Monday, 13 May 2013

A Wonderful Week in the world of KUSU Volunteering - Recognising Volunteers' Achievements!

Last week was a really exciting week in the world of KUSU Volunteering! On Tuesday 7th May 2013 we had our annual Volunteering Awards Ceremony, followed by our End of Year Social, the next day. Although having the two events so close together was a little hectic (!) it was really special getting to spend a couple of days celebrating all of the volunteering that our amazing KUSU Volunteers have done over the past year.

During the social, under the leadership of Rachel Burgess from KUBAG, a group of students and staff volunteered a couple hours of their time each, removing five rubbish bags full of the vigorous invader Himalayan Balsam from the Hogsmill riverbank at Knights Park campus. Student volunteers were then treated to a yummy afternoon picnic and were presented with a certificate thanking them for all the volunteering they’ve done this year.

The KUSU Volunteer Awards Ceremony 2013 was kicked off by KUSU’s Student Development Manager Mo Haque who thanked everyone for coming and explained that the evening’s celebrations were about congratulating certain KUSU Volunteers on their exceptional achievements, dedication and commitment. Deputy Vice Chancellor Dr David Mackintosh was a brilliant guest speaker, talking about how much of a positive difference student volunteers make to their local community, as well as highlighting all of the wonderful skills students will have gained throughout their time volunteering and how this will improve their employability upon graduation.

Abbie and I (KUSU’s Volunteer Coordinators), with the help of Lauren McCormack (Vice President of Activities) then had the delightful role of speaking about the award winners, sharing their volunteering stories and journeys with the audience and presenting the awards! Here’s what we had to say about them:

Best Volunteer Newcomer – Natalie Flower
We’ve had some excellent new volunteers this year so competition was tight, but this year’s winner is Natalie Flower. Natalie has taken part in several one-off events this year, including volunteering at the Royal Parks Half Marathon, Women’s Only Run, London Marathon, as well as becoming an avid knitter making hats for premature babies. Despite having a hectic timetable and often being on placement as a student nurse, Natalie always gives us vital feedback about the volunteering she has done, what she enjoyed, what she’d like to see more of and we’re delighted to award her Best Volunteer Newcomer.

Community Volunteer of the Year – Lucy Williams
Awarded for a combination of excellence in regard to the amount of time given, the level of dedication and the overall impact the volunteer has made to the local community. Lucy Williams was nominated by Refugee Action Kingston: “Lucy started volunteering at our crèche in May 2012 and regularly helps one morning a week to run free sessions for refugee and asylum seeking children under the age of 5. Lucy has been consistently reliable, enthusiastic, great with the children and an overall asset to our crèche team. Lucy has shown a real commitment to supporting children and families who attend our learning centre crèche and outside of her normal volunteering role Lucy has always advocated on behalf of RAK to promote the work we do.  Lucy has collected large amounts of clothing for our donation days and always offers or makes herself available to help where she can.”

One-Off Volunteer of the Year – Philip Commatas
Philip has given up a huge amount of his time taking part in an astonishing 12 one-off volunteering opportunities this academic year since he registered as a KUSU Volunteer in October! He’s volunteered on the Momentum Opera Evening, Winter Night Shelter, Christmas Tree Harvesting event and French Day at Age Concern, to name just a few. He’s also a regular KUBAG volunteer helping out at lots of environmental events and has just been placed at the Cancer Research shop in Kingston. Philip has been a brilliant and reliable one-off volunteer. He gets stuck into every volunteering role, he’s extremely flexible, works well in a team and is a delight to have around.

School Volunteer of the Year – Mark Lynch
Awarded for a combination of excellence in regard to the amount of time given, the level of dedication and the overall impact the volunteer has made to a local school. Mark Lynch was nominated by Tolworth Junior School for his mentoring role: “We interviewed Mark in January for a very important role at our school. We needed a male role model for a year 6 pupil with behavioural problems. The pupil in question (pupil x) aged 10/11 does not have a male figure in his life and is known to display very aggressive disruptive behaviour. Mark works with pupil x on a one to one basis every Thursday afternoon. Mark has a creative style of mentoring incorporating the talent of the pupil. He is not judgemental; he has given pupil x the confidence to confide in him. He understands, he demonstrates empathy and he acts on requests immediately. Mark created and designed a project for pupil x to work on during the Thursday meetings. Mark has proven to be the Perfect Role Model and we have seen evidence of improved behaviour from pupil x.”

Pupil x also commented: “Mark is fun, he listens to me, he is a good artist, and we are writing a comic book. I really like being with him.”

Be A Champion Volunteering Project – Sub Aqua Club
Be A Champion encourages sports students to continue the legacy of the London 20123 Games and run volunteering projects. The Sub Aqua Club have run an amazing three volunteering projects including a ‘try-dive’ - teaching a local youth cadet group how to dive, and 2 underwater river cleans of the Thames in Kingston. The second river clean saw 25 students volunteer, giving 184 hours of their time and removing an astonishing 2338kg of rubbish from the Thames, including 82 shopping trolleys, a soldier’s helmet dated 1954, 110 glass bottles, an engine block, a coconut and 17.5 skateboards - all of which pose a threat to wildlife and river users.

The Sub Aqua Club’s commitment to making a difference in the community by sharing their skill set and working on three volunteering projects this year is phenomenal. Mary Tetley, BSAC chief executive, said: “Underwater litter-picks like the terrific one staged by the Kingston University team gives our divers the chance to contribute to the fight against marine pollution...  all of those involved in this latest Kingston University clean up deserve a pat on the back for their efforts. The volume of shopping trolleys they have recovered is astounding and really does highlight the problems we face with what is discarded in our precious marine habitats.”

Volunteers Inspiring People Via Sport (VIPS) Volunteer of the Year – Fiorella Badin
Student Wellbeing offer a sports-specific volunteering programme called VIPS. VIPS was launched in September 2010 and was awarded the Inspire Mark from the Olympic board along with the 'Experts in Volunteering' recognition from the Greater London Volunteering team. Students can gain a recognised coaching qualification and enjoy sports-specific work experience by taking advantage of the volunteering opportunities available. This includes placements at football clubs affiliated with Fulham, Chelsea and Arsenal, Wentworth golf club, and one off events such as London Marathons and events at the London Youth Games to name a few.

Students give back to the community by putting in the required 10 hours volunteering at a time that fits in around their studies and effectively become sports ambassadors for the University. This year Fiorella Badin is our first ever winner of the VIPs award, chosen for her commitment, dedication and enthusiasm for the scheme. 

Student-Led Volunteering Project of the Year – Olufunmilola Kehinde
Projects this year have included a knitting club making hats for premature babies, a Caribbean Culture Day for people with afro-caribbean heritage and a clay-making after school club. The winning project was led by Masters student Funmi who ran a jewellery-making workshop, teaching 10 children aged 4-6 years of age and their parents from Kingston WelCare how to make different types of jewellery including bracelets, necklaces and keyrings.

Funmi was a delight to support, always replying to emails and deadlines on time, her project proposal and costing document were extremely thorough and she delivered the workshop with professionalism and confidence. She was an excellent leader and we were extremely impressed with her time-management, organisational skills and commitment. Kingston WelCare had this to say about Funmi’s jewellery workshop: "My Thanks for your time and interest in WelCare. Your energy and fun approach was so up lifting. Thanks for planning and delivering the workshop. Everyone had a great time."

Kingston University Biodiversity Action Group Volunteer of the Year – Tina Corr
Led by Rachel Burgess, KUBAG is a group of staff and student volunteers dedicated to preserving and enhancing biodiversity on campus. Nominated for outstanding dedication to and leadership of a conservation project, here’s what KUBAG had to say about Tina: ‘Tina Corr is described by KUBAG as the life and soul of the Kingston Hill beehive project. She checks the hive nearly every week throughout the year and ensures the wellbeing of the bees by providing supplementary food and protection when necessary as well as health checks. She not only looks after the hive, but also coordinates the student and staff volunteer check assistants for the weekly summer checks. Her passion for the bees is inspiring and she never misses an opportunity to help promote the project and suggest ways we can improve habitat for bees on campus. She devotes countless hours to this project and events such as frame-building, talks and honey tasting and constantly strives to raise awareness about bees, their lives and current plight which is fabulous.’

Volunteer Blog of the Year – Chris Elliott
This is a new award that KUSU Volunteering has created this academic year. We’ve had an amazing 23 blogs submitted to us by students capturing the different volunteering they’ve been doing. These students are to be congratulated on sharing their volunteering experiences and journeys with the rest of the student body, and acting as ambassadors encouraging their peers to try out volunteering.The criteria for Volunteer Blog of the Year included how informative and inspirational a blog was, as well as the writing style. It was really hard to shortlist as the blogs were of a really high quality, but in the end 6 students made the cut and the winner was Chris Elliott for his blog entitled: “The Thames River Clean – A Guide to Student-Led Volunteering”. This blog is captures Chris’ quirky and humorous take on life whilst encouraging and inspiring students to try out Student-Led Volunteering.

Volunteer-Involving Organisation of the Year – Tolworth Junior School
We are hugely excited this year to be giving out an award to a Volunteer Involving Organisation – which has been nominated by students for being an amazing and supportive organisation to volunteer with.

In the words of the student nominator: ‘It is hard to sum up why I feel that this school deserves the award in just a couple of paragraphs. From the moment I walked into the school for my interview I felt that the school was special, it gives off welcoming and warm vibe. The staff at Tolworth are very involved in aiding me in my role, they always make time to have meetings with me before and after my sessions with the child I work with, they allow me the freedom to do what I think is best but also offer support and guidance to aid me in my role. Being given the opportunity to work with tolworth has been completely worth it. I have never felt happier or more supported in a role. The only bad thing I have to say about this whole experience is that it will soon be the summer and I won’t be going there anymore! TOLWORTH ROCKS!’

Outstanding Contribution to Volunteering – Chris Elliott
This award is the most prestigious of our awards, marking excellence, achievement, dedication and leadership. Chris has been an integral part of the KUSU Volunteering “landscape” if you will. He was nominated and won this award for organising the Sub Aqua’s first underwater river clean, which took approximately a year to organise to gain permission from local/national authorities including British Sub-Aqua Club, Kingston Council, Metropolitan Police and the Environment Agency. Despite many barriers Chris remained enthusiastic, was meticulously organised, and displayed excellent communication skills and commitment. Chris is also receiving this award for organising Sub Aqua’s youth group try dive, supporting another student to lead on the 2nd river clean, being a regular volunteer for KUBAG, taking part in one-off volunteering events such as volunteering as the mini-bus driver for the Xmas Tree harvesting event, running our First Aid training session for KUSU Volunteers, cleaning out the shark tanks at Chessington World of Aventures and blogging about his volunteering experiences.

Chris is extremely reliable, a great team-member and always in good spirits. KUSU Volunteering have loved supporting him on his volunteering journey. It’s truly been an honour. He is a champion of student volunteering and a role model to his peers. He represents the best student volunteering talent Kingston University has to offer.

Jemma Houghton and Abbie Hurrell
KUSU Volunteer Co-ordinators
Photographs taken by Kingston University Professional Photographer Chris Thomas.

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