Conservation Project

We've got a guest post today from the Kingston University Biodiversity Action Group's Blog giving you an update on the Kingston Hill Pond Conservation Project. Lot's of brave KUSU Volunteers have donned their waders and got involved with this during London Student Volunteering Fortnight and as regular members of KUBAG!

We are lucky to have a great range of habitats at our Kingston Hill campus, and the one that most of the KU regular conservation volunteers will be familiar with is the pond.

Unbelievably, the pond has never had a blog post dedicated to it, and so here is a little history of our pond conservation project...

Back in 2008, the pond was surrounded on most sides by 10ft tall, dense Rhododendron ponticum, a harmful non-native invasive species. It was also completely choked with sedge, which left the pond with no open water, and little diversity of emergent vegetation.

Can you spot the pond? In this photo from 2008 you can see that it has almost disappeared! 

Three years and five pond conservation volunteer events later, the pond has improved dramatically. A good sized area of the pond is now permanent open water, which will benefit the breeding newts and dragonfly which inhabit it. The margins of the pond remain vegetated with plant life that has become far more diverse than it was before, thanks to the removal of a good proportion of the sedge. 

The pond as of December 2011 - much improved!

The hard work to remove the sedge and Rhododendron roots has all been undertaken by volunteers, without whom the pond would still be in a poor state.

Pond conservation work is really important. Ponds are often man-made in damp areas to collect excess water, or to water livestock. Modern day landowners have less of a requirement for ponds nowadays, and modern drainage systems and farming make traditional ponds obsolete. That means that old ponds become neglected, and start to naturally fill with sediment and vegetation, eventually becoming part of the landscape again. And so without conservation management, all ponds would eventually disappear. This would be a huge loss, as ponds are a very valuable wildlife habitat, giving rise to a huge diversity of plants, insects, amphibians and birds.

The last pond event was run with BTCV who bought along all the tools and waders needed, plus plenty of experienced volunteers; and The Green Team, our landscape contractors who helped us to get all of the pond green waste to the composter.

Huge thanks to all of the many volunteers who have helped out over the years!

December 2011 - Cutting sedge roots out of the pond
December 2011
February 2010 - Pulling Rhododendron roots from around the edges of the pond
November 2009
March 2009
January 2009
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