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As a service, we’ve always looked to recognise student volunteering, both through our annual awards ceremony, and our Student Stories Series. Now in its 15th year, our Student Stories series has embarked on a new Profile Interview Project, seeking to add new details to the story of UCL Volunteering. Our Guest Blogger, Jenny Murphy, looks back on the project’s first years and explores some of our favourite interviews.

Adam McGee was one of our first interviewees of the project and provided us with a memorable piece. He represented his student-led project, Politeach. Their work is really quite unique – the project frames political education in a context accessible to children, such as campaigns around free iPads for students. What stood out to us from his piece was Adam’s remarks on the impact of his volunteering. Adam told us ‘The other day I was on the Tube home and I started thinking it’s strange to think that in 5, 6, 7 years, these kids will be turning 18 and be  able to vote, and hopefully they’ll be able to remember the stuff that they’ve learned from us’. It showed that side of volunteering that can’t be measured - but is worth just as much to us  as statistics on volunteer hours. For us, this reminded us of the power of volunteering to inspire people and how small acts can stay with us for years.  

                      

Small acts of altruism were the also the feature of Lara Parienti’s volunteering. Her role as an Anti-boredom Volunteer with UCL Cancer Fund gave comfort to those fighting the terrible disease and offered pastoral care to their families too. Giving tea, coffee, and snacks to patients, often to people waiting for a diagnosis formed the main part of her role, but Lara also gave patients and families someone to talk to in difficult moments. Lara told us: ‘It seems like an insignificant thing, just serving coffee and saying “Hi, how are you doing today?’ But then I realised people really are grateful and that’s one of the most rewarding parts of it’. Lara’s story speaks to all of us who’ve experienced our own health battles, or witnessing those of family members; often in these moments of hardship, small comforts go a long way.

                           

The empathic nature of volunteering was something that Yiwei Wang experienced.  Yiwei volunteered as a Befriender for the Association of Jewish Refugees. Yiwei’s role gave great comfort to an Elderly AJR member and Holocaust Survivor. Yiwei told us ‘At first, my client and I discussed her experiences, but it would be quite painful to describe it. Instead, we talk about things different things, like she remembers things in Germany, her culture’. Yiwei’s told us that her befreindee became more like a friend, and someone she looked forward to seeing her again and again. For us, this is a wonderful example, not only of empathetic volunteering, but of how volunteering creates ties between people.                                            

Throughout our series, one of the themes that stood out to us was the connections UCL volunteers made while giving up their time. Our student volunteers became nested within their organisations, becoming part of these communities as well as the UCL community. Ellen Sowerby, a policy intern from Clic Sargent, spoke about how welcoming her charity was. She told us ‘at the end [of my placement], I did a presentation on my work as an intern and people from the head office came and watched, who were lovely too’. Dan Hadary from Kingsgate also spoke to us about his organisations welcoming atmosphere – he told us: ‘What was really good was they gave the volunteers a lot of trust. They really felt like we knew what we were doing and they trusted us and treated us as members of the team.’.

The profile project is continuing to grow, and as it does, we discover new angles to volunteering while at University. The diversity of opportunities at UCL is something we strive to showcase through this project, and through the year, we’ve captured a number of different views and experiences of students. As we approach the 2018-2019 academic year, we look forward to meeting with even more students to talk about volunteering, and want to thank all of our 2017-2018 interviewees for kick-starting a profile series that we hope will inspire UCL volunteers for years to come.  


If you are a student and you would like to feature in the upcoming year of profiles, please visit this web form to register your interest. If you are current partner and would like to be featured as part of our partner stories, please visit our partner stories page here.