Virad Kisan was a keen volunteer whilst studying Medicine at UCL. He now works as a junior doctor in the NHS - we caught up with him recently to find out how his experiences as a volunteer have been useful in his career.
What volunteering were you involved with whilst you were at UCL?
I was project co-lead for Let’s Get Out There. This project supported a local Duke of Edinburgh Centre in delivering expeditions for young people working towards all levels of their Duke of Edinburgh Award. We co-ordinated volunteers to help D of E groups achieve the expedition component of their award. This included pre-departure training and route planning, travel to and from expedition areas as well as supervision while on expedition. We were also able to help the project volunteers develop their own skills, providing funding and opportunities for them to work towards outdoor qualifications.
In addition, I also set up and led a further project called First Aid Skills. This project delivered a 12-week long course that allowed participants to achieve the skills section of their Duke of Edinburgh award. I led a group of volunteers that helped to deliver these sessions. We collaborated with St John Ambulance who very kindly supplied some teaching resources. We delivered a mixture of lectures as well as practical hands-on experience. For one of our sessions, we ran some scenarios with simulated wounds and fake blood.
What useful skills and experiences did you gain as a volunteer when you were at UCL?
This project was a unique opportunity to gain experience in leadership and project management. The whole process is very well supported and there is always someone available to provide help and guidance.
The initial project setup was a chance to learn about developing a project proposal, managing a budget, writing a risk assessment, collaborating with other organisations, providing regular project updates, and completing an end of project report. These skills are essential in all professional working environments. These experiences are also very useful for managing personal projects.
Volunteering was also a chance to gain experience leading groups of volunteers. Through this project we were able to use our volunteers’ experience to make a difference to the Duke of Edinburgh Award Centre. We were able to help give young people the opportunity to run their own expeditions and learn new skills. The project also helped our volunteers develop, providing funding for professional qualifications and opportunities to add to logbooks. I have found it very rewarding to see everyone involved develop.
How has volunteering helped you in your career so far?
I have gained a wide range of transferrable skills from my volunteering that I use in my everyday practice. I work as part of a multi-disciplinary team of healthcare professionals to help provide healthcare to patients. I am often expected to take a leadership role in this team. I use my experiences of leadership and project management from my volunteering to help me in my day-to-day work.
From a career progression point of view, volunteering helps you to stand out in both applications and interviews. It is an opportunity to showcase all of your interpersonal and teamworking skills. Volunteering is also something that is a bit unique and different to have on your CV. It says something about you as a person. Not everyone is willing to give up their time to help other people pro-bono.
What would you say to UCL students considering whether or not to volunteer?
Do it! It is a fantastic opportunity to use your skills and experience to help people. You can make a huge difference where it is really needed. There are numerous established projects available that are looking for volunteers and leaders. If they are not quite what you are looking for then you can also set up your own project. The Students’ Union has funding, mentorship, and networking available to help you.