Thursday, 30 August 2012

Vice President Activities of KUSU blogs about Volunteering!

Hi I’m Lauren McCormack and I am currently on a gap year from my Sports Science with Business degree. I have just finished my placement year where I worked full time as an elected student officer (Vice President Activities) of Kingston University Students’ Union where part of my job has been to oversee volunteering. I’ve also got involved in several volunteering opportunities throughout the year – here’s a quick recap of what I’ve taken part in and more importantly why you should consider volunteering too!

Working and studying full time can be very demanding on time, especially when there are deadlines/exams to prepare for. One-Off Volunteering is a great way to get involved in volunteering as you can do as much or as little as you like! I’ve done several one-off volunteering opportunities this year.

Back in November last year I went along with the sports students (known as the Kingston Cougars) to redecorate the sports hall at Waldegrave School For Girls, a local secondary school. 15 of us worked together to whitewash the wall and stencil silhouettes to transform the space – and it looked great!

In February I then took part in a food project for the homeless using waste food from supermarkets to cook at a local church in Kingston. Using food that was going to be thrown away we did a ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’ style day where volunteers and the homeless were split into teams to see what exciting dishes we could come up with! The day was part of Student Volunteering Week and was great fun - we all got to eat the food together afterwards as part of a big lunch in the church hall!

Most recently I went along to KUSU’s Bird & Bat Box Building and BBQ event where I helped make bird and bat boxes for the nature trail at Kingston Hill campus. The event also celebrated KUSU volunteers’ achievements over the past year. The BBQ food was cooked to perfection and we were really fortunate to have good weather – it was a great way to meet other volunteers too!

Volunteering with KUSU is a good way to try something new, meet new people, make new friends and also learn new skills while helping out and having fun. It also means you are able to do something worthwhile and productive with your spare time! I’m looking forward to doing more volunteering this academic year 2012-2013. It’s going to be a busy year and I can’t wait!

In March I was re-elected to do a second year as Vice President Activities where my role is to oversee sports, societies and volunteering in Kingston University Students’ Union as well as representing the student body. In terms of volunteering this year I’m hoping to run a project through the Be A Champion sports volunteering scheme where 5 volunteers from the mountaineering (climbing) club will lead sessions at a local climbing wall for a community group. As well as this I’m also hoping to go along as a kayak volunteer to the Sub Aqua Thames River Clean project during Freshers Week to help ensure they are visible to passing boats. I’ll be keeping an eye on the One-Off Volunteering opportunities that happen throughout the year too and am also hoping to become a regular volunteer with the Scouts through Community Volunteering at KUSU! There’s just so many opportunities that it’s hard to get the chance to do it all, but I’m trying to make the most of it while I’m still at Kingston University and when I go back into my final year next September!

Phone: 020 8417 2883 Ext: 62883

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Volunteering at the Kingston Olympic Torch Relay!

I’m not, never have been, and most probably never will be a sporty person. Largely, excitement about the London 2012 Olympics has passed me by: at a push, I could probably be persuaded to watch the men’s diving (ahem), but golf? Archery? Football? Don’t we get enough football coverage on the TV as it is, without adding in some extra Olympiad games? Bah humbug, I say.
Anna Smith carrying the Olympic Torch through Kingston.
Spot the volunteers in their yellow t-shirts! 
Or at least, I did say. The Olympic Torch Relay made me prick up my ears a little, because it wasn’t all about the sport. 8000 everyday heroes were plucked from relative obscurity to carry the torch from A to B, to recognise and celebrate the fantastic work they have done in their communities or the successes they’ve achieved. So when I saw that I could volunteer through KUSU VolunteeringGo Kingston Volunteering and help marshal the event in Kingston, I figured it could be my contribution to this international sporting celebration that would really mean something to me.

So off I toddled, at 7.30am on a Tuesday morning (painful), into Kingston Market Place to meet with other volunteers, students and local residents alike, to help man the crowds and watch brilliant people be commended for their work. I was posted by the Bentall Centre, which was Anna Smith’s leg of the relay.

Earlier this year, Anna got home from work to find a neighbour being attacked by two thugs. Anna went to her rescue, saved the neighbour, but suffered a violent attack herself. She was in intensive care for a week before an intensive operation to rebuild her shattered cheekbones, nose and jaws. Her confidence was crushed by the incident and she had to move home. However, she chose to take a positive approach to life, joking that not everyone gets a free face lift and continuing to be an inspirational mother to her two young children.

Whilst she still needs some more operations, she has worked hard to regain full fitness so that she can return to helping others though sports activities. Reflecting on her time in hospital, she has been determined to do more therapeutic work to support people in need and has now successfully gained NHS sponsorship for a part time Occupational Therapy degree to build on her expertise and extend her skills for the benefit of others.

Anna's passion for sporting activities, her incredible determination following this horrific incident and the fact that she has used her experience to positively benefit others meant she was nominated as an Olympic Torchbearer. As the crowd roared their approval when she jogged past, lit torch proudly in the air, I began to understand that the Olympics was about so much more than sports. It’s about bringing the community together, promoting healthy, happy lifestyles, offering opportunities and celebrating diversity and equality.

And really, those four things are what volunteering itself is all about. It’s great to be a part of something bigger than yourself, and getting involved with all kinds of events and opportunities to make life better for others, just like Anna Smith did. 2012 is definitely the year to open your eyes to something new – for me it’s men’s diving, and who knows, maybe yours could be volunteering with KUSU!

Check out the rest of my photos from the day here.

Lucy Williams
Vice President Student Life at KUSU
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