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.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Student-Led Underwater River Clean Volunteering Project!

Diving into the unknown depths of the River Thames, Kingston University students have quite literally pushed the boat out by organising Sub Aqua’s first underwater river clean.

It has taken 12 months to organise but the Kingston University Sub Aqua Club (KUSAC) has finally been given the go-ahead for the Thames underwater litter-pick.

On 17 September 2012, from 10am-5pm, trained members of the Sub Aqua diving club will be plunging themselves into the River Thames here at Kingston, in both a credible and exciting attempt to clean the bottom of our local river.

Their efforts are part of a nationwide campaign, The BSAC Underwater Litter Pick 2012, to remove litter from the waterways and coastline around Britain.

Previous litter-pick river divers have removed shopping trolleys, bikes and tin cans, all of which are dumped in rivers and pose a threat to marine and wildlife.

Chris Elliot, who is going into his 2nd year at Kingston University has been leading on the project. He said: “I wanted to be able to find a way for our club (KUSAC) to be able put something back into the community.  An under-water river clean is something that our club has the skills and passion to do.”

Chris is running the project through ‘Be A Champion’, an Olympic-inspired initiative to get sports clubs involved in volunteering activities. Kingston University Students’ Union (KUSU) was recently granted silver accreditation by the National Union of Students (NUS) for its support of Olympic Inspired activity.

Sub Aqua has had to gain permission from various agencies such as the Environment Agency, Metropolitan Police and RBK Council in order to run the project but has also gained enormous support along the way.

KUSU Volunteering has supported Chris on his project from the outset offering expert advice and sourcing student volunteers to help on the day. Jemma Houghton one of the Volunteering Coordinators from KUSU Volunteering said: ‘I’m so proud of Chris. He’s worked extremely hard to get this project off the ground, juggling this Student-Led Volunteering project with his university degree course, working part-time and taking part in many other extra-curricular activities. We’re just keeping our fingers crossed for good weather now!’  

Lynsey Stafford, Biodiversity and Landscape Administrator in the Estates Department of Kingston University has also been heavily involved in the project, giving expert environmental advice and helping with the logistics of the project. Several volunteers from Kingston University Biodiversity Action Group (KUBAG) will also be helping out on the day.

Members of Kingston University Kayaking Club will have kayakers on the river bank protecting the divers from other boats on the water and members from Kingston University Netball Club will be volunteering on the river bank, collecting the waste and putting it in the skips. Jana Bentley, Head of Waste Management at KUSCO (Kingston University’s main service provider) has also been instrumental in her support of the project.

In addition to University support, companies and environmental authorities have offered their services. Veolia Environnement are providing two skips and will take the rubbish away for free and a couple of their staff will also be helping on the day. Thames21 are providing a range of equipment, including protective gloves and footwear, wheel barrows, litter pickers and high visibility jackets and Aquanaut are giving air cylinders to the project. The Royal Bank of Scotland and the Co-Operative Bank in Kingston are both very kindly lending one car parking space each and The Harts BoatYard are donating five car parking spaces on the day so that the students do not have far to carry their equipment to the river.  

Chris who has been scuba diving with the Sub Aqua club for three years and qualified as an instructor last year, said: “I’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received from local groups and I’m very grateful and excited about the project.”
If you’re a Kingston University student interested in volunteering on this project then please let us know! We need you to help out on Monday 17th September, 09:30am-5:30pm and collect the rubbish the divers put on the river bank and deposit it in the skips provided. There will also be an information point on the river bank which we need volunteers to staff so that the general public can find out more about the project. 

Volunteer activities include:
  • Collecting rubbish from the river bank and placing it in the skips provided.
  • Collecting money for RNLI through a bucket collection on an information point on the river bank.
  • Standing on an information point and talking to any members of the public who are interested about the river clean project.  
Skills needed: Volunteers must be enthusiastic, have good communication and team-working skills and be able to stand for long periods of time.  Please note volunteers should wear sensible clothing, but protective gloves, steel toe-cap wellington boots and other equipment will be provided. 

If you are interested: please email Volunteer Co-ordinator Jemma Houghton at Jemma.Houghton@kingston.ac.uk with your full name, KU number, and telephone number by 4pm on Friday 14th September 2012.

All KUSU Volunteers who complete our registration process (only takes half an hour or so) can claim back their volunteer expenses! 

Alternatively if you're a member of the general public and want to find out more about the Underwater River Clean why not come along on Monday 17th September 2012, 10am-5pm and see the Student-Led Volunteering project in action! There will be an information point situated in the back garden of The Ram pub opposite the river, KT1 1H. Several KUSU Volunteers will be running this information point, giving out literature, as well as raising money through a bucket collection for Chris’ chosen charity: RNLI – ‘the charity that saves lives at sea’.   

By Lauren Stopps KUSU Communications Coordinator

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...