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.

1 comment:

  1. 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. His project is really ground-breaking and will hopefully pave the way for more high-impact student volunteering projects in the future.

    In total 26 Kingston University students volunteered on the day, giving 177 hours of their time and filling more than 2 skips full of rubbish, including 22 shopping trolleys, 3 bikes, 4 car tyres, 304 glass bottles, a hoover, 5 traffic cones, a bird bath, 9 chairs and much, much more from the river - all of which pose a threat to wildlife and river users.

    The Sub Aqua club was supported by 5 members of the KUSU Kayaking Club, who took to their kayaks and spent the day protecting the divers from other boats on the water. Members from the KUSU Netball, Ladies Football and American Football clubs all volunteered on the river banks, collecting the rubbish and depositing it in the skips provided.

    The students also took the opportunity to fundraise for the diver’s favourite charity, The RNLI - ‘the charity that saves lives at sea’, raising £50 through a bucket collection.

    Chris who has been scuba diving with the Sub Aqua club for three years and qualified with them as an instructor last year, said: “I’ve been overwhelmed by the support we received from local groups and I’m so proud of what we managed to achieve. Many members of the public stopped to talk to us on the day and congratulated us on our efforts. We were all surprised at how much debris we removed from the river, yet this is only a small percentage of what is left in the river. We really hope to run another underwater river clean in the future.”

    By Jemma Houghton
    KUSU Volunteering Coordinator


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...