Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Impact Conference 2012

Last week we bought you the first update from Farah on the Impact Conference. This week Emma Lindner our other successful applicant reports on her time at the conference. 

Emma at the Impact Conference
As a volunteer with the university my experience has very much focused on one-off volunteering opportunities ranging from walking retired grey hounds and building a Santa’s Grotto in Kingston Hospital’s children ward to fundraising for various charities such as Momentum and Great Ormond Street Hospital. But I was interested in going to the Impact Conference to learn more about the volunteer and charity sector.

Impact 2012 aims to be a national conference on Student Volunteering and social action. The conference was organised by two groups: the Impact Committee and Student Hubs. Students and staff involved with volunteering at various Universities all came to Oxford for the weekend to take part in the conference. We all stayed at the Youth Hostel there which was better than it might sound!

The conference itself was held at Oxford Brookes University and included the opportunity to get involved with interactive seminars and discussion groups, some of which took on a more informative role, others were more for debate. I didn't enjoy the debates as much as the seminars as they sometimes got hijacked by those simply wishing to express their political opinions rather than address the question presented. But apart from that, and the temperature (one day it was -10 degrees Celsius!), my time at the Impact conference was a positive one.

Farah and Emma at the conference
The best part of the weekend for me was meeting other students from different universities in the country from Bristol to Leeds and beyond! There was an opportunity for delegates at the conference to pitch ideas for volunteer projects they would like to run in their communities (imagine a dragon’s den scenario but much less scary!) with the winner getting £150 to start up their project.  For me, hearing what other students wanted to achieve was very inspiring.

The main thing I took away from the conference was a desire to find out more about why people don’t volunteer and in turn the best ways to promote and market opportunities available, but most of all the inspiration of seeing what other students just like you and I are doing all over the country to try and improve the lives of people in their communities and society as a whole.

Friday, 24 February 2012

KUSU Volunteers brave the cold for Momentum!

KUSU Volunteer Nicky at a previous Momentum collection

KUSU Volunteers give up thousands of hours across the year to good causes in Kingston. Whether that’s by volunteering regularly and really getting to know a charities work, running their own project or on one of our one-off opportunities. Just because it’s a one off doesn’t mean it can’t have a real impact on a charities work as Natalie a Fundraiser at Momentum explains.

Saturday 11th February dawned sunny with sub-zero temperatures! However, this didn’t stop several Kingston Uni volunteers from turning out once again to help Momentum ( a charity based in Kingston which supports children and their families in South West London and Surrey, who have cancer and life-limiting conditions.

Our request this year was for help to inflate heart-shaped balloons to hand out to passers-by, in return for a voluntary donation to our charity.  The volunteers helped us to collect in excess of £1,300!

This will help us with future projects in the Paediatric department at Kingston Hospital and will also be used to pay for treats and outings for very sick children.

Momentum often has volunteering opportunities at our fundraising events. Next up will be an 80s themed party on Ravens Ait Island in May.  We’ll be looking forward to plenty of help from student volunteers to make the event a success.

For more details on one-off projects and how to get involved see our website.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Impact Conference 2012

Yesterday Farha updated on the volunteering she’s been involved in which led to her attending the Impact Conference. Here she updates on what she thought of the conference.

So what was the Impact conference and why did I go??
Volunteering is something I am very passionate about, and I applied to attend the Impact conference because I want to use this passion productively by ensuring there will be more opportunities available for students in the near future. My ultimate aim is to help promote these opportunities to make more students take them up. It is a fantastic way to learn and gain skills, and a shame that students are missing out.

The Impact conference took place in Oxford this year, and students and staff from over 40 UK universities came together to spend a weekend discovering, discussing and debating about volunteering. There was a range of seminars and workshops and many stalls promoting various local, national and international volunteering and charity organisations, such as Fairtrade. For me personally, it was a good opportunity to network and being given a choice of which seminars and workshops to attend, meant that I went only to those that interested me. My favourite workshops were about ways to fundraise, marketing and publicity, and another about "going green" and creating great environmental projects. I also went to an interesting debate entitled "Rewarding volunteering: is 'incentivised volunteering' in higher education institutions a good development?"

Farha and fellow KU Student Volunteer Emma
The best part of the conference had to be the Saturday evening where everyone gathered at the Student Hub in Oxford and a £150 project prize was awarded to one of ten students who bravely presented their socially innovative project idea to a panel of judges. There were some brilliant ideas and so many of these students were deserving of the financial boost of £150. It was fantastic to see so much passion and energy from the volunteers, and even better to have an insight into their ideas and be inspired to create my own.

What has Impact 2012 encouraged me to do next?
At the conference, I found out about a project called "OxGrow", which is based in Oxford and is open to anyone. OxGrow's basic aim is to grow their own organic foods utilising and encouraging climate friendly growing techniques. What I really liked about this project was how it has created a multitude of benefits without actually meaning to. It has created intergenerational cohesion, generated awareness of issues concerning the environment and our planet, and has influenced community bonding. This project inspired me and when I returned from the conference, I spoke to KUSU Volunteering to discuss how this can be replicated here in Kingston. I found out that it is completely feasible and I will soon be in the process of applying for funding from KUSU in an attempt to make the project go ahead :-)

SV Week Taster Session at Hersham Hounds

We've run a range of taster sessions across Student Volunteering Week for new volunteers to give volunteering a try. Tina D├ęzart came along to our Hersham Hounds Kennel Paint. 

This week was Student Volunteering Week and I took part in one of the events KUSU Volunteering put on and got a taste of what it’s like to volunteer with the student union.

We were a group of eight girls to head off to the Hersham Hounds kennel on Monday to walk the dogs and paint the kennels.  The shelter takes in grey hounds retired from the race courses and aims to find them a home but some of them are permanent residents.

We started the day by walking the dogs in the field behind the kennel, I was a bit nervous at first as we were told that the dogs sometimes rush after squirrels and could dislocate our shoulder if we hold on to the leash. But all went well and the animals were very sweet although sometimes a little stubborn: When I walked Belle, she decided that the middle of the road was a good place to stop and refused to move for 15 minutes.

Back from the walks we got to feed our companions some treats and cuddle them for a while before we had a snack and started the painting. It was good fun and I think we managed to get more paint on the walls than on ourselves.

It was a great day but it past to quickly, I could have stayed there all afternoon but hopefully I will be going back to the kennel quite soon.

I didn’t know much about volunteering opportunities before Student Volunteering Week, it gave me the chance to learn more about how to get involved and to spend the day doing something different. 

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Why volunteering?

Farha was one of two KUSU Volunteers who headed to Oxford for KUSU Volunteering. She explains a bit about the volunteering she has done which led her to apply for one of our conference places...
Farha at the Waldegrave School makeover!
I am Farha, a student volunteer here at Kingston university. This academic year I have been involved with KUSU Volunteering, taking up one off opportunities such as the makeover project at Waldegrave School with Kingston Sport. This involved a group of students and staff transforming the old sports hall by painting it and adding sports murals. It was great fun but admittedly very hard and tiring work, compensated by the feeling of pure satisfaction afterwards! 
Outside of university, the most recent major volunteering project I have undertaken was last summer, when I devoted my vacation to the NCS (National Citizen Service) project. This project is for 16 year old school leavers, and gives them a chance to gain an insight into further education, get involved with their community, make a real difference to an issue they care about and learn new skills. It gives them the chance to do something independent, and since I can remember being lucky enough to have a similar experience when I was a young teenager, I thought it was important for me to give something back and help ensure these young people have a memorable and fulfilling once in a lifetime experience.
Having volunteered for many different projects from a young age, it was no surprise that I wanted to continue when I began my university education. For me, volunteering has enhanced my life as a student. It gives me something to do rather than wasting time. I like to learn and to be kept busy and I love nothing more than the feeling of satisfaction when I know I have done something for somebody expecting nothing in return. I say nothing, but what I mean is no form of payment! Volunteering gives me things other than payment; such as new skills, meeting new people, becoming accustomed to the world of work, and enhancing my people and interpersonal skills. In my opinion it is time well spent for a student, and provides much needed work experience for life after graduation. In this current economic climate it is unfortunately evident that finding work is becoming increasingly difficult, and students who volunteer have that added strength above other graduates, and a more enhanced CV. 

My voluntary work so far has pushed me to apply for the ICS (International Citizen Service) which I have been accepted for, and I am currently being trained to be a gamesmaker at the London 2012 Olympics, where I will be working with the boxing team at the Olympic Village and the ExCel. There will be long 12 hour shifts involved over a period of 14 consecutive days, but I know it's going to be fantasic!

A further installment from Farha on her weekend at the Impact Conference will follow tomorrow...

Cheerleading Fun Day with Kingston Young Carers

Another great Kingston Cougars sports club project. Christina Taylor from the Cheerleading Squad updates on the volunteering project the team ran last week... 
I am a level six Business Management student studying at Kingston University and Vice President of Kingston Cougars Cheerleading squad, our university team. I’ve been extremely fortunate to grasp the opportunity of getting involved with volunteering. As a squad we’re always looking at new opportunities and are sent dozens of emails asking for a charitable contribution. As a student team we are always moaning about not having enough money so I thought we would be better off doing something more hands on.
 We were put in contact with Kingston Young Carers’ by Lucy; at KUSU Volunteering. Kingston Young Carers’ is a charity set up to offer help and support for under eighteen year olds who help to care for a sibling or parent. These young people take on a far greater responsibility than many of their peers so often don’t get much of a chance to just do things that young people do. We were able to organize a cheerleading class for the group as part of their half term holiday activities.
The class was so much fun and really easy to organize. We had 7 volunteers from our squad and we were lucky to have 17 participants, we were really grateful to get such a great turn out! We taught the girls some cheerleading stunts, a short dance and played a few games on the way. They were surprisingly quick at picking things up, in fact much better than most university students. They were all really energetic and so funny. We even had one five year old adding her own moves to the dance which involved putting her head on the floor and making faces at us. The best part of the day had to be when we brought out Dave Cougar, our University mascot and awarded the girls certificates and medals (astonishing what joy a small piece of paper can bring). On Dave’s departure one girl shouted out ‘Bye David’, which had all of our volunteers in stitches.
All in all it was great fun and so satisfying to do, we’re all really excited about planning another for the summer. My only regret is that we hadn’t done it sooner. So my one word of advice would be get in touch and get on with it!!!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Eel Conservation Volunteering in the Hogsmill River

An update from Chris Ovington on one of our more unusual volunteering opportunities... 

The 2011 Eel Trap Volunteers
The European Eel, most commonly known for being the “delicious” world renowned jellied eel which was once served across London, has declined rapidly in number (over 95% since the 1980’s).

At Kingston University a total of 14 volunteers have taken up arms (or waders in this case) to fight for the survival of this species...

Volunteers have been monitoring a purpose built eel ladder and trap (designed to keep the eels alive so they can be released up stream) on the Hogsmill River. The programme is being run by Zoological Society London (ZSL).

I have always been passionate about the environment and helping endangered species in any way I can, so when I first heard about this eel project I jumped at the chance to get involved.

During the project volunteers work in pairs with two main roles:

1) The trap checker: enter the river via ladders wearing thick rubber waders and an emergency inflatable jacket; fight through the river current to the eel trap and ladder. Then, using a torch and net, check for any elvers (young eels) and remove any debris which may be blocking water flow. If any elvers are found, you simply fish them out and measure them via the use of a zip lock plastic bag and a ruler (a surprisingly tricky task). 

2) Safety watch out: this person is responsible for the safety and well being of their partner in the river.

Me in the river checking the eel trap!
After each trap check the data is input online directly onto the ZSL website and that is your work done. I personally carried out the eel trap check 16 times (a grand total of about 16 hours).

It is a rare opportunity to be able to climb in the rivers of London, you know you have contributed in efforts to try and save a critically endangered species and the data you collect is part of an important long term study by an internationally recognised conservation body - so it looks good on a CV.

If you have not already considered volunteering for the project I urge you to do so, you will not regret it and the rewards it brings with it will last a life time.

A longer version of this post and more information on the project can be found on the Kingston University Biodiversity Action Group Blog. 

Friday, 17 February 2012

National Student Volunteering Week 2012!

Oli Gregory
Oli Gregory is a campaigner at
Student Volunteering Week 20
We have a guest blog today (care of blog - check them out for lot's more volunteering views!) from Student Volunteering Week 2012 campaigner Oli

Being a student presents many opportunities and challenges. University or college is an environment in which you can discover new things, learn skills, and broaden your horizons. There are many challenges that students face, such as finding a part-time job and deciding how to spend your free time, along with the bigger questions about being employable, or even knowing your future career plans.
Volunteering alone won’t solve these challenges. However, speaking from personal experience and as a campaigner working on Student Volunteering Week 2012, I believe volunteering provides some of the most valuable experiences you can have as a student.
The reason I believe this is because volunteering is both personally and socially transformative. As a student I volunteered on CATSS, a residential project for ‘at risk’ young children. The experience was incredibly varied and amongst other things involved managing bank accounts, supporting children to try new things, and dealing with unruly children at 2am! It has not just boosted my chances of finding a job, but also improved my confidence, social and leadership skills, and actually made a positive difference to children’s lives.
Volunteering involves a massive range of activities, from the things you might expect such as volunteering in a school, to the things you might not such as helping to lead a sports team, or becoming involved with the running of a society or students’ union. The most important thing is that volunteering meets your needs and interests. Finding a placement that fits is important because if it doesn’t you are unlikely to get the most out of it or even keep it up.
Speaking to your university volunteering service is one of the best ways to start volunteering. These are typically based in your students’ union or careers service and may offer placements with different organisations, run their own projects, and help with any queries.
Looking back to my own time as a student, volunteering was the environment in which I made a difference both to myself and to the world around, and I would encourage all students to try it out.
Oli Gregory is a campaigner working on Student Volunteering Week 2012, a Volunteering England campaign sponsored by Santander.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Student Volunteering Week 2012

Student Volunteering Week returns this February so we’re gearing up for a week of taster sessions (for both newbies and those already involved!) as well as lots of celebrating of all the great things our amazing volunteers get up to.

It’s not just Student Volunteering Week in Kingston but nationally with many other universities holding events to mark it.
In past years we’ve had a great time finding out about micro-volunteering online, knitting hats for babies, collecting money for Great Ormond Street and taking a trip to Hersham Hounds. 

We’re nearly there with this week’s calendar so details will be on the website and Facebook very soon! We also cheekily moved the week forward two days (but don’t tell anyone!) to incorporate a great opportunity on the 18th. Keep checking back on the blog to find out what we have been getting up to and hear from some of our lovely volunteers about how they’ve been getting involved. 
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