Monday, 25 March 2013

Schools Volunteering

My name is Kripali Patel and I have just finished my Masters degree in Psychology at Kingston University. I aim to become an Educational Psychologist, but I knew that I must gain lots of experiences of working and interacting with children before I go into further studying.  Therefore, I decided to start gaining experience through Kingston University Students' Union's (KUSU) Schools Volunteering programme.

I was very pleased with the many options I could choose from in regards to the roles at the schools, and I decided to become a 1:1 learning mentor to two young boys at Tolworth Junior School. I went into the school every Thursday for three hours, and my role was to guide them with their learning, help them gain confidence, and listen to any problems or concerns they were feeling. I really enjoyed my time at Tolworth as the teachers were very helpful and the children were just as kind. One of teachers in the class that I worked in was extremely supportive; she explained the task that the children were going to engage in before I worked with the children. This allowed me to plan and understand the requirements of the task beforehand. My best day at Tolworth had to be when the school celebrated the beginning of The French Revolution, also known as Bastille Day. It was a nice occasion as the children engaged in French activities, in and outside of the classroom, to learn about French cultures and traditions.

I really enjoyed my time at Tolworth, and wish I could have spent more time there. I learnt many things from volunteering with children, such as patience, the different ways children engage in learning and understanding and the importance of a good work-ethic in a school-based setting. I was also very grateful that two of the teachers at Tolworth were happy to act as referees for me, when I was applying to educational agencies and schools for work. Thanks to them my application processes have run smoothly, and I have actively been working and gained experience in a few schools within the provision of Autistic Spectrum Disorder, since completing my degree.  

I recommend that university students should volunteer as much as they can, as you can never have too much experience, and I have learnt that experiences are more valuable than grades when applying for jobs, as recruiters can ask you specific questions in relation to the role you are applying for, based on the experiences you may have encountered.

Monday, 11 March 2013

New KUSU Volunteer Coordinator says Hi!

Abbie Hurrell - Volunteer Coordinator (Schools and Community)

Hi my name is Abbie Hurrell and I am the new Volunteer Coordinator (Community and Schools) for KUSU Volunteering.  I work alongside the lovely Jemma Houghton who is your other Volunteer Coordinator (Jemma looks after One-Off and Student-Led Volunteering).

I started this job in mid February, coming from a background of Volunteer Brokerage having worked with the Volunteering Richmond and Volunteering Wandsworth Volunteer Services.  I absolutely love volunteering; it keeps you busy, makes you appreciate life, makes you feel fantastic about helping others and is a brilliant way to meet other people! Volunteering is also hugely important in increasing graduate employability, with most employers now seeing experience as the key attribute in a job candidate. Previously I have volunteered with animal charities, schools, the elderly and with children with disabilities; I even spent 3 months living and volunteering in Italy. 

Although I’ve only been here a month I have already registered lots of volunteers and had the pleasure of meeting lots of enthusiastic and energetic KU students. It has been hugely rewarding to see some of you choose a volunteer opportunity and begin volunteering in such a short space of time – so thank you to everyone I’ve seen so far!

Community Volunteering is also starting to really expand in terms of the opportunities we are offering, with Action Tutoring, Missing People and Kingston Hospital all signing up to the service and eagerly awaiting some new student volunteers to help with their work. I’ve also had loads of really useful feedback from students on the kinds of volunteering you would like to do on an ongoing basis – so continue to visit our Community Page as it gets updated at the beginning of each month with new opportunities. If you have any suggestions of other opportunities we could be offering, then let me know - this is YOUR service!

Schools Volunteering is currently not open as we had such a huge intake at the beginning of the year that we don’t have any space left in our schools for more students. Don’t worry though! We are in the process of contacting lots of schools in the area, so hopefully we will have some new opportunities for you soon. 

This month we are beginning to prepare for our annual Volunteer Awards Ceremony – which is something I am really excited to be a part of. It will be a great opportunity to meet you all, and also to shout out to the Kingston community about all the good volunteering that our students are doing. 

If you have any questions about Community and Schools Volunteering then please contact me, or if you’re already currently volunteering then please send me a message and let me know how it’s going – I’d love to hear from you! 

Finally, thank you for being so welcoming and I am Iooking forward to helping you all get more involved in volunteering in the future!

Monday, 4 March 2013

Summary of Student Volunteering Week

Summary of Student Volunteering Week

What did you do two weeks ago? Went to lectures, had a night in the pub, studied in the library, and did something nice for Valentine’s day with the significant other?

Sounds absolutely lovely BUT, you could have been:

Knitting hats, eating brie, blowing up balloons, wearing hard hats, making paper chains, playing bingo, hardcore gardening, and mispronouncing French!
Not all at once, that would be mad (and impressive.)

I’m talking of course about Student Volunteering Week 2013, which took place from the 11th to the 16th February 2013. SVW is a national initiative organised by the National Union of Students and Student Hubs, and it is designed to showcase the brilliant work of current student volunteers and also to encourage new students to get involved.

KUSU Volunteering’s SVW taster volunteering sessions organised by Volunteer Coordinator Jemma Houghton included making decorations for a ‘French’ party at the Bradbury Centre (A “youth club for older people”) then helping out on the day serving a French lunch, playing French bingo and MC-ing a quiz about all things French (naturellement!) It was fantastic fun – even though the OAPs put both my French speaking and Bingo playing skills to shame! And there was cheese; it’s always a good day if there is cheese!

Others helped with an Orchard Conservation event at Dorich House, getting to grips with pruning and mulching, and looking extremely stylish in their hard hats and safety glasses. Those less willing to brave the chill decamped to the KUSU offices and knitted hats for premature babies, or tried to at least. In my experience it sometimes turns out more hole than hat, but seasoned knitters were on hand to offer advice and mend dropped stitches.

A massive 41 students took part and KUSU volunteering registered ten new people in five days which is very promising for the continued success of the university’s volunteering programme.

KUSU Volunteering is active year round organising both regular community volunteering, schools volunteering and one-off volunteering opportunities for Kingston students. There is even the opportunity to manage and run your own project, if you have a great idea which will benefit the community, you’d like to see become reality.

Even better news came in the form of Chris Elliot. The Kingston University student made it into the NATIONAL shortlisted top 10 for his contributions to volunteering including his Underwater River Cleaning and Try Dive projects. Congratulations Chris!

It has been said repeatedly that London 2012 was a success because of the strength of the volunteers who made it happen, and it’s opened many people’s eyes to the benefits being a volunteer can give you, including increased employability skills, confidence, fun memories and brilliant new friends.

If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s not too late to get involved – there’s also another volunteers’ week coming up in June. For more information head on up to the KUSU offices or go to

Hope to see you soon!          
Sara Ann Hope
2nd year BA (Hons) Drama with English Literature

Volunteer helps organise KU Mental Health and Wellbeing Day

Hi my name is Tamara Swales and I am 19 years old studying Medical Biochemistry at Kingston University, located (obviously) in the gorgeous place that is Kingston-Upon-Thames! As well as this I am part of the KUSU netball team, volunteer for RISE (a charity for disabled young people) and am currently one of 100 Team V Leaders across the country!!
What is Team V? It’s an amazing opportunity which allows young people to engage with their local community running a campaign, but as there’s lots of team V leaders throughout the country, we make an impact on a national scale, which is pretty awesome to be a part of. Currently we are beginning campaign 2, entitled ‘make time for your minds-promoting healthy minds and happier lives’.

So… What is this campaign about? It’s all about little steps you can take to improve your mental wellbeing, and with depression and suicide rates increasing and being publicised so widely, now is the time to do something about it and encourage people to take care of their mental health. Just because mental health can’t necessarily be seen doesn’t mean it isn’t important; something realised by every university student around exam time when you’re stressed to the max and cramming in the library! So, what are the steps, you say? Action for Happiness has researched and discovered that the 5 steps to a happier living are Giving, Relating, Exercising, Appreciating and Trying out.

Giving- It’s been proven time and time again that giving to other people makes you feel good, something I know for a fact! Whether it’s as simple as making someone a cup of tea or giving them a bit of chocolate when they’re low, or choosing to volunteer in your area, doing a little bit now and again will help you feel so much better in yourself.

Relating- This is all about communicating and the importance of it. When you have loads on it’s quite easy to slip into the habit of shutting everyone out and getting on with it, but taking little breaks and having a chat to your housemates or your family or someone as random as the postman (or more likely takeaway man) knocking on your door makes you feel so much better and helps relieve some of that stress.

Exercising- Yes, you haven’t heard this one before! But exercising is just as good for your mind as it is for your bodies. Any sort of exercise releases little chemicals called endorphins (the same chemical found in chocolate) which cheer you up and make you feel good, so by exercising you can get the same happy feeling from chocolate without the guilt when you can no longer fit into that bikini you want for your holiday!

Appreciating- This is something people really don’t do enough! As clich├ęd as it sounds ‘stopping to smell the roses’ makes you feel so much better, and realising how many good things you have got going for you makes the bad things seem a lot more manageable. How many people took a day off to mess about in the snow and just enjoy yourself? I know I did, and doing something like that every now and again will make everything seem a lot more manageable.

Trying out- Another proven fact, trying out new things helps to improve your mental health! So you know that one thing you really wanted to do but were too scared to? Go do it, because it could end up being the best decision you made! Trying out for the netball team was a challenge and I’m not brilliant at it, but it was worth it for the people I’ve met and become good friends with and the experiences I’ve had with them! And I’m sure my housemates (all netballers) would certainly agree.

Through talks with the university and the Students’ Union (both of which were amazingly helpful!), I worked with them on ‘University Mental Health and Wellbeing Day’ which was on the 20th February, promoting good mental health for university students! Between 09:30am and 12:30pm you may have seen me and my volunteers in the food store, asking passers-by ‘what they do to look after their mental health.’ Along with some rather interesting responses, we managed to collect a total of approximately 40 applecards, the data of which has been given to the University so they can see exactly what you as students need and want to help relax and how they might go about facilitating that! A good day all round!

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